Fitzroy played 165 times at the MCG. They won premierships there in 1904-05, 1913, 1916 and 1922, were grand finalists in 1903, 1906, 1917 and 1923 and played a total of 44 finals at the home of Australian sport.
Bernie Quinlan’s 11 goals against North Melbourne in 1984 was the Fitzroy best at ‘headquarters’ and was the driving force in the club’s highest score win at the MCG of 26-9 (165).
Mathew Armstrong’s 41 possessions in a 70-point win West Coast in 1988 was the highest by a Fitzroy player at the ‘G’ after the introduction of statistics in 1965.
In an aggregate MCG record of 72-2-91, Fitzroy’s biggest win on the biggest stage was all the way back in 1906 against Melbourne, when, in Round 15, or the first sectional round as it was listed, they won 17-18 (120) to 2-1 (13) in Ern Jenkins’ 150th game. Percy Trotter kicked five goals and Charlie Naismith four goals.
And 13 times they celebrated a 100th game milestone – Jenkins (1903), Gerald Brosnan, Tammy Beauchamp, Fred Fontaine (1906), Wally Johnson (1912), Jack Cooper (1913), Percy Parratt (1914), Jimmy Freake (1917), Kevin Wright (1959), Owen Abrahams (1960), Alan Thompson (1976), Richard Osborne (1987) and Brett Stephens (1991).
It was a long and proud history at a stadium that was home to so many memorable moments in Australian sport. Like Betty Cuthbert’s gold medal hat-trick on the track at the 1956 Olympics and Rick McCosker batting in the second innings of the Centenary Test in 1977 with a broken jaw.
Like Ted Whitten’s unforgettable lap of honour at the 1995 AFL State of Origin game and Shane Warne’s Test hat-trick in 1994 and his 700th Test wicket in 2006. The under-arm bowling incident in 1981 and the no-ball call from umpire Darrell Hair on Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan in 1995.
The famous ‘Jesaulenko – you beauty’ mark from Alex Jesaulenko in front of 121,696 in the 1970 grand final and Leo Barry’s premiership-winning screamer in 2005. Even Helen D’amico, the MCG’s most famous streaker. It is an endless list.
But for Fitzroy it all came to an end in Round 21 1996 in a horror scheduling blunder. The club’s last game in Melbourne seven days before a torturous trek to Perth to close the club’s 100-year history in the AFL.
It was Sunday afternoon on 25 August 1996. The Lions, whose only win for the year had been in Round 8, played eighth-placed Richmond, who were locked in a four-way battle for the last finals berth under Fitzroy favorite son Robert Walls and desperately needing a percentage-boosting win.
Caretaker Fitzroy coach Alan McConnell made two changes from the side which lost by 87 points to the Brisbane Bears in Round 20, including Jarrod Molloy and Simon Hawking, later to be included in the ‘Chosen Eight’ to head north via the merger, for Peter Doyle and Robert McMahon.
A crowd of 48,884 – six times the average Fitzroy home crowd at Whitten Oval in their final season in the AFL – packed the MCG for the sad farewell.
It was always going to be tough, with the Richmond finals quest ensuring they were at their best. It was 1-2 to 4-9 at quarter-time and 3-3 to 10-10 at halftime, before the Tigers’ blitzed the hapless Lions 18-9 to 2-3 in the second half to win 28-19 (187) to 5-6 (36).
Martin Pike (27), Simon Atkins (26) and Brad Boyd (26) led the Fitzroy possession count, while Marty Warry kicked three of his side’s five goals.
For Richmond, Matthew Richardson kicked seven goals for three Brownlow Medal votes, and Brendon Gale kicked six goals. Ex-Fitzroy player Paul Broderick was the highest possession-winner on the ground with 37 to earn two votes.