Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Soccer in Mount Isa in 1970

Some memories are vague, yet some are quite clear.
I've thought a long time about writing on soccer in my home town, Mount Isa. It's where I grew to love the game and where I came in contact with what seemed to me a breadth of ethnicities. These represent some notes towards a longer piece (as much of my stuff is). Whatever you do don't trust the information because it's largely memory based
We arrived in Mount Isa in early January 1970. My dad had gone up earlier (in November) and the rest of the family went up (a three day bus trip from Wollongong) to join him in the middle of summer.We settled in to life in the town and come winter, Dad was encouraged by workmates talking about the local game to drag the family down to Wellington Oval to watch the local soccer.

While lacking in comparison with the Roker Roar, the Wellington Oval crowds were passionate and engaged and sometimes quite sizeable (often over 400 out of a local population of 20,000). Moreover they were culturally diverse in a way that was typical of big Australian mining towns. Its makeup was determined by whatever immigration policy had been in operation and indicative of the kinds of work being carried out on the mine-site. For example, booms in construction saw an influx of Italians. Scores of Finns brought their copper mine experience to the town. English, Welsh and Scottish men with coal mine experience found the transition to a metalliferous mine quite easy and were employed in their hundreds.

The 1970 soccer season was my first experience of following a competitive sport first hand. My memories are vague on so much about the year, but I do remember the teams, eight of them, each based on an ethnic identity.
  1. Anglo (claret and white)
  2. Irish (green and white)
  3. Scotties (navy blue and white)
  4. Concordia [German] (white and black)
  5. International [Italian] (all red)
  6. Blue Adriatic ['Yugoslav' largely Croatian] (light blue and white stripes, a beautiful strip)
  7. Scandia [Dutch + other Scandinavian ethnicities] (orange and black)
  8. Eiffel (cobalt blue and red socks)
The latter is the only ethnic French team I know of in Australia. They were merde as well.

Sunday soccer at Mt Isa, 1970. National Archives NAA: A12111, 2/1970/33A/1
Concordia v Eiffel, with section of mine site in background.
Notice the banked cycling track encircling Wellington Oval.
The photos below are from the same collection, possibly of the same game.

It's not that the teams were like silos. The ethnicities of the teams didn't prevent intermingling. The captain of International was a German (Fritz Oelling) who had played (possibly) for the German U21 team. He was an old-school, hard as nails centre back who was quite happy to believe the opposition forward was there to be run through. Affectionately known as Boxhead, one time he came off with blood streaming from the left side of his forehead. He was instantly dubbed Triangle by a dozen Balkans whose English was ordinary at best and whose accents were thick!

There were other players who, to this 10 year old, were world beaters. The antics of Blue Adriatic's goal poaching genius Vojo Paunovic and Scotties' striker Willie Walker still linger in my mind nearly 40 years later. Dad, whose views on such matters are less distorted by my young and impressionable naivety still believes they were good players. He reminds me that a lot of them had played high level football in Europe and had sometimes migrated out of necessity and not desire.

Welshman Dave Scutt was another hard man defender. It must have galled for him to be playing for the Anglo team. Nor did I understand why a Scotsman called Campbell Stuart played for Anglo.

I can't remember who won that year or much else about it for that matter. I will no doubt spoil the purity of memory by doing some actual research. I might also call my Dad.


  1. Ian,

    Some 20 years later I played on that very field as a 12 year-old competing in the Gino Paris Carnival representing Central Queensland. The photos you have displayed above reminded me of a photo that was taken of me with the mine in the background.

    That was the first week long carnival we had the opportunity to be part of and I still have great memories from that time. I remember swapping badges with players from other zones, our first win at that level and four of us 'clocking' a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game 'Turtles in Time' at a corner store near the caravan park we were staying at.

    I know it is a little off topic from your blog however it just sparked a memory of mine, playing Football in Mount Isa.


  2. Wow. Thanks for that. I'd love to see the photo and maybe use it here with your permission. I;m wanting to write a longer piece so any memories you have would be helpful as well.

    The last time I played on the ground was 1981 (about). I played U 12 for Mt Isa in 1972 IIRC.

  3. Hi, I have a photo of several men sitting around a table at the Barkley hotel Mt Isa in 1971. I would like to send the photo to you, I understand you were just a child at that time but your dad may recognise the men in the photo, the man sitting front right is my daughters father, we have been searching for him for decades. Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Kind regards

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  5. My Dad (Don) coached our team (Irish Club U/12's) in 1972/3 I think. Have fond memories of Wellington Oval and remember captaining the Mt Isa U/12's against Townsville there. My Dad worked at the Airport and was mates with Ron Syson.
    Tony Madigan.

  6. Hi Tony. I remember the name. I'll have a chat with my dad. I played against Townsville at Wellington Oval around the same time. I might have been U13 though. They beat us 4-1 - which was a great improvement from the 18-0 the previous time we played the same group.

  7. Hi I played in 1971 and 1973 season in mt is a also represented mt is a in those seasons.played for the Scottish first season and the second season with the Irish,I remember a coach called Bernie Lloyd and drinking in the Irish club,knew Tony mcradie before he became mayor,great times,my name is Brenden Crothers and played with a number of great players up there.

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  9. hi kevin kennedy here i played for international club ,hilton and parkside through 70's and 80's used to do colts wedn nights at wellington oval and sundays played A grade in 79/80/81/82/83 , went to towoomba , marreba , townsville and Gladstone for interstate good times , jimmy gamell and them guys were coaches . hard to find and pictures or articles these days