The Lions’ Pride: Celebrating 125 years of the Subiaco Lions

Subiaco celebrates 125 years (Source: Subiaco Football Club - Facebook)

An Australian town or city without local football is like a body without a heartbeat. Quiet, lifeless, and has little excitement. For 125 years, the Subiaco football club has had a presence in Western Australia’s football scene and will be celebrating its anniversary in 2021.

Round one kicks off this Friday at Leederville Oval against co-tenants East Perth in a celebration of footy. The day starts with Futures at 9 am and concludes at 7:15 pm. Fans will see the club’s talent on display across all divisions including Colts, Reserves, and League. Additionally, there will be plenty of activities and festivities around the ground for fans.

But to get to this year’s celebration we have to acknowledge the roots before we get to the branches.

Subiaco was born in the suburbs by Shenton Park Lake in 1896, playing in the “First Rate Juniors” competitions in their infancy. They debuted on the 16th of May against the Fremantle Imperials at Mueller Road.

Over four years, the club tasted premiership success, resulting in elevation to the West Australian Football Association competition (now known as the WAFL) in 1901.

After winning only eleven games in its first seven seasons, the club’s early days were characterized by hardship. They had to fight to survive after whispers around its discontinuation began.

From ‘The Sand Patch’ on Mueller Road grew Subiaco Oval, the future home of football in WA. Slowly but surely the Subiaco saw a vast improvement.

In 1912, Subiaco won their first premiership against East Fremantle, defeating them 5.8. (38) to 4.3.(27). They went back-to-back in 1913 and won their third premiership in four years in 1915.

From that point on, Subiaco has gone on to win another 12 premierships – 1924, 1973, 1986, 1988, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019.

However, as that premiership count would suggest, it has not always been smooth sailing for the Lions. They struggled to recruit and with the VFL gaining popularity, numerous stars defected over east.

The 1940s-60s saw limited success, either being a middle of the table or battling for the spoon.

In 1973, the Lions defeated West Perth by 32 points to win their first flag in 50 years. However, they did not partake in finals for a decade.

1973 Premiership squad (Source: www.subiacofc.com.au)

In the early 1980s, the Club experienced a major financial hit. It was up to the WA football community to save the club from extinction, which they did.

To Subiaco fans, the return of Haydn Bunton Jr as coach in 1984 was the homecoming of the prodigal son. He turned the club into a force to be reckoned with, which resulted in a flag in 1986 and 1988. The dream of the dynasty ground to a halt with the formation of the West Coast Eagles, which quickly drew all of the best talents out of the WAFL. However, they managed to maintain a respectable position in a depleted league.

In the 2000s, Subiaco became a league powerhouse, winning a premiership in 2004, then a threepeat between 2006-2008. They fell again, but soon rose again in 2014, went back-to-back in 2015, then again in 2018-2019.

Subiaco also recorded their longest winning streak of 25 games between round one of 2018 to round 6 of 2019. This is the second-highest number of consecutive wins in the league. That streak also included an undefeated Premiership in 2018, winning the Reserves and Colts as well.

The League team with one of three flags won by Subiaco in 2018 (Source: Subiaco Football Club – Facebook)

In 2019, Subiaco became a foundation member of the WAFL Women’s competition.

Throughout the years, several stars have come and gone, and they play a crucial part in the club’s history,

The Subiaco Football Club’s existence cannot be ignored given its importance in WA football. Hence the celebration of 125 years is important for football in Western Australia.

In 2000 when Subiaco celebrated its 100th year in the WAFL, the club acknowledged its history “reflects the diehard character of people who made Subiaco one of the State’s most powerful football clubs and who also made significant contributions to both the development of our State and, closer to home, the Subiaco municipality.”

“Those interested in Western Australian history will notice the names of political and civic leaders who were closely associated with the Subiaco Football Club, and sports fans will recognize the names of Australian football legends all of whom have contributed to our rich traditions.”

Subiaco is undoubtedly a powerhouse in WA football, and by expansion, culture. It give the town of Subiaco, and by expansion Perth a heartbeat and holds significance in numerous peoples’ hearts.

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