At a time when Collingwood appeared in six consecutive Grand Finals from 1925 to 1930, winning the famous four in a row (1927 to 1930), my father. Bill ("Long Tom") Fitzgerald, captained the Seconds. Consequently, all my life I have supported the Mighty Magpies.
My first year in Brisbane was 1977. Under legendary coach Tom Hafey, Collingwood had come from being wooden spooners to appearing in the Grand Final -- against North Melbourne -- for the first time ever. How I would have loved to have been there (standing room was $2) to see, among others, Andrew Ireland, now Brisbane Bears' chief executive, play his heart out for the Woodsmen.
For the second time in VFL history, the premiership battle resulted in a draw. I can still see "Twiggy" Dunne at the 32- minute mark of the final quarter standing like an oak in a pack of seven and taking a mark Walter Mitty would have envied. From point-blank range he converted and levelled the score 10.16 (76) against North Melbourne's 9.22 (76).
Immediately after the replayed Grand Final, on 1 October 1977, when Collingwood lost by 27 points, I sat speechless in front of the television, not accepting it had happened, and half-believing there would be an announcement saying, "There's been a dreadful mistake."
In 1987, the Bears began playing at Carrara on the Gold Coast. Since then, I have enthusiastically supported the team, especially after 1993 when they moved full-time to Brisbane. The only exception, of course, is when they play the Magpies. Apart from when I was overseas for a fortnight, I have not missed a game in the last three years. During that time, under the astute guidance of coach Robert Walls, the Bears have developed into a disciplined, tightly knit team.
As a dyed-in-the-wool Collingwood supporter, and as the writer of this book, the Bears' courageous win over Melbourne at the Gabba in the final home-and-away round of 1995 placed me in an acute moral dilemma.
I had closely followed the club all year and in the process had come to admire nearly all the players, coaching staff and administrators. In a fairytcile ending to the season, Brisbane had won six of their last seven games, including the last two at home, under lights, in the presence of the Bears' No.l ticket holder, Peter Hollingworth, Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane. ......................................