The Lions’ Pride is a series celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Subiaco Lions.
“We’ve had our hard times, but we’ve managed to turn it around in the last 20 years and I’ve been lucky enough to be there.”
This one sentence truly summarises Subiaco Football Club president Mark Lawrence’s outlook on his time at the club.
For anyone who has visited Subiaco, they would know it as one of Perth’s major nightlife and cultural centres with theatres, bars, cafes and pubs attracting people all over the city.
For Lawrence, he knew it as the place where he began supporting the Subiaco Lions.
Going to school on Salvado Road, he became exposed to the Lions from a young age and was involved with them ever since. It came full circle in 1982 when his company at the time sponsored the Lions during their financial hardship.
“We had a ‘Save Subi’ campaign because Subiaco were broke,” Lawrence told The Inner Sanctum.
“My company Phoenix Holden at the time sponsored them and have been doing it ever since.”
This partnership was the beginning of his work at Subiaco as a higher up, becoming director in 1997 and receiving the honour of being elected as president in 2011 – an honour which he takes pride in.
Working on the board, he hopes to make positive changes around Subiaco, more so in the financial area than anything else.
“I thought I could turn the financial position around a bit,” Lawrence said.
“We had on opportunity to buy AFL seats at Subiaco Oval where we worked, selling hospitality packages, and we started all that from scratch.”
But on the football field, he attributes the recent run of success and winning culture to Peter German.
German was recruited as head coach in 2003, taking the Lions to their first premiership since 1988 the year after his appointment, and another in 2006, his final year at the helm.
“[He] changed the culture of the club for sure and we never looked back,” Lawrence said.
“It only needed tweaking, we were getting to preliminary finals and losing.
“He was a good coach and he turned it around and we started winning finals.”
Without German’s input and work to change their culture, Lawrence wouldn’t have been able to enjoy Subiaco’s four premierships out of six grand finals between 2014 and 2019.
This has been a highlight of his presidency.
“[The] 2014 Grand Final was the best one,” he said.
“We played East Perth who had a lot of [West Coast] Eagles players in their side, and we weren’t the favourites.
“We won that one and that was probably the best of the grand finals wins. That made me very proud.”
He also mentioned the 2018 WAFL finals, held at Optus Stadium, where Subiaco set a WAFL record.
“A couple [of] years later we’re in the Colts, Reserves and League grand finals and we won all three, including being undefeated in the league, which has never ever been done before in the history of the WAFL,” Lawrence said.
The following year Subiaco became a foundation member of the Women’s WAFL competition, another historical event to happen under his leadership.
‘It’s great, it’s fantastic,” Lawrence said.
“They’re very good too and can play the game.”
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The women’s side has finished on top of the ladder both years, making the grand final last year but losing to Peel Thunder. This season, they are set to make finals.
Going into their 125th year, Lawrence would like to see the men’s side make finals too, hopefully adding another trophy to their cabinet come season end.
He feels there is no additional pressure despite the momentous anniversary.
“The goal’s obviously to finish in the finals and then you do your best and see how you go with the grand final,” he said.
“It will just come naturally, everyone’s aware of it and they’re trying their best.”
Their campaign kicked off on Good Friday at Subiaco Oval against co-tenants East Perth as a special event commemorating the anniversary.
The Lions dethroned the Royals by 28 points in front of over 2,905 fans, with skipper Leigh Kitchin delivering an outstanding performance with 29 disposals, 11 inside 50s, five tackles and a goal.
Lawrence described the game as “a good start to the season” and a “good day.”
From there, Subiaco went on to beat East Fremantle in round two and West Perth in round three before a three-day lockdown postponed its round four ANZAC day clash against the West Coast Eagles WAFL side.
Lawrence called the postponement of the fixture “a really big shame,” as the fixture was supposed to be another big event on Subiaco’s schedule this year.
After a loss to reigning premiers South Fremantle and then a sensational bounce back against an undefeated Claremont side, Subiaco sit in first place heading into their round seven clash against Swan Districts.
As the football continues in May, Subiaco are slated to have another event to celebrate the anniversaryon the 14th – COVID-19 restrictions permitting.
“We’re having a life member’s night and a Diehards inauguration night,” Lawrence said.
“Diehards was started at the hundred-year celebrations and there were a hundred diehards selected. Every five years there’s five more selected, so that’s like a hall of fame.”
The list of Diehards can be found on the club website and includes players, coaches or staff who have hold great significance at the club.
While there is no celebration for past grand final wins scheduled for this year, Lawrence noted another significant anniversary for Subiaco coming up in the future.
“In 2023 it will be our 50 years of our 1973 grand final flag and that was a 49-year drought where we never won a grand final,” he said.
When asked what makes Subiaco special to him, he simply provided two words – “The people.”
“The energy they bring, they all love the football club,” he elaborated.
“It’s hard to so understand because it’s only from the people who visit us that tell us how good the atmosphere is.”
Subiaco and Lawrence’s ultimate focus going forward is about getting more people on the footy field as they continue to promote their 12th anniversary.
“It’s really all about kids playing football,” he said.
“Men and women playing football. That’s what we do it for.”
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