Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

When Ron Barassi played Soccer

In November 1964 the might of the VFL took on that year's Dockerty Cup winners, Slavia-Port Melbourne in a game of soccer. It's an event that some participants cannot remember and many would prefer to forget.

As John Kallinikios has written in his Soccer Boom: The Transformation of Victorian Soccer Culture 1945-1963, soccer was undergoing a massive expansion in Melbourne in the late 1950s and early 60s. Extraordinary crowds were flocking to Olympic Park. Over 23,000 went to see a clash between George Cross and South Melbourne Hellas in 1962. In 1966 over 35,000 crammed into the same venue to see Victoria take on AS Roma.

Fans crush into the Victoria v AS Roma clash at Olympic Park, Age, 30 May 1966

Simultaneously VFL football was undergoing something of a mild decline in attendance – albeit from a great height. The fear of a soccer takeover was growing in some footy circles. Roy Hay, Phil Moseley and other have documented the way in which this fear sometimes turned into the active suppression of soccer through such practices as exclusion from schools, restrictive ground allocations and concerted media attacks on the game and its participants. In Ethnic Involvement in Australian Soccer: A History 1950–1990 Moseley reports that in 1952:
Headline in the Truth, 7 Nov 1964

the VFL directed its operatives to secure all available public sporting space in Melbourne in order to stifle the burgeoning threat posed by soccer’s migrant-inspired growth. Similar moves had been made in 1927 and 1928 when British migrants so rattled the VFL that it wrote “with alarm” of this “foreign code”. The 1950s boom in migration promised to be far more of a problem than that of the 1920s. In 1958 a Melbourne soccer club sought to lease a council ground usually used by an Australian Rules club. In response to the application one rules-supporting sneer, “let them play . . . in the gutter”. Melbourne’s reputation for paranoia was crowned in 1965 when youths daubed anti-soccer slogans over Middle Park, chopped down the goalposts and tried to set fire to the grandstand.
Soccer’s rise to prominence produced various responses, but perhaps none as fascinating as the idea of a soccer-VFL match played under soccer rules. Jack Dyer, ‘Captain Blood’ challenged Slavia-Port Melbourne to a match to raise money for the Victorian Society for Crippled Children and Adults.

The idea for the game came about after Dyer had been a guest of the Victorian Soccer Federation at the final of the 1964 Dockerty Cup, won by Slavia 1-0 over Footscray JUST. Dyer repaid his hosts’ generosity by writing in his subsequent Truth column on 10 October, “I went, I saw and I was sickened. Soccer . . . It really is a girls’ game – but only for big girls.” He felt that if he were allowed to train the best of the VFL players in the rudiments of the game they would easily beat a team of soccer players.

This rankled with a number of the Slavia team, and Dave Meechan, invited onto Channel 7’s ‘Wide World of Sport’ by Alex Barr, suggested that Dyer should put his money where his mouth is.

Manolis Papadopoulos, who attended the game, also remembers Dyer generating interest in the challenge by “attacking the soccer players’ abilities as athletes and the game itself as easy and simplistic for anyone to play. Dyer believed that VFL footballers were so physically advanced and technically skilful that playing soccer would be easy for them”. Slavia accepted the challenge and the game was set for 15 November 1964.

The Sporting Globe excitedly previewed the game, “We’ve been waiting for years for this and it's here at last . . . soccer v. footy.” The Globe was glowing with the prospect of a tough game: "‘Captain Blood’ has already warned Slavia that it's going to be ‘on’, and this means one thing – it's going to be the toughest, roughest soccer match Victoria has ever seen.”

Indeed, Slavia would be facing some hardened VFL footballers. Dyer’s team contained Ron Barassi, Ted Whitten, Kevin Murray, Des Tuddenham and Gordon Collis. The Slavia team included keeper, Ray Barotajs, Peter Aldis, John Auchie, and Hammy McMeechan – well-known in soccer circles but hardly household names in the wider Victorian community.

Papadopoulos remembers the footy players making their intentions clear immediately. Barassi led the charge, literally, taking every opportunity to rough-up Slavia players. This backfired when Barassi went into a tackle and was let down by his woeful technique. John Auchie simply put his foot behind the ball and when Barassi came charging through for a massive toe-bash he found himself flying through the air and landing in a crumpled, injured heap. One report is that the footy legend was carried from Olympic Park on a stretcher. Others are less dramatic, having Barassi merely limping off injured.

