One of the most unusual rivalries in Australian sport will take place this weekend as Lions FC host Brisbane Roar in the FFA Cup Round of 16.
Both clubs play in orange. Both clubs have a lion on their crest. And both clubs trace their roots back to the Hollandia club that was established in 1957.
While the Roar and Lions are now legally separate entities playing in different competitions, they are intertwined by history and heritage.
As the late Sydney Morning Herald reporter Michael Cockerill once declared, “Changes of name, or ownership, doesn’t change the bloodline.”
The two clubs are also connected by people like 76-year-old Brisbane Roar patron Gary Wilkins, who spent half a century at Lions as a player and administrator.
“I played for Hollandia for just on 11 years and captained the team for most of the time I was there,” said Wilkins. “Then, in the late 1970s, I stood for the board, got elected and after a few years became chairman.”
From 1977 to 1988, Hollandia – known then as Brisbane Lions – played in the National Soccer League, before dropping down to the local Queensland leagues during the 1990s.
“And then along came the A-League. Lions put in an application, and the rest is history,” said Wilkins.
In the first season of the A-League, Queensland Roar were wholly owned by Lions, with Wilkins as deputy chairman.
“It was in our constitution that Lions always try and play at the highest level. Our ambition was to be the biggest and the best in Queensland,” said Wilkins.
“For a long time, Lions would win the Brisbane A-Grade, reserve grade and youth competitions almost every year.
“When we formed the Roar, to get the support from the Queensland public we withdrew our teams from the local leagues, thinking that might help.
“A lot of people still connect the Roar to the Lions, because of the name and the Dutch orange colours. But as the years have gone on, that has started to drift away.”
Over the past two seasons, however, the links have started to re-emerge as Warren Moon, a former title-winning coach of Lions, took over as Head Coach of the Roar.
The Roar A-League Men’s side now includes Lions alumni Jesse Daley, Josh Brindell-South and Henry Hore, while this season’s Women’s side includes Lions players Mariel Hecher, Holly McQueen, Shea Connors and Cannon Clough.
What’s more, the Roar are now acknowledging Hollandia’s history with their #AlwaysOrange campaign.
After 16 years of co-existence – Lions in the local competitions, Roar in the A-League – Sunday’s FFA Cup Round of 16 clash will be the first competitive fixture between the two sides.
“The vibe has started already,” said Wilkins. “I’m glad the game is at Lions, because they deserve it, and they deserve to get a good crowd, too. I reckon it’ll be a great game.
“I want to see Lions do well, but I’ll be supporting the Roar.”
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