Queensland’s Australian Football rivalry between Brisbane and the Gold Coast dates back long before the “Showdown” of South Australia or the “Western Derby” of Western Australia.
The birth of the mutual dislike between the Australian Football communities of the two cities can be traced back to 1903 when the Queensland Football League (QFL) was formed and a team from the Gold Coast was not accepted into the competition for another 80 years.
The Gold Coast Australian Football League (GCAFL) was considered by those in Brisbane to be not up to the standard required to join the renamed Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) and in 1969, a Brisbane “Reserves” and a Gold Coast representative team clashed in May and July with results split between the two.
1970 saw the introduction of the South East Queensland Australian Football Association (SQAFA) for developing players for the QAFL – again no Gold Coast teams.
So the GCAFL, no doubt annoyed by Brisbane’s continued blindness to AFL talent outside the capital city, challenged the SQAFA to a representative match.
The Gold Coast boys would soundly defeat their big city counterparts and in doing so, ignited the rivalry between the two centres that we continue to see today. It took “Brisbane” another 25 years to turn the tables on the Gold Coast.
Those early meetings would become a catalyst for the advent of a Gold Coast team in the QAFL, with the Southport Sharks entering the Brisbane-based State League in 1983.
The Brisbane clubs in the QAFL had long seen the Gold Coast as a lesser competition and weren’t expecting Southport to achieve much, but they played their way into the grand final against the previous season’s runner-up, Morningside.
The stage was set – Gold Coast footy’s litmus test. Their opportunity to prove all those Brisbane-ites wrong was finally here.
In a fiery, spite-filled match, the teams were locked on 50 points each at three-quarter time but Southport prevailed by 13 points, and in doing so marched triumphantly to an unprecedented premiership flag in their very first year of State League competition.
‘SENSATIONAL SHARKS’ was the back-page headline of the Gold Coast Bulletin. Yet it was the sub- headline that best summed it up: ‘A triumph for Coast footy’.
President Dr Alan Mackenzie did not miss the opportunity to have a crack at those in Brisbane who had always looked on the Gold Coast competition as second rate.
“For too long, Brisbane people have denigrated Gold Coast football,” he was quoted by the Bulletin.
“Our win just shows how strong Coast footy is. It is something we have envisaged for several years and it gives me great satisfaction to beat them in their own backyard.”
The win signalled the arrival of Gold Coast football and hence the Brisbane-Gold Coast rivalry was born – and continued in earnest with Southport and their multi-million dollar facilities and bankroll becoming the envy and loathing of their Brisbane counterparts.
Although other Gold Coast clubs would join the QAFL, Southport became the team to beat, winning 13 premierships over the next 26 years, including four consecutive flags from 1997 to 2000 after having their AFL licence bid rejected in 1996, much to the delight of most Brisbane-ites.
The blatant parochialism from both camps continued with the introduction of the Brisbane Bears into the then Victorian Football League (VFL) in 1987. It was expected that the newly formed Brisbane Football Club would naturally be based at the Gabba, however the owners opted to base the club out of Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast because the ground was the same size as the MCG and the Gabba had a greyhound track surrounding the field and wasn’t suitable for football.
The Brisbane Bears – possibly because of the word “Brisbane” – struggled to attract the interest of the Gold Coast locals and Brisbane people found the commute to enemy territory difficult with little or no public transport to and from the stadium.
After those humble beginnings, both cities now have their own teams in the national competition with the Gold Coast SUNS entering the AFL in 2011. And perhaps in a throwback to the 1983 QAFL grand final, the Gold Coast would surprise everyone and prevail over Brisbane as the new kids on the block in the inaugural QClash.
QClash10 marks the celebration of football in Queensland – the Brisbane Lions lead the tally 6-3 but the Gold Coast SUNS hold the Cup after winning QClash9.
The rivalry continues…
By Nick Tomlinson