Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Thursday 19 December 2013

When Victoria had its own World Cup

Roy Hay and John Punshon, with a contribution by Ted Smith

Not long after the Second World War the influx of migrants from Britain and Europe with their love of football generated a new excitement for the game in Victoria. In 1949 Jock Parker, the president of the Junior Association of the Victorian Amateur Soccer Football Association (VASFA), organised a competition involving teams representing Great Britain, the Commonwealth, Italy, Yugoslavia and one simply called ‘New Australians’. The next year he broadened the scope and announced he was going to have Victorian Olympic Games, played on the small Olympic oval, hence the name.[1] He expected teams from the four home countries, Italy, Israel, Malta, Greece, Yugoslavia, Australia and the Rest of the World would take part. By June that year he had entries from a combined Great Britain team, Australia, Italy, Greece, Malta, Yugoslavia, Israel and ‘New Australians’ drawn from countries not otherwise represented.[2] The Olympic idea had been dropped and the matches were referred to as Sunday International Games. J O Wilshaw was afraid the tournament might cut across the state selection process and even lead to a breakaway as happened in the later 1920s.[3] Yugoslavia based on the highly successful JUST team came through to beat Australia by four goals to one in the final on 17 September 1950.[4] A trophy worth £100 ($200, but probably ten times that in today’s money) for the competition was presented by D H Laidlaw, the president of the Ringwood club. Thereafter the tournament was often referred to as the Laidlaw World Cup.[5]

Brighton raised the question whether the Laidlaw Cup was encouraging the payment of players and banned its players from taking part in the World Cup in 1952. It also hinted at the beginnings of a breakaway.[6] The claim was indignantly denied by Jock Parker, who pointed to the support to the juniors with 60 per cent of the total takings going to them.  The balance went to the competing teams in the final, so there were resources available to reward players.

In 1951 and 1952 Scotland won the tournament. In 1951 their opponent in the final was Yugoslavia. JUST had gone through the league season undefeated and since, once again, they provided nearly all the Yugoslav team, the loss to Scotland was the only one incurred that year in a competitive match.[7] JUST had played the final of the Dockerty Cup the day before, 29 September, and beaten Brighton 1-0, so it was asking a bit to expect even that team of brilliant players to back up against the Scots the next day.[8] No doubt the Scots called themselves world champions, as their equivalents in the United Kingdom did when Denis Law and Jim Baxter orchestrated a victory over England the year after they won the FIFA World Cup in 1966.

In 1952 the Scotland-Italy final was drawn and went to a replay, which the Scots won by two goals to one in front of around 7,000 people.[9] There was crowd trouble at the end of the game, which led to a move by VASFA to take over the Sunday tournament. ‘Mr. H. J. Dockerty, council member, said: "There can be only one governing body. If the council is 'weak kneed' enough not to control it, then the game will not continue to progress. … "There is only one Soccer Association in Victoria, and it must accept complete control." Mr. F. Lang said: "Full national teams attract full national supporters, and a national feeling always comes to the surface. Here is the basis of all our trouble."’[10] But, judging by events the following year the council did not follow up its intended take over.

Meanwhile it was the issue of what happened to the money paid to the teams which caused more controversy. Did it finish up remunerating players? Bill Fleming pointed out that Olympic selection was at stake.[11] VASFA decided to take over control of the Sunday games but also ‘unanimously adopted a suggestion by Mr N. Rothfield, vice-president, to appoint a committee of business men who would guarantee employment for soccer players coming to Victoria, subject to their producing adequate evidence of their playing ability. The council appointed a special sub-committee to contact business men to make a survey of jobs available.’ It is not clear if this ever eventuated in Victoria, but this is the underlying issue leading to the FIFA ban in 1960. If it could be argued that people were coming to Australia for employment and playing football as amateurs then, so it was hoped, you might get round FIFA requirements about transfer fees for high quality players.