Ray Barotajs alludes to Barassi’s injury in his own Truth column on 21 November: “I think the VFL boys would be the first to admit now that it isn’t a girl’s game – just ask Ron Barassi.”

Many years later Slavia right-winger, Hammy McMeechan met Barassi in a King Street newsagency where they happily recalled the match and the incident. McMeechan claims Barassi confided, “That was the injury that eventually made me give footy away.”

And the big men fly! Slavia keeper Ray Barotajs climbs over
Fitzroy's Kevin Murray 
in a heading duel at
a practice session prior to the game, 

 14 November 1964
It should be emphasised that Hammy refutes Papadopoulos’s notion that the footy players were ‘putting it about’ or trying to bully the Slavia team. He claims that a marvellous spirit of goodwill had developed between the players, most of whom displayed the mutual respect that sports people have for each other’s abilities. After all, the Slavia players were the ones who had trained the VFL team in the rudiments of the game.

McMeechan says, “They were decent guys, especially Kevin Murray. They respected us for our skills and as people.” He also recalls a moment of hilarity when prior to the game he went into the VFL rooms to say hello to the footy players and was amazed by Paul Wadham’s size 13 boots. He put them on and went back into the Slavia rooms saying, “Look at my skis!” In the meantime Wadham returned to find his boots missing but was happy to enjoy the joke when Hammy came back in with them on such was the camaraderie between the teams.

As reported in a newspaper article about the game published in 2009, Brownlow Medallist Gordon Collis, has a different memory of the day.
''It was a little spiteful in that we, with our technique [laughing], couldn't resist the opportunity of a hip and shoulder here and there,'' he said. ''The other boys had tricks of their own. One of them was to put a foot over the ball as you were about to kick it, so your shins would make contact with the soles of their boots. That didn't improve relations. We didn't see it as very manly way of going about things. But it was effective. It was also effective in stirring us up!''
Even now Collis lacks the gumption to see that they were beaten in a contest that was inevitably skewed against them because of Dyer's hubristic boasts, resorting instead to age-old complaints about the sneakily and cowardly violent behaviour of soccer players. Collis is perhaps on his own in this regard, though it's hard to know what Barassi thinks because he refused my requests for an interview. Bluey Adams when quizzed about the game replied that if it taught him one thing it was that soccer "was a damn sight harder than it looked."

When it came to the game, it really was over before it started. The footy players were so technically deficient (as Collis admits) that they stood no chance of winning. The photograph below of the VFL stars trying to clear a ball from their defence speaks a thousand words on this point.

In front of a massive Olympic Park crowd, Paul Vinar (in goal), Stuart Magee, Gordon Collis and Kevin Murray (l to r) look on as an unidentified VFL player tries to clear the ball. Slavia’s Hammy McMeechan is on the far right. Note the difference in footwear, McMeechan’s cutaway Adidas shoes contrasting markedly with the VFL player’s boots.

In a moment that demonstrated just how difficult the translation was for the VFL players, McMeechan ran on to a through ball with his marker, Collis in tow. He could feel Collis’s massive frame bearing down on him and so played a neat backheel to his captain and right-half, John Sanchez. But, instead of stopping, McMeechan kept racing toward the corner flag. And Collis kept right on following! Arriving at the flag McMeechan turned around with his arms outstretched as if to say to Collis, “What are you going to do now?” Collis turned away grumpily, to the amusement of the massive crowd.

Hammy McMeechan. 
Photo: Don Hruska, Soccer News.
Les Shorrock collection,
 University Library.
At the break (they had agreed to play 25-minute halves) the score was 3-0 to Slavia, decisive without being embarrassing. Having now recognised what was an obvious mis-match, representatives of the VFL team came into the Slavia dressing room at half-time asking if they could play Australian Rules in the second half. The Slavia coach, former Manchester United player, Brian Birch, said, “Look at my players. Hammy’s the biggest forward and he’s only 5’ 6”. No way. We never said we could beat you at your game!”

