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Treasured memories of Bear years

Robert Walls (third from left) leads Bears training at Carrara in 1991.

Robert Walls (third from left) leads Bears training at Carrara in 1991.

IT WAS a turning-back-the-clock experience last Sunday when I stepped out of the taxi to walk into the new Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast. Twenty years ago I was into my second season as Brisbane Bears coach and the ground was simply known as Carrara. Today, the only things that remain from that time are the enormous light towers that Christopher Skase evidently coerced the local council to pay for.

Outside the main stadium is a full-sized training ground, perfectly manicured. It used to be a rough paddock where we would do morning skills sessions in summer. It was so hot and humid, giant ruckman Alex Ishchenko would squelch in his boots as streams of sweat ran down his body, onto his legs and into his socks. The first person I bumped into was Norm Dare, who coached the Bears in 1990. Now in his 60s, Norm is still coaching the Southport Sharks.

In the early '90s, everything at Carrara was easily dismantable. Portables were used as admin offices, change rooms and gyms. It didn't instil confidence. The club was privately owned by Reuben Pelerman. A couple of times a week, Reuben, who owned hotels and hospitals, would swing off the Nerang-Broadbeach Road to check things out. Depending on the weather, his Jaguar would slip and slide or create billows of dust as he drove into the car park. On match day, Reuben would entertain his guests in the room next to my coach's box. The crayfish and champers would be in full swing as the ball was bounced. By half-time, however, Reuben and his guests would be gone. That also didn't instil confidence.

In 1991, the club's membership was 1800. Crowds of 5000 were common. If we played Carlton, Collingwood or Essendon you could add an extra 2000 as their faithful flew up for a mid-winter break. Last Sunday, close to 16,000 watched Gold Coast scare Geelong.

Former Lions player Marcus Ashcroft showed me the Suns' new facilities. Ashcroft was a shy, Gold Coast teenager when I started to coach him. Now he is 40, has three kids, three premiership medallions and became the first Queenslander to play 300 games of AFL football. He is also the general manager of football operations with the Suns. I'm really proud of him.

It was good to catch up with Malcolm Blight, who is overseeing the Suns' coaching staff. It was 20 years ago at Carrara that Malcolm's Cats gave my Bears a hiding. They kicked 37.17 (239) to create an AFL record for the highest score: it still stands. Geelong's score beat Fitzroy's 36.22 (238) that was set in 1979, a game in which I played. My old Fitzroy teammates are still dirty on me for losing one of the few records we had. I remember going out at three-quarter-time in that match against Geelong and seeing our full-back, Mark Zanotti, stretching his neck. When asked what the matter was, he replied that his neck was stiff from watching the ball sail over his head.

I was told that former Bears captain Roger Merrett was there on Sunday. Sadly, I didn't see him. On that fateful day against Geelong, Roger was to be our big hope. He was set to surprise everyone by opening in the ruck, not the usual centre half-forward. His instructions were simple: at the opening bounce he was to aggressively jump into Geelong ruckman Damian Bourke. Roger relished the set task. He readied himself for a flying leap; he arched his back, bent his elbows and scuffed the turf in anticipation. All of us, players and coaches, couldn't wait. On his third step in, Roger's knee buckled. He went down in a screaming heap. The game stopped. He was stretchered off. Roger's game time was eight seconds, another record that still stands.

And the memories kept coming. Shaun Hart is development and reserves coach with the Suns. Three premierships, the 2001 Norm Smith Medal and close to 300 games give him instant respect and credibility in football. And yet it almost didn't happen. At the end of 1991, I almost sent him home to Shepparton as his skills and football smarts were not up to scratch. It was only his insatiable appetite for hard work that made you think he deserved a second chance.

Richard Champion was calling the game from the radio box next to mine last Sunday. Twenty one years ago, he drove with his new bride Ann-Marie from Adelaide to the Gold Coast hoping he would be good enough to play football. His personalised number plate, "Champs", on his Commodore didn't last long as his teammates let him know that surely he couldn't be serious. I used to tell the boys that if they were going to make a mistake, it might as well be a big one. Richard made an art form out of that instruction.

Richard didn't play in the premiership teams, but he set the standards for younger teammates and is now firmly entrenched in Brisbane with his business and media career.

And one of those young teammates of his was a 16-year-old Michael Voss. The current Brisbane Lions coach and 1996 Brownlow medallist would arrive at Carrara in his school uniform with a big smile on his face. The week he turned 17, we played him on a wing against Fitzroy. He had 20 disposals and kicked three goals. We knew then he was going to be good. Just didn't realise how good.

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AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR vs RIC 19:20MCG
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GCF 13:40MCG
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
BRI vs COL 19:20G
WBU vs WCE 19:20ES
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
ADE vs NTH 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs PTA 18:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GEE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs CAR 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WBU 13:45MCG
GWS vs MEL 14:10SO
COL vs ADE 16:35ES
GCF vs STK 19:20MS
PTA vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE vs FRE 13:10SS
ESS vs HAW 15:20MCG
NTH vs BRI 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs STK 19:50MCG
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ESS 13:45MCG
ADE vs MEL 14:10Adelaide Oval
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
NTH vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs RIC 19:20G
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs WBU 13:10AS
GEE vs GCF 15:20SS
WCE vs FRE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC vs MEL 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 11:10NZ
ESS vs COL 14:40MCG
GWS vs GCF 17:40SO
PTA vs HAW 19:40Adelaide Oval
FRE vs SYD 20:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:10G
GEE vs NTH 15:20SS
WBU vs ADE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GEE 13:45MCG
SYD vs WBU 14:10SCG
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
NTH vs HAW 19:20ES
WCE vs GWS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs FRE 13:10MCG
STK vs ESS 15:20ES
ADE vs PTA 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 19:50MCG
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 13:45BA
WBU vs STK 14:10ES
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ADE 17:10MS
MEL vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs BRI 15:20ES
PTA vs WCE 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs STK 13:45Adelaide Oval
HAW vs MEL 14:10MCG
CAR vs GWS 16:35ES
SYD vs GEE 19:20ANZ
WCE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
RIC vs COL 15:20MCG
BRI vs PTA 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE vs CAR 19:50ES
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs WCE 13:45ES
GWS vs ADE 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs COL 16:35MS
HAW vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs NTH 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
PTA vs RIC 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all
 
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