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Jason Akermanis: Why GF is not the only exciting thing about being back in Brisbane


Three-time AFL Premiership winner and Brisbane Lions legend Jason Akermanis has returned to Brisbane for the first time in a decade – and can’t believe the changes. He writes about the city he never knew

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As a kid growing up I was enthralled by the story of King Solomon’s gold and the legendary lost mine of Ophir.

Apart from his immense wealth, Solomon was a wise leader, reigning for four decades as the third king of Israel during a period of growth and opportunity for the city which saw it be transformed into the jewel of the Middle East.

It’s a story that resonated with me once more as we returned to Brisbane … our hometown, our own ‘’golden Eldorado’’, and a city undergoing its own period of prosperity and transformation.

While the River City will feel the impact of the coronavirus pandemic for some time to come, everywhere I look there is activity that will boost confidence between now and 2025 – billions of dollars of investment in transport, lifestyle and infrastructure.

In my new line of work as a real estate agent and auctioneer, I am seeing first-hand how that infrastructure program is driving the local property market. It seems Brisbane is the place to be.

When my wife, Megan and I made the tough decision 14 years ago to leave Brisbane, so much of what we see now had not happened.

Our amazing tunnel system hadn’t been built, Howard Smith Wharves was an eyesore, the Queensland Maroons State of Origin team were on the cusp of one of the greatest winning streaks in rugby league while the once-mighty Brisbane Lions were about to start their leanest period.

And if I’d told you back then that in the year 2020 the Gabba would host an AFL grand final, under lights, while the NRL’s superpower club, the Brisbane Broncos would hold the wooden spoon, you could justifiably call me “Akermaniac”. More on that later.

Brisbane was the city where I’d met Megan, where we were married, where we had our first daughter Charlotte, where we had made lifelong friends, shared many joyful memories, and some grief.

It was the place where I made my AFL debut for the “Bad News” Bears while still a schoolboy in 1995 and where, for the next 12 years, I became a part of one of the greatest teams in footy history, the triple premiership Brisbane Lions.

Our decade-and-a-half away took us to Melbourne, Tassie, then the border city of Albury where we put down our roots for seven years and I took up coaching the local footy team on top of my “day job” helping a tech start-up.

I’ll admit my personality has, at times, been one of petulance, prone to throwing a big match over my right shoulder and burning the bridge down.

But there was always one bridge that could never be destroyed no matter how hard I tried: The bridge back to Brissie.

People ask me why I describe this last 80 days back home as “gold”. I think Brisbanites can suffer a little from the ‘’luxury effect’’ – where life is so good that you must pinch yourself to just remind yourself how good we’ve got it.

For a start, take our natural advantages. How good has the weather been in this grand final week. Meanwhile, Melbourne, where I shivered through a few grand final parades, has been a “balmy” 17-21C! An hour’s drive either side of Brisbane we have the most amazing beaches on the planet … and it’s warm to jump into the water all year round.

What I am also seeing is catalytic projects such as Cross River Rail, Queen’s Wharf, Brisbane Metro, world-class hotels in the new Brisbane Quarter, the green bridges linking the CBD to our cultural hub of South Brisbane with the new QPAC and hip West Village wrapped around the old ice cream factory.

Meanwhile, my “second home”, the Gabba, has been earmarked for a $35 million upgrade underpinned by the Cross River Rail precinct plan which will transform the area into a vibrant mixed-use residential, retail and entertainment hub, a three-minute train ride to the city from a new underground station.

This Saturday the Gabba writes another chapter in its rich history when it hosts Richmond and Geelong in the AFL grand final – the first outside Melbourne in the game’s 124-year history.

While much smaller than the MCG, I’ve played enough games at the Gabba to feel the energy of a Queensland crowd and I have no doubt “our G” can replicate the excitement of the game’s showpiece.

And with a massive audience reach of four million it’s a once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity to not only grow the game locally, but to showcase Brisbane and Queensland to a new wave of Aussie travellers.

It took my family and I 14 years of crazy twists, travels and turns, good and bad, with life lessons along the way to really understand the story of Solomon’s gold.

The gold may be different for us all but it is truly worth the same value as gold ever could.

Jason Akermanis played in four consecutive grand finals for the Brisbane Lions including premierships in 2001, 2002 and 2003, he is a Brownlow Medallist and member of the AFL Hall of Fame.

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