Sunday, 23 July, 1995. It was a warm winter’s afternoon at the Gabba when the Brisbane Bears trailed Hawthorn 45 points at three-quarter time. To win, the home side would have to stage the biggest final quarter comeback in the game’s history. And that's exactly what they did.
In what was to be a huge turning point for the fledgling club history, The Bears, who had kicked 2-12 to halftime and 5-13 in three quarters, outscored the almighty Hawks 9-7 to 1-3 in the final quarter to win 104 - 97.
It was the perfect remedy for a club in turmoil after mid-season revelations that five-year coach Robert Walls would not seek reappointment and would set the battling Bears on an amazing path to their first finals appearance.
The stunning final quarter blitz followed a stirring three-quarter time address from coach Walls, who had noticed Hawks coach Peter Knights, take his tiring side into the shade at the final break. “Look - they’re tired,” Walls told his players. “We’ve got them. Just believe in yourselves. We can win.”
It was a massive ask. Whether even Walls really believed it himself was questionable. After all, the Bears’ form had been miserable at best. Only four wins all year and all against sides that would finish in the bottom six.
But this was a ‘new’ Bears. An emerging Bears. Michael Voss kicked the first goal of the final term. Darryl White and Craig McRae followed. White goaled again and the margin was back to 18 points. Shaun Hart received from Voss to make it 12. The Hawks were feeling the pressure. Jason Taylor hit the post from 10m out for the Hawks. Roger Merrett made the deficit six points and then Marcus Ashcroft, with a snap over his shoulder, squared it up.
Steven Lawrence, charging off half-back, spoiled, gathers, bounced and let fly from 70m and jumped with glee as the ball bounced through. His first AFL goal. Bears by six points.
Hawk skipper Jason Dunstall out-bodied Richard Champion from behind to mark and kick his fifth. Scores were level again with two and a half minutes to play.
Adrian Fletcher, in his 100th AFL game, marked just inside the center square. He went back to take his kick. Fletcher’s long bomb sailed clear. When Merrett hit the post moments later with a snap from in front of the old Cricketers Club it was all over. Brisbane by seven points.
It was an unforgettable moment.
To ensure the magnitude of the record-breaking win was not lost on the Brisbane players Walls had the club produce a batch of commemorative plaques, listing the team and the match details. Each player received one. “We were making our own history and building pride in our club,” said the coach.
Players Ross Lyon, Andrew Bews, Shaun Hart and Damian Bourke spoke before Gordon set them a goal to win four of their last seven games and asked Bews if that was possible. “Why would we want to win just four?” replied Bews. “We should be trying to win all seven.”
They almost did, winning six of their last seven to sneak into the finals.
Suddenly the Bears were the talk of the League. And although they were eliminated by Carlton by 13 points at the MCG in the qualifying final, there was an argument to say they were the second-best team of the year.
Twenty-seven years on the 45-point three-quarter time deficit turned into a win that day remains the biggest in AFL history.
Brisbane 0-6 2-12 5-13 14-20 (104)
Hawthorn 6-5 8-7 13-10 14-14 (97)
Goals: Voss 3, Ashcroft 2, Hart 2, Merrett 2, Fletcher, Lawrence, McRae, D Scott, White.
Poss: Lambert 29, Hart 27, Voss 24, Fletcher 23, Bews 23, Ashcroft 21.
Other Round 16 highlights include:
1997 – A Career-Best for Voss
Michael Voss played in an era in which a 30-possession game was the equivalent of a 40-possesion game today. It was more ‘how, where and when’ Voss won his possessions rather than how many, which explains why the champion’s career total of 25 30-possession games is well down on that of a lot of current players.
The triple premiership captain’s career-best possession haul was 38 – the equivalent of 50 possessions today - in Round 16 1997 when the 4th-placed Lions enjoyed a 118 - 87 Gabba win over an Adelaide side that sat 3rd at the time and went on to win the first of back-to-back flags..
It was the 95th game for the 22-year-old midfielder, who had won the Brownlow Medal the year before and was in his first season sharing the captaincy with Alastair Lynch under new coach John Northey.
2004 – A Triple Century for Draft Bargain
In Round 16 2004 Alastair Lynch posted his 300th game against Collingwood at the MCG.
It is just another line on the career record of the much-loved champion full-forward, who is the only player to have worn the jumper of Fitzroy, the Brisbane Bears and the Brisbane Lions.
Happily, with a huge contingent of friends and family on hand to see his 300th game, Lynch celebrated in appropriate style after the Lions came from eight points down at quarter-time to beat the Pies 109 - 73.The man of the moment kicked three goals.
Lynch, who had debut with Fitzroy aged 19 in 1988, finished his career six games later in the 2004 grand final at 36. He was far and away the standout product of the ’96 draft in games and goals.
His 306 games bettered Febey’s 258 for Melbourne and Jarman’s 230 for Hawthorn and Melbourne after he was first drafted by Melbourne and later by Brisbane before he joined the Hawks in 1991. Darren Pritchard ranked 4th on the games list after playing 211 times for Hawthorn, while Mathew Armstrong, drafted at #24 to Fitzroy, played 175 games for Fitzroy and North Melbourne to rank 5th.
Lynch’s 633 career goals was a clear standout, with Jarman (386), Simon Minton-Connell (305) and Trent Nichols (107) the only other 1986 draftees to reach even 100 goals.
2007 – A Brown Blitz
These days Denis Pagan keeps a pretty low profile, spending his spare time as a casual horse trainer, while Jonathan Brown is all over the football landscape via a prominent role in the media.
But if ever the pair were to cross paths you might find the conversation goes back to Round 16 2007, when Brown’s Brisbane Lions played a Carlton side coached by Pagan at the Gabba.
A 12th-placed Brisbane dismantled the 14th-placed Blues 163 - 46. Brown took 14 marks and kicked a career-best 10 goals – the first and only time a Brisbane player has topped double figures in goals in a single game.