Charlie Cameron
Charlie Cameron is one of the AFL's great celebrators. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Handstands to handlebars: the Gabba’s new Lion king

September 20, 2023

From handstands to handlebars, the Gabba has a new Lion king.

Any debate around Charlie Cameron’s pulling power was silenced in a manic minute in the qualifying final win over Port Adelaide with the 200-gamer’s quickfire double creating a unique piece of AFL theatre.

Brisbane’s only All-Australian player this season finally found some space to mark and kick a goal that meant John Denver’s Country Roads – Cameron’s special request – blared over the Gabba speakers.

The music stopped but the full house kept singing, surging back into the chorus just as ‘King Charles’ streamed onto another loose ball and kicked his second, cueing up the Denver classic once more.

“It was a pretty special moment,” Lions co-captain and Brisbane local Harris Andrews said. 

“You get a unique atmosphere at the Gabba; probably a little different to other states in regards to watching the footy.

“But it was pretty awesome hearing the crowd belt it out. Then he’s kicked another one and they go again.

“You have to catch yourself in those moments. Starc (fellow defender Brandon Starcevich) did a good job of reminding me of the job at hand.”

Every Brisbane player has a song, but none hit like Charlie’s.

If the crowd’s lucky he’ll accompany it with a handlebar celebration, the Mornington Island-raised star revving an imaginary Harley Davidson along the forward pocket boundary line as fans young and old scream his name.

Twenty years ago it was Jason Akermanis igniting that same section with his electric bursts of speed, skilful goals and a trademark handstand after every win. 

He won a Brownlow Medal and helped Brisbane to three successive premierships between 2001-2003 before moving to the Bulldogs in 2007.

“The loudest roar since I’ve played is certainly for Charlie,” Akermanis, who now commentates Lions games, told AAP.

“That (two-goal burst) was crazy. He was well held, he could have got another four or five free kicks the way they were treating him.

“The umpires don’t look after him enough, but he found a way to get those couple of goals.

“He certainly acknowledges the crowd. We never had the songs after goals, which is really cool.

“Joey (Daniher) get as big a roar when he’s on fire, but they certainly love Charlie and if you look across the crowds he’s certainly the most popular Lion.”

Cameron moved to Brisbane and attended Marist College Ashgrove where he excelled at baseball, rugby league and rugby union before turning his fast hands and feet to Australian rules, prompting Adelaide to draft him as a rookie in 2014.

The Crows reluctantly traded him home to the Lions four years later.

Cameron is a diehard Melbourne Storm fan but it hasn’t stopped the Brisbane Broncos’ biggest stars clamouring to get a piece of the other hottest ticket in town.

“He’s a freaky man with the way he puts his body in positions to kick goals and evade people,” Brisbane’s rock star fullback Reece Walsh said. 

Walsh, Broncos captain Adam Reynolds and high-profile forward Pat Carrigan were all in the dressing room to congratulate Cameron after his 200th game.

Their own NRL preliminary final across town at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night will mean they won’t be there to watch Cameron play Carlton for a spot in the grand final.

But they have drawn plenty of inspiration already, Walsh saying Cameron has him covered for footwork, speed and fitness.

“For someone like myself, to watch what he does off the ball to get himself in position to get away from the defender is cool to watch,” Walsh said. 

Brisbane have made three of the last four preliminary finals but are yet to reach a decider.

They could use some of the 29-year-old’s big-game expertise to overcome a Carlton side that’s won 11 of its last 12 games.

He’s kicked at least 50 goals in four of the last five seasons, has two five-goal finals hauls to his name and booted six majors across two wins in last year’s finals series.

“Until Charlie came along I’d never seen the Gabba light up,” coach Chris Fagan said earlier this month.

“He lights the place up, he entertains and plays footy the right way … and puts smiles on people’s faces.

“Aside from trying to win premierships, that’s what this game is all about.”