The 1953 tournament was brought to a halt by a fracas at the game between Italy, largely players from the Juventus club, and Ireland on 12 July. Ireland was leading 4–3.[12] The Italians walked off in protest about refereeing decisions and the crowd assaulted the referee. There was a media firestorm. The VASFA Council threw the book at Juventus and ended Sunday International matches at its meeting the following week.[13] Suspending Juventus rather than the team which had played in the Laidlaw Cup was a major embarrassment for VASFA, since it later transpired that they did not know who the Sunday International Committee members were in order to proceed against them. Nevertheless the following year, Soccer News in a lead article on Polonia remarked that they held the Laidlaw World Cup having defeated England four-nil in the final.[14] So it appears the tournament was revived before the end of the 1953 season. The Sporting Globe reported dissatisfaction on the part of the ‘International’ Sunday Soccer Association that VASFA had not lifted the ban, given that Juventus had won its appeal against the fine and suspension of players.[15] In December John Oliphant, Chairman of the Sunday International Committee nominated for the VASFA Council, but Bill Fleming thought it unlikely that he would be accepted since he had been an active referee in 1953.[16]

In early 1954 VASFA finally sat down with the Sunday International Committee and hammered out a compromise which allowed the tournament to proceed.  It was effectively a take-over by the state body. Four of the five members of the SIC were to be members of VASFA Council, and the SIC was only allowed to organise the World cup games. The distribution of monies was also spelled out, with VASFA taking 45 per cent of the net takings.[17] There was no explicit mention of the juniors for whom Jock Parker had started the competition. Jock Parker had an article in Soccer News in 1954 bemoaning the fact that the tournament he had started to provide support for the juniors was now devoted to raising funds for the clubs.[18]

By September 1954 the tournament was down to the semifinals where Czechoslovakia, sponsored by the Slavia club, met Australia and Italy took on Poland.[19] In 1954 Czechoslovakia won the Cup beating Italy in the final by two goals to nil, and it reached the final the following year only to go down to Italy by six goals to one.[20] That was Italy’s first win in the Laidlaw World Cup, though it was a perennial finalist reaching the last game in 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1959, and winning again in 1960.

Holland came out on top in 1956.[21] Italy beat Australia by three goals to two in the semi-final at Middle Park on 29 September. Italy got the winner very late in the game.[22] Holland downed Poland also by three-two and went on hammer Italy five-one in the final. The Dutch squad
included: Van Egmond, Peet, Cor Mathyssen, Remmers, Bakens, Olifiers, Peter
Schipperheyn, Luyten, Huygen, Sjel (Mike) de Bruyckere, Teuben.  Reserves:
Steenbergen, Sinnema.

Australia in the Laidlaw Cup at Olympic Park in 1957. Back row, left to right: Bobby Cotterell, Ian Petherick, Andre Waitzer, John McIvor, Brian Thomas, Angus Drennen. Front row: Ross McKenzie, Graham James, Ted Smith, (unknown), Jackie Wilson. The unidentified player was from South Melbourne United. Photo: From Jackie Wilson, courtesy of Ted Smith.

Holland downed Poland also by three-two and went on hammer Italy five-one in the final. The Dutch squad included: Van Egmond, Peet, Cor Mathyssen, Remmers, Bakens, Olifiers, Peter Schipperheyn, Luyten, Huygen, Sjel (Mike) de Bruyckere, Teuben.  Reserves: Steenbergen, Sinnema.

England had its first win in 1957. In the final England went a goal down to Yugoslavia, but fought back in the second to win 3–2.[23] In 1958 it was the turn of Malta which got up against Italy in a five-goal thriller.

Malta won the Laidlaw World Cup in Victoria in 1958 before 9000 spectators with the this team: J. Borg, Vince Muscat, P. Zammit, Tony Vella, F. Damato, J. Debono, F. Catania, E. Azzopardi, D. Catania, Lolly Vella, M. Cachia. Soccer and other Sports, 19 September 1958, p. 1

Scotland won the tournament for the third time in 1959 after nearly being put out by Croatia and only getting through after a replay. 1960 saw Italy win its second tournament downing Yugoslavia in the final.

