Alan ‘Butch’ Gale was a Fitzroy champion. One of the very best, and one of the most popular. A club captain and Team of the Century selection who gave his all for the club for 14 years. It was only fitting that he went out in style.

It was Round 18 1961 and the final game of a season in which the Lions had 10 wins and a draw from 18 games and a percentage of 116.8 despite a diabolical 0-4 start yet missed the finals.

Their fate had been sealed in Round 17, when they lost inexplicably to bottom side North Melbourne, but still they shelved the disappointment to send a 31-year-old Gale into retirement with the biggest Brunswick Street win of his career.

As the Brisbane Lions look forward to a Round 18 clash with the GWS Giants in Canberra on Saturday the Fitzroy Flashback this week takes us back to 103-point Fitzroy win over South Melbourne after trailing by 13 points at quarter-time.


As if offering a special ‘thank you’ to Gale, Fitzroy had an astonishing 20 scoring shots in the final quarter and posted the biggest final quarter domination ever in a game at Brunswick Street, which was the club headquarters throughout the champion ruckman’s career.

Down 4-2 to 6-3 at quarter-time, they led 11-9 to 9-5 at halftime before taking control with a wasteful 4-10 to 0-5 third quarter. Then, in Gale’s last half hour of football, they added 10-10 to South’s 2-0 to win 25-29 (179) to 11-10 (76).

Owen Abrahams (6), Russel Crow (5), Keith Bromage (4), John Carmody (3) and Wally Clark (3) led the goal-kicking in what was also the last game for 140-game midfielder Kevin Wright.

Only twice in the club’s 100-year history did they out-score their opposition by more in a final quarter – by 60 points against North at Junction Oval in 1983 and by 59 points against Footscray at Junction Oval in 1981. And never throughout Gale’s career did they score more than 10-10 of his last quarter of football.

Furthermore, only once in club history did Fitzroy have more than the 54 scoring shots of Gale’s last game – in when they kicked 36-22 (238) against Melbourne at Waverley in 1979 to record the club’s highest score.

Only three times did Fitzroy ever kick more behinds than the 29 they kicked in Gale’s last game. Topping the list is their 17-32 against Melbourne in 1951, followed by 10-31 against Richmond in 1957 and 10-30 against South in 1940.

The 103-point win in his last game was the second biggest of Gale’s glorious career, behind only the 120-point win over North at Arden Street in 1958.

Fitzroy captain in his last four seasons and 1959 Victorian captain in the highlight of a wonderful interstate career throughout the 1950s, Gale was a winner on and off the field. But there was one screaming abnormality in his football career. He was runner-up in the Fitzroy B&F seven times without ever winning the club’s No.1 individual award.

Some might say it was because he played the bulk of his career as an undersized 185cm ruckman, and that if he’d been allowed to play in defence, where he was used at times to great effect, he could have been even better.

But for Gale, recruited from the Police Boys' football club, it was all about what the team needed. And they needed him in the ruck. No questions asked. It was always about the club.

To step through the Gale career is to step through the greats of Fitzroy history.

Gale had been the fourth Fitzroy player to reach 2000 games in the Round 4 loss of his final season, following in the footsteps of Frank Curcio (1946), Alan Ruthven (1953) and Norm Johnstone (1956), and played in the last game of all three.

He played just his second game three days short of his 18th birthday in Curcio’s 249th and last game in 1948. It was a loss. The football romantics might say he didn’t like sending a champion off in defeat. Or at least it worked out that way as he farewelled Ruthven in his 222nd and last game in 1954, and Johnstone in his 228th and last game in 1957. Both as winners.

He sat 4th on the Fitzroy games list when he retired in such glorious fashion, and saw Kevin Murray (1968), John Murphy (1977), Warwick Irwin (1980), Garry Wilson (1981) and David McMahon (1983) join Fitzroy 200-Game Club.

He wore his beloved jumper #33 throughout his career and more often for Fitzroy than anyone else, while only six players across the entire AFL have worn #33 more often - David Cloke (290), Matthew Knights (279), Darryl White (267), Bruce Nankervis (253), Brodie Smith (220) and Brett Allison (219)

In retirement Gale transported his love of football from the playing field to the television screen, and worked with Mike Williamson and Ted Whitten on Channel 7 through the 1960s and 1970s.

He never lost his connection to Fitzroy and, almost as if it was meant to be, he collapsed and died of a heart attack while addressing Fitzroy players in the week prior to the opening game of the 1987 season, when the Brisbane Bears joined the competition.

Only Mick Conlan and Paul Roos joined the Fitzroy 200 Club in the 10 years after Gale’s sad passing, and although he never got to see the Bears or the Brisbane Lions play, his memory lives on as a member of the Brisbane Lions Hall of Fame.



At face value Scott Bamford looked like he should have been riding horses at Flemington rather than tearing up and down the wing at the MCG or Brunswick Street Oval, but the jockey-sized South Australian, all 67kg of him, owns a special place in Fitzroy history.

It was Round 18 1996 when Fitzroy played Footscray at Whitten Oval, and in a 15-point loss Bamford picked up the very last Brownlow Medal vote in club history.

The Lions, coming of a 99-point loss to the Adelaide Crows at Football Park, put up a much-improved showing against a Dogs side that sat one spot ahead of them on the ladder and went down 6-9 (45) to 8-12 (60) after outscoring the home side in each of the last two quarters.

Bamford, with 22 possessions, was judged his side’s best in a game in which Brad Boyd (29), Brett Chandler (27) and Martin Pike (23) topped the Fitzroy possession-count.

It was part of a strong finish to the season that won Bamford a place in the new Brisbane Lions playing list, where, after 22 games with Fitzroy in 1997, he played 24 games in 1997-98 before adding a further 13 games with Geelong in 1999.

Fitzroy’s last Round 18 game was also a special day for Robert McMahon, a tall utility player drafted by the club from the Gippsland Power with selection #6 in the 1994 AFL National Draft.

Taken behind #1 Jeff White (Fremantle), #2 Anthony Rocca (Sydney), #3 Shannon Grant (Sydney), #4 Scott Lucas (Essendon and #5 Joel Smith (St.Kilda), and ahead of such 200-game luminaries as #15 Scott Camporeale, #16 Adem (ADEM) Yze, #40 Michael O’Loughlin (Sydney), #48 Austinn (AUSTINN) Jones (226) and #77 Ben Dixon (213), McMahon was the 1157th Fitzroy player. And the last.

He played Round 18 and Round 20, and after being overlooked for the so-called ‘Chosen Eight’ who went to Brisbane he put himself in the 1996 Draft. He was picked up by Hawthorn at #51 but never played again at AFL level.