Dayne Zorko of the Lions (centre) kicks the ball under pressure during between the Brisbane Lions and the Melbourne Demons at the Gabba in Brisbane.
Dayne Zorko of the Lions (centre) kicks the ball under pressure during between the Brisbane Lions and the Melbourne Demons at the Gabba in Brisbane. DARREN ENGLAND

City where it Lions up

ROME has the Colosseum, an ancient arena once full of gladiators, lions and wonder that captivated the masses.

Brisbane has its own colosseum - the Gabba - also full of gladiators, lions and wonder to captivate the masses.

Thankfully the seating at the Gabba is far superior. The gladiators are athletes and the lions are of the Brisbane Australian Football League variety.

Nestled in the heart of Brisbane, the Gabba - which seats 42,000 - has played host to some truly memorable moments in sport.

Home to the Brisbane Lions, Queensland Bulls and Brisbane Heat, it is a sporting mecca for fans of all ages.

And if it's game day - specifically a Brisbane Lions game day - you'll never regret buying a ticket.

The current Lions squad may not match up to the teams that dominated from 2001-2003 winning three AFL premierships but that doesn't make game day any less exciting or worthwhile.

Attending the Lions' March 31 clash with the Melbourne Demons, I was amazed by the buzz of the crowd.

Outside the stadium pre-game the talk was all football. Everyone was eager to see what the Lions were going to produce after their promising performance against St Kilda the previous week.

The Lions lost that match but the fans' support for their club was steadfast and I found myself easily swept up and caught in the moment.

Inside the stadium the passion and sense of occasion was even stronger.

Seated behind the goals - in the iconic open air stadium - I could see the attention of nearly every fan was focused on the centre square waiting for the game to kick off.

And when it did, the atmosphere grew tenfold.

Every kick, handball, tackle, mark and goal was met with a passion and fever that grew with the sense of occasion.

The bigger the occasion, the bigger the roar from the crowd. There was a touch over 17,000 fans in attendance (including a healthy dose of Melbourne supporters) but it felt like there was double that number.

The roar of support for the young Lions team rolled around the stadium like a thunderstorm - starting with those closest to the action before being picked up by those further away as they caught sight of the play on the big screens.

And it didn't stop - even when all hope seemed lost with the Lions well behind on the scoreboard - the passion of the fans remained.

Even in the last minutes of the game - with Melbourne well ahead - the support was still there.

Thankfully there were plenty of clubs, pubs and restaurants nearby for fans to drown their sorrows if they felt that way inclined.

And therein lies the added beauty of Brisbane - more specifically the city's centre.

Pick the right hotel and you can turn a short vacation into a real adventure.

It's easy enough getting around whether it be on foot, by bus, taxi, train or ferry cat.

My father and I stayed at the Oaks Festival Towers and it was the perfect location.

Everything was right there in front of us.

From the quirky little cafes that offer unique coffee blends and inspired menus to the larger franchise restaurants, we were spoilt for choice.

Stroll the streets in one direction and you'll find plenty of shopping - or head the opposite way to experience the majestic Brisbane River.

Other than the nearby Gabba there are plenty of other sights and attractions to enjoy.

The Queensland Maritime Museum is perched on the river near South Bank, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs are a sight to behold and guided climbs of the beautiful Story Bridge will give you a wondrous new view of Queensland's capital city.

The type of city where you can do a little or a lot, depending on your mood.

The writer was a guest of Oaks Hotels and Resorts.

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