By now attention was switching away from the World Cup to the fight between the Victorian Soccer Federation (VSF) and VASFA for control of the game in Victoria and the tournament was held for the last time in 1961. Poland won for the second time, defeating Holland in the final. Sixteen teams took part that year. Nearly 9,000 turned up for the first round match between Malta and Greece, which had to be replayed after a successful protest by the Maltese that the Greek goal came about after referee George Harrison played too much extra-time! The replay was goal-less, but J Falzon scored the decisive one in the second replay. Germany, Poland, Holland and Scotland reached the semi-finals and R Gronowski scored the only goal of the final in extra-time.

It might have been expected that when the VSF came out on top the national teams competition would flourish once again. But that did not happen. The Federation Cup and the state and national Ampol Cups became the focus and the Australian Soccer Federation and the VSF agreed as early as December 1961 that ‘throughout Australian Federation circles there would be no more games played between sides bearing national titles, such as in the World Cup Series played here in Melbourne’.[24] These games in the Sunday International League had been organised by the old Association, so the decision may be seen as little more than belated revenge, rather than a considered act of policy, for it was to be breached many times in the future. However, when the decision was being considered in 1962, it is fascinating to find three pillars of VASFA – Harry Dockerty, Charles Walker and Morrie Buckner – lined up in support of the international games, and Theo Marmaras, the Chairman of the VSF, arguing that ‘After all this is the Commonwealth of Australia, and I do not think it wise to perpetuate the differences in nationality here’.[25]

Reminiscences of the Laidlaw World Cup and other games by Ted Smith

Ted Smith remembers ‘My first game for “Australia” (sponsored by South Melbourne United) was aged 16 whilst still at Preston playing at the Old Olympic Park before the fire. In those years we had Angus Drennen, Jackie Wilson and sometimes Ross McKenzie—as per that photo—the remainder was Aussies—including the James Brothers and others from South Melbourne, topped up by Andre Waitzer, an Austrian and Brian Thomas (son of Bill, a pillar of VASFA) Kiwi, both from Brighton.

Then at St. Kevins College oval (while I was still at Preston) we beat Scotland, which included Pat Clark, Dave Stoddart and various other Victorian and Australian internationals—the memory is still hazy.

Later matches at Olympic Park where we lost a Semi Final to Italy in the last minutes.

Again later we beat Poland with John Bedford scoring in his first game. (He was still at Box Hill). I was at Hellas then in 1961 and John joined me as the two Ozzie Greeks and we won the State League Championship in 1962.

I remember two Games at Middle Park when there were no stands at all, only the Bike Track—one against Malta when a gale was blowing down the field. I can’t remember the score though.

The second was against Ireland (sponsored by Moreland) when I arrived too late on Sammy Kyle (who later joined Moreland ) and was confronted by an ‘angry ant’ Frankie Loughran who wanted to  extract immediate revenge against me, who had played with him for many years for Moreland, Victoria and Australia. [Editor’s note: Ted was never booked in his career, but in addition to this incident there was another game in which Alec Barr’s report concluded: ‘Moreland’s new left winger, Ted Smith, did not show up in the hurly burly of senior soccer, and will have to curb his temperament if he is to be a success.][26]

The other memory was watching the final won by England, with four Moreland players— Don Innard, David Oxton (who scored a cracker just clipping the near post) both Victorian representatives, Norm Hobson and Don Hodgson, both Socceroos, (not sure whether they were before or after this match though).

Another was the Scotland–Italy match when the supporters didn’t appreciate the ‘aggressive’ Scottish tactics and showered them with missiles as they were leaving the field.[27]

A bit rambly but fond memories of this competition, particularly when I was starting my senior career at Preston from 1951 (16-years-old) to 1953.

