The 1999 champion Burleigh Bears team coached by Rick Stone almost pulled off one of the great upsets in rugby league history.

Dean Allen still talks of the night he was 10 centimetres from rugby league immortality.

The Great Britain Lions team was on their 1999 tour that encompassed the Tri-Nations tournament against Australia and New Zealand and were only just holding out a feisty Burleigh Bears outfit in a warm-up game at Pizzey Park on the Gold Coast.

The Bears are back on the national stage this Sunday taking on the Illawarra Cutters in the Intrust Super State Championship but on October 16, 1999 they threatened to tilt the rugby league world off its axis.

Coached by Rick Stone, the 1999 Gold Coast Group 18 and Queensland Cup champions had the enormous throng of local supporters in a frenzy when they led 6-4 at half-time against a Lions team featuring some of the biggest names in English rugby league.

Winger Aaron Douglas was stretchered off during the grand final win over Redcliffe but played the game of his life opposite Jason Robinson; hooker Jamie O'Connor berated British props Stuart Fielden and Barrie McDermott for their stench at every scrum while Allen was told by towering centre Keith Senior to watch himself after he tackled half Sean Long following a kick down field.

But it was in the game's dying stages where Allen's brush with legend came up agonisingly short.

With five-eighth Craig Freer drifting across field Allen straightened into a hole and found himself in open space with only the fullback, Iestyn Harris, to beat.

Now trailing 10-6, Allen stepped past the Welsh international and set sail for the try-line for what would have been the match-winning try beside the posts.

Almost 5,000 fans roared him forward but after resisting the urge to raise his arm in triumph as the try-line loomed the 96-kilogram lock forward was cut down by his opposite number, England captain Andy Farrell.

"I've pinned my ears thinking I'm going to score and its right in front of the Burleigh scoreboard and the Burleigh hill," said Allen, who now works at Lang's Building Supplies and coached the Burleigh Colts this season.

"It's not my nature to put my hand up and celebrate beforehand but every part of me wanted to do that.

"I had the smile across my face thinking I was going to score and then all of a sudden Andy Farrell cut me in half from side-on in a traditional lock's cover-defending tackle and I'm fully stretched and probably 10 centimetres short from scoring the match-winner next to the posts."

After Ali Davys snuck over from dummy-half in the first half for Burleigh it was Farrell who scored the second-half try that put the visiting international team in front and as St Helens legend Paul Sculthorpe described in his book, Man of Steel, saved them from "complete humiliation".

"Burleigh weren't exactly up for a free-flowing game and most of them looked like they'd come straight from the gym," Sculthorpe wrote.

"Clearly they wanted to make a name for themselves by bashing a few Poms, which maybe you couldn't blame them for, and we didn't help ourselves when we won by only four points either.

"It has to be one of the craziest games I've ever played in, where they were just trying to turn it into one big thugfest, but you can imagine the sort of coverage we got after that."

Burleigh prop Shane O'Flanagan, named in the Queensland Cup 20th Anniversary team last year, didn't recall fisticuffs as such but a determination by the Bears to prove that they weren't going to be intimidated.

And the longer the game went, the more vociferous the Burleigh players became as they drew ever closer to what would have been one of the great upsets in rugby league history.

"We knew we were playing against Adrian Morley and Barrie McDermott and some pretty reasonable players but we just wanted to prove how good we were and have a go," said O'Flanagan, who is based in Cairns these days working for Lindsay's Transport and is an assistant coach with the Northern Pride.

"It was a tough old battle and leading 6-4 at half-time we probably thought we were a good shot of getting away with it.

"Packing into the scrum and hearing some of the boys get into the sledging, that was some of the funniest parts.

"I wasn't the biggest sledger on the field to be honest but some of the sledges I do remember about how much they smelled and how useless they were and that they were a two-bit side.

"It was pretty impressive, some of the stuff that was coming out."

Halfback and captain Grant Adamson had spent time with Seagulls and St George and didn't miss his opportunity to tell the likes of Denis Betts what he thought of their performance, putting the Lions very much on the back foot.

"They were very quiet," recalled Adamson, who has run the Rarely Late Freight transport business on the Gold Coast for the past decade.

"I don't know whether they weren't expecting us to be physical and verbal and were just treating it as a lower-tier trial game but I just thought it was my right to spray them about how close we were and how bad they were playing.

"I reckon we would have had at least 6,000 people there that night. You couldn't move. You could not move, and the crowd was rapt just with our effort so that kept them in the game, that we stayed in the game."

And with the current-day Bears ready to showcase their skills to an audience of millions on NRL Grand Final day, the words of Allen ring as true now as they did 17 years ago.

"It might have been an exhibition and trial game for them but for us it was a chance to prove our worth."