Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Soccer at the Front: the 34th v The Tommies

This is a tremendous article that relays a letter from Peter Coppock, the Australian soldier and Merewether Advance footballer who participated in a game between the 34th Battalion from Maitland and a team of English soldiers (Tommies). It speaks to the importance of soccer to this group of Australian soldiers and their qualities as players. The letter reveals Coppock's good humour and also to some extent his modesty (downplaying his achievements). 

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, 4 February 1918, page 3

Mr. W. B. Tamlyn, secretary to the Northern Association, has received a long and interesting letter from Peter Coppock, the ex-Merewether and inter-State half back. Peter comments on Soccer matters in general, and says either Wallsend or Weston Alblons would win the competition. He was a good Judge, as these two teams met in the final, Wallsend, it will be remembered, winning 2 goals to nil. The versatile Peter states that he selected a team to play some R.F.A. Tommies. He had a job to get a team, but succeeded, and the following is an account of the game, which was played just behind the lines: The 34th Battalion (or Coppock's team) won the toss, gaining no advantage neither sun nor wind being in evidence. The Tommies Immediately attacked, but Taylor surprised them and put the ball well down the field to Bates. The winger got across a beautiful centre, but the forwards were too slow, and the Tommies' backs cleared the danger. Jones, however, banged the ball back, and it was sent just over the bar. The next few seconds found the Tommies' centre forward making towards the 34th goal. He tricked Lovett, the ex-Teralba boy, and closing in beat goaly Sneddon, and so the Tommies led one to nil. This reverse stirred the 34th up, and they hotly attacked. A lot of bustling took place near the Tommies' goal, and Messenger had bad luck with a quick shot, which hit the post and bounced out again to Jones, who, closing quickly in, put through, thus making the scores one all. Excitement was very high, the supporters of the 34th making themselves heard, and shouting out all sorts of odds on the 34th, but the Tommies indulged in some splendid passing bouts, and for a time had the 34th tied up, but Sneddon in goal could not be beaten, and the interval score was one goal each. 

Starting the second half, the colonials made for the Tommies' goal, and things were very willing. The Tommies' goaly was in good form, and always appeared to be in the right spot. James put in a good shot, but this was sent well up the field. Lovett and Taylor were defending well, and sent the ball back. The Tommies' right back jumped up to head the greasy ball, which glanced off his head to Harris, who put out to Bates, whose good centre made matters very exciting. The general mix-up in the Tommies' goal area caused a great deal of laughter. On one occasion there were three players on top of the ball, and the Tommies' full back put it out with his hand, but the referee did not see the offence, and the 34th claims for a penalty were ignored. The ball was eventually sent clear, but Jones put in a hot shot; which hit and broke the upright. The game was delayed for a few minutes until the wounded post was repaired. Resuming, the Tommies made for the 34th goal, and from a suspicious looking offside position their inside scored their second goal. Referee "'Buggie" White's decision for a goal caused him to be strifed by the 34th supporters. The colonials were not yet beaten, and made desperate attempts to draw level, but luck and the Tommies' good goalkeeper kept them out. The last few minutes of the game were all in the 34th favour, but no further score took place, and the Tommies had won a hard fought game by 2 to 1. The 34th, though beaten, were not disgraced. The Tommies' team have not been defeated, and the hard game played was a great surprise to all who saw it. Peter says it reminded him of the games 'twixt Morowether and West Wallsend, Cessnock and Weston. 

The 34th team was: A. Sneddon (Cessnock), goal; E. L .Taylor (Cessnock), H. Lovett (Teralba), backs; F. W. James (West Wallsend), W. Jones (Adamstown), P. G. Coppock (Merewether), half-backs; T. Pease (Adamstown), R, A. Bates (Minmi), J. Brady, E. Messenger, and Harris, forwards. "Buggie" White was selected to play, but arrived late, and so was persuaded to act as referee, and did his work, so Coppock says, well. A. White, the ex-Adamstown player, was selected, but did not play. The colonials' colours were blue and gold.

The above should be very interesting, practically all the 34th team being Newcastle Soccerites. Peter concludes his letter by saying he is quite well, and sends good wishes to all his Soccer friends. He also adds a P.S. to say he had been awarded the Military Medal for doing his duty in the battlefield. All join in congratulating this Soccer soldier on the honour conferred on him. Though Peter says it was for doing his duty, yet it is good to know he could do it so well as to merit the honour he received. He also signs himself lance-corporal, but does not say when he received that rank. Coppock is not the first Newcastle Soccerite to win the M.M. Steine, the ex-Wallsend player, recieved the award some months ago.

Hetherington Vol 1 Page 263 reports the following improved performance from a team of solely Newcastle region players

Dispatch From The Front. 

During the season, a special dispatch from France brought the news that the 34th Battalion of Newcastle had beaten an English Army Unit 3x2. For the record the Newcastle team was Sneddon (Cessnock), Lovett (Teralba), Taylor (Cessnock), Jones (West Wallsend), White (Adamstown), Peter Coppick (Merewether), Gaul (Cessnock), Slavin (West Wallsend), Colquolon (Cessnock ), Bates (Minmi), Bilbie (West Wallsend) 

As a tragic footnote to the story, Coppock survived the rigours of the war only to be struck and killed by lightning in 1922 at The Homestead, Weston's home ground. The folowing is from Hetherington Vol 1 Page 313.


In September this year, while a number of players and spectators were sheltering in the iron dressing shed at The Homestead, it was struck by lightning. The bolt killed player Peter Coppock, one of the finest half backs to play the game. Also killed was a fine young fellow, Gordon Hadfield, who had just turned 15 years of age. Several other people received shocks with three of them requiring hospitalisation. 


  1. Ian great read and I have read most of your articles regarding the early years of soccer. quick question for you. why is soccer (association football) a migrant game in the colonial period / and rugby union not. or any other important british game.

  2. Interesting question. To an extent ALL games are migrant games in the colonial period. Most of the people involved in Melbourne rules were migrants. It's an inordinately complex issue that will not be understand without thinking about the issue of class. Sometimes, the elitist nature of soccer works against it (especially in Melb); sometimes its working class/mining roots are the 'problem'.

  3. family history