Some puzzles remain. Roy Hay talked to Fritz Schwab, father of Laurie, and he said that he had recruited a group of young German players, including Adolf Windt from Geelong, to play in and win a world cup in Victoria.[28] The Richmond Allemania website also makes the claim that Richmond won the local world cup in 1958 and the Laidlaw Cup in 1960.[29] In neither case is there any sign of a German overall victory in the world cup series between 1951 and 1961, however. This needs to be further investigated.

There were other club-based competitions over the years that drew on the success of the Laidlaw exercise. For example, in Geelong there was the New World Cup, sponsored by the Dutch newspaper Nieuive Wereld which also ran in the 1950s. There were similar competitions in South Australia and Western Australia. The All Nations Cup run by the Knox City club in Melbourne continues the tradition today. So the Laidlaw Cup was not unique, but it was one of the most impressive while it lasted.


[1]           Soccer News, 13 May 1950, p. 5.
[2]           Soccer News, 24 June 1950, p. 7.
[3]           J O Wilshaw, ‘Soccer split may develop,’ Sporting Globe, 12 July 1950, p. 00.
[4]           Soccer News, 16 September 1950 p. 6; 23 September 1950, p. 4. JUST won the Third Division South without defeat in 1950.
[5]           I am indebted to John Punshon for supplying me with copies of his detailed research on the results and participants in the Laidlaw World Cup.
[6]           Bill Fleming, ‘Soccer split denied,’ Argus, 13 May 1952 p. 8.
[7]           Sporting Globe, 10 October 1951, p. 15.
[8]           Information by email from Milan Ninovic, 4 April 2012.
[9]           Sporting Globe, 8 October 1952, p. 15; Bill Fleming, ‘Scotland wins cup,’ Argus, 13 October 1952, p. 8.
[10]          ‘Council will run soccer,’ Argus, 21 October 1952, p. 9.
[11]          Bill Fleming, ‘Soccer risks amateur status,’ Argus, 11 November 1952, p. 9.
[12]          Age, 13 July 1953, p. 13.
[13]          ‘Sunday soccer out,’ Soccer News, 18 July 1953, pp. 1–4. VASFA was embarrassed because it could not find out the membership of the Sunday International Committee to hold responsible for the incident, and hence picked on Juventus, which was subject to the rules of the Association. Ken Moses, ‘Why keep it quiet?’, Argus, 25 November 1953, p. 22.
[14]          ‘Laidlaw Cup starting’, Soccer News, 12 June 1954, p. 6; ‘Polonia’, Soccer News, 19 June 1954, p. 1.
[15]          Sporting Globe, 8 August 1953, p. 11.
[16]          Bill Fleming, ‘Soccer has problem,’ Argus, 12 December 1953, p. 44.
[17]          Bill Fleming, ‘“World” soccer to go on,’ Argus, 21 April 1954, p. 24.
[18]          Soccer News, 10 July 1954, p. 3.
[19]          Soccer News, 4 September 1954, p. 4.
[20]          Alex Barr, ‘Italy takes Soccer Cup’, Age, 26 September 1955, p. 16.
[21]          Sporting Globe, 17 October 1956, p. 2.
[22]          Ted Smith, email 27 March 2012.
[23]          Geoff Bardsley, ‘Moreland’s Soccer Cup win ends great year,’ Sporting Globe, 9 October 1957, p. 5.
[24]          Age, 11 December 1961, p. 0. ‘A national register of players in the Federation will be compiled to prevent illegal transfers and the poaching of talent between the States.’
[25]          Soccer Weekly, 28 June 1962
[26]          Alex Barr, ‘Changed decision aids soccer win,’ Age, 3 May 1954, p. 14.
[27]          Ted Smith, emails 27 & 28 March 2012.
[28]          Conversation at the wake for Helen Schwab, his daughter-in-law, Stevedore Street, Williamstown, 26 March 2012.
[29]         Richmond Allemania website,, accessed 27 March 2012.

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