Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Grand Final that never happened

by Chris Egan

Like other aspects of our NSL history, Perth Glory's 2003 Grand Final victory was expected to be forgotten by the people of Perth. When Matt Carroll infamously said that Perth Glory was not ten years old, in season 2 of the A-League, we were effectively told to see the 'new' Perth Glory as a different entity from the 'old' NSL Perth Glory. This included forgetting our Grand Final victories.

The players celebrate Perth Glory's first
Grand Final win in 2003.
Yet on a cold Saturday afternoon, exactly ten years from our first victory, a small but vocal group of Perth Glory fans re-watched their first grand final success with all the passion they had done ten years before. The crisp air was strangely reminiscent of when, as a sixteen year old, I had gone to Subiaco Oval dearly hoping my team would win the NSL championship.

AFL often celebrates ten-year milestones of premierships. The West Coast Eagles Premiership was remembered and lower leagues clubs often commemorate their flags. In an Australian sporting context, this celebration from the fans comes from a cultural acceptance that premierships are revered not just once, but forever. These memories are treasured tokens of our identity as fans.

The FFA confronted these ideas in its attempt to create a Ground Zero. As fans sung You Fat Bastard to the video screen, they continued on what they had sung in 2003.

The football body believed it owned the history, the direction and the way Perth should deal with its past. This central desire to build a club for the A-League, without respecting the past caused serious damage to both the brand and image of the A-League in Perth.

The fans in the Elephant and Wheelbarrow exemplified what the fans have won in the history wars of 2006. One of my mates put on facebook after the game: “10yrs on this game still gives me chills. Thanks to the GFU crew that made the effort to come and watch this piece of Glory history.” The FFA's desire to have a central message and therefore an erosion of Perth's history challenged peoples feelings, emotions and understandings.

Why scrap our history? Why erode a moment that means more to me than you will ever understand? They lacked an understanding that by declaring Ground Zero they have seriously damaged some of the fans who drove the creation of the A-League.

Not everyone was caught up in the excitement
at the Elephant & Wheelbarrow
At this Grand Final Tana handed out Pro-Lowy cards to fans who were desperately tired of the lack of reform. Glory was a club that was designed to show Australia that professional football was achievable. The FFA said these things were not important.

It is clear to Perth Glory that the damage of the Carroll era is still there. Hopefully, the lack of diversification of the A-League message and the football administration's atrocious handling of Perth will never happen again. But deep distrust remains about the FFA and conspiracy theories are aplenty: the FFA hates Perth; they don't want us in the league; they won't allow us to win the Grand Final.

The fans loved celebrating a past that we were told to forget. They chanted, they celebrated the goals and they drunk into the night. The group that organised the event hoped to generate excitement for the upcoming A-League season. Inter-connecting the NSL past to the A-League future, something that the history wars declared could not happen.

We also articulated a strong stance against Simon Colosimo. Despite winning the Marston medal for best on field that day, his antics after the 2003 NSL season and later in the A-League has tarnished his legacy in the eyes of the fans. Whenever he touched the ball “Judas, Judas, Judas” was screamed at the TV.

  Captain, Simon Colosimo became a target for the boo boys. 
Western Australia was so outraged about Colosimo leaving the state’s sporting team, that he was harassed no end by the media. David Mitchell had to sideline him from the playing squad for the last three games of the A-League season and he was booed in the last game he played. Leaving the club twice, second time as captain means that positive aspects of his time at Perth will be ignored by fans who see him as having disrespected the purple shirt, twice.

The NSL and A-League eras have been connected together by the fans. They see their history as inter-connected, not separate as Matt Carroll said we should. It proves what many sports historians claim: the fans own the history; nobody else. It is fans who keep history alive.

In 2013 memories have not faded for events that occurred in both the A-League and the NSL. There remeains an appreciation and a love for the past which was said to be ‘irrelevant’ to our future when our tenth birthday celebrations were squashed by Year Zero mentality.

While many argue that Perth Glory is just a ‘franchise’ the legacy of the NSL continues to shape our A-League future.


  1. Chris, thanks for this insightful article. It would be great if fans did indeed "own the history". What is accepted as "official history" - i.e. that which appears on FFA publications - is beyond the control of fans. However, as you also infer, fans can keep an alternative reading of the past alive, and so create a counter-factual narrative. Making that history known to people is, of course, a big challenge, particularly if FFA gatekeepers are unprepared to accept diverse interpretations of the past.

  2. Daryl, FFA have moved enormously from season 2. They allowed Glory to put a massive 15 years badge on their shirt, they allowed the celebration of the 15th birthday. Marketing wise Edwards talks about the past, Harnwell's NSL and A-League games are added together by Foxtel.

    Basically the FFA were basically forced by this market to recognise the past, if you look at how entrenched Glory are in 'history' being a central part of their marketing.