Fitzroy defiant in face of merger

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 May, 1996, 12:00am

After a tense week linking embattled Australian Football League club Fitzroy to a merger with North Melbourne, Lions fans savoured a rare win when their team swamped Fremantle by 31 points. Although speculation continued that the clubs would amalgamate at the end of the 1996 season, merger opponents seized on the win as a symbol of stand-alone glory. The Lions won 16.11 (107) to 10.16 (76) at Whitten Oval on Saturday, their first victory in exactly a year. On the final siren, the 5,083 fans scattered around the ground ignored protocol and rushed on to the field to savour the winning moment. The result lifted Fitzroy from bottom position on the premiership ladder, now occupied by winless Melbourne.

The win was achieved without inspirational skipper Brad Boyd who went off in the first term with a recurring hamstring injury. Despite their courageous Irish-born ruckman Jim Stynes equalling the AFL record of 204 consecutive games, Melbourne folded early to Hawthorn's relentless pressure, losing 19.8 (122) to 10.11 (71). The win was a huge relief for Hawthorn captain Jason Dunstall who returned to form with eight goals. On Friday, Geelong wreaked revenge for last year's Grand Final thrashing by downing Carlton by 12 points at the MCG.

With superstar forward Gary Ablett back from suspension and mobile ruckman John Barnes dictating terms from the start, the Cats had too much of the ball, winning 15.8 (98) to 12.14 (86).