There was a moment at the Gabba almost 25 years ago that says a lot about one of the best things in football. It was when Andrew Bews, a 34-year-old warrior, a veteran of 17 years and 282 games in the AFL, finally hung up the boots. And although he’d played only five years in Brisbane he was given a send-off of epic proportions.

It was the end of a tough 1998 campaign in which very little had gone right for the Lions. Coach John Northey was sacked after a Round 11 game in Perth in which captain and Brownlow Medallist Michael Voss had broken his leg. Roger Merrett filled in as caretaker coach amid turmoil at Board level and even before Round 22 the Lions were assured of the wooden-spoon.

Four wins and a draw gave them the treasured #1 pick in the upcoming draft, and another loss to fourth-placed St.Kilda at the Gabba would secure an extra preferential pick at #2. So what happened? They won by a point.

Merrett had called on his troops to rally for Bews, who had become something of a cult figure in Brisbane, a senior statesman among a young, emerging side. “I dearly believe the players should stand up and show their respect for Andrew Bews - to lift for him. He’s touched every player at this club in some way,” the caretaker coach said.

And they did. Just. The Lions, 20 points down in the second quarter and 21 points up inside the last six minutes, survived a stirring Saints comeback to win 12-20-92 to 13-13-91. They got home by a split second, with St.Kilda captain Stewart Loewe kicking a 2m ‘goal’ that wasn’t just after the siren. And when the umpires ruled it did not count the Gabba erupted into scenes of wild hysteria. The Lions had beaten the 1997 grand finalists for the second time in 1998 and had restored pride and credibility to a cause which had been widely ridiculed throughout the nation.

Bews was buried under a pile of teammates after the Loewe ‘no-goal’. Fittingly, he had been right on the spot when the ball was thrown in beside the St.Kilda goal with four seconds on the clock, and Tony Brown had scrambled it to Loewe for the last-gasp chance.

“If it was my first game and not my last game I might have got across to cut that one off,” Bews told the throng of post-game media. “I looked at the umpire and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be chucking a dagger at him or blowing a kiss. As soon as those lunatics started jumping on me I knew we’d won. That was all I’d asked for. Whether it was one point or 10 goals I didn’t care.”

Such was the regard in which Bews was held that each member of the Lions playing list, 20 of them dressed in club uniform, charged onto the ground to salute the man they called “Rat”. Later, he received a standing ovation from the sell-out Gabba crowd before a slow lap of honour with sons Jackson and Jed, each wearing a No 25 Lions jumper, just like their old man.

It was a bitter-sweet moment for the ever-jovial former Geelong captain and All-Australian selection, who had played five years in Brisbane after 12 years at Kardinia Park. His mother Fran had died suddenly in her sleep during the week after being at the MCG a week earlier to see Bews’ final game in Melbourne. All members of the Lions team and support staff wore black armbands.

“I know Mum would have loved to be here and seen that, but it wasn’t to be,” said Bews, who led the Lions onto the ground for his last game, with Jackson and Jed by his side. The young boys also sat with “Dad” as he fronted the post-game media conference, still proudly wearing his No 25 jumper, not even having put his teeth back in. Standing in the background was “Mum” Julie-Ann and baby daughter Jaymie, born in July 1998.

Using “club-speak” to the very end, Bews said the win was just what the Lions needed. “We had to nail the coffin of ’98 closed,” he said. “I believe it can be the starting point for next year and beyond. We only had pride to play for, but I’m sure everyone learned something tonight. The young kids experienced something that probably they had never been involved in before - a real never-say-die situation – and it can be a real springboard for the future. If everyone can now have a real good look at themselves individually and use the off-season as a positive for the club’s future I really believe we can turn things around.”

Three years later much the same Lions team did exactly that when they won the 2001 premiership, and there is no doubt that Bews, a long-time member of the Victorian State side partly for his ability to unite a playing group and recruited by coach Robert Walls to do just that, had played his part.

Set to turn 59 on Wednesday (19 July) and besotted with granddaughter Rosie, Bews has owned and operated a gym in Geelong since 2011 – ‘In-Sync-Fit’ – and is still at his playing weight of about 81kg.

He’s even back coaching at North Geelong in the Geelong and District Football League third division, having taken over mid-season at the club where Jackson is playing.

One of the all-time great football pranksters, Bews will be in Brisbane for the game on Saturday, finally set to deliver on a promise to bring his long-suffering wife, known to all as ‘Smith’, back to the city which she didn’t want to leave when he retired.

Fitness permitting, 29-year-old Jed Bews will also be in town. The same Jed who was part of his father’s Gabba farewell. Having missed the last fortnight, the 2022 premiership defender is set to play his 165th game.

Bews Snr is one of 21 players to have played for Brisbane and Geelong over the club’s  37 years, and one of two Geelong captains whose sons both played in the AFL.