The Sun’s soccer reporter, the American, Morrie Buckner suggested that the VFL team improved in the second half but unfortunately for them so did Slavia, running out 8-0 winners. As he wrote in his match report: “A dozen VFL stars showed little more than faith and hope when they played for charity in an exhibition soccer match at Olympic Park yesterday.”

Thankfully missing from Buckner’s measured report is the Globe’s rhetoric of footy triumphalism. Though, if disappointed, footy fans might have derived some joy from his reporting that the VFL won the four-man relay race and Barassi won the long-distance kicking competition (Sherrins and soccer balls) conducted prior to the match. To round out the pre-Match contests, Slavia’s Shepherd won the kicking-accuracy competition.

McMeechan makes a valid point when he says the might of the VFL was up against one semi-professional soccer team. “We only had the best runners in our club and we were up against men like Bluey Adams who had competed in the Stawell gift. I’m not saying we would have won the race but had we been able to select from the speedsters in the other Melbourne soccer clubs we would have given them a better run.”

In what must have been something of a culture shock a few things were revealed to the sporting public. First, the might of the VFL had been hammered by a team of part-timers, none of whom would rank in the top 1000 players in the world.

Second, soccer has its own requirements of strength and fitness that cannot be dismissed out of hand. While few would ignore the sheer toughness and durability required to play Australian rules football, too many are prepared to downplay the physical demands of soccer. While John Auchie’s tackle had an unfortunate impact, it nonetheless demonstrated the balance of technique, strength and toughness required to play the round-ball game.

But the most important lesson I think is that for too long many Australians have failed utterly to understand the technical skill and artistry of the world game and the physical qualities needed to play even at a moderate semi-professional level. McMeechan recalls with a chuckle that prior to the game, when his workmates found that he would be marked by Gordon Collis, he was told, “You won’t get a touch!” The only surprise in the result is that some people were surprised.

In 2014 it will be 50 years since the game. It would be nice to see it commemorated in November in another game between the winners of the Dockerty Cup (the statewide cup) and an AFL selection. A vain hope I know, but one which might contribute to a kind of sporting tolerance and pluralism that we so desperately need in Melbourne.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Hammy McMeechan who died in October 2012. It will remain one of my regrets that I never got back to see him after my initial interview with him. As I said in a piece in Neos Kosmos, he "shone with the joy of life" - a truly impressive man who is missed by many.

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Thursday 23 May 2013

Looking for Buddy Newchurch

Lancelot "Buddy" Newchurch
This is an awful story. At least its conclusion is. As soon as I came across this article in the Sydney Morning Herald I was filled with a mild dread. There was no way this could end well: a lone 16-year-old Aboriginal boy left Whyalla for the pressure cooker of professional football in the English Summer/Autumn of 1971. In the shadows cast by giants like Peter Bonetti, Peter Osgood and Alan Hudson, trialling with Chelsea seemed like a recipe for loneliness, despair and inevitable retreat. Only the strongest of the strong could possibly compete and survive. How strong was Buddy Newchurch?

Sydney Morning Herald July 29, 1971 (p11)

The first reference to Buddy I had found was actually in the Canberra Times, in an article noting that he was returning to Australia from his trial at Chelsea on October 27. Google subsequently led me to the Herald story which filled in a lot of the immediate detail. A diminutive player, he shifted from Australian rules when he was 10. His brothers all played soccer. The community raised $1071 (a lot in 1971 - today's equivalent is $14,000) to get him to England after he was spotted by Chelsea's assistant manager Ron Suart, in Australia with the touring English FA team. The only interim conclusion we can reach is that Buddy spent three months away and the trajectory is not clear.

This would merely be one more incomplete story on the backburner waiting for fuller details if not for the material revealed by one simple Google search.

The search revealed some minutiae: that he had played for Whyalla club teams, Croatia and Wanderers. But it was ultimately a truncated story, not because, as I might have originally suspected, he simply burnt out young and faded away. No, Buddy Newchurch was murdered, bashed to death outside the Westlands Hotel, Whyalla in 1982, a crime that remains unsolved. A $200,000 reward stands for information leading to a convinction in the case.

And that seems to be that. Though it should be noted that his community thought enough of him to name a Whyalla street after him (Buddy Newchurch Place intersects with Carl Veart Ave and Neil Kerley Court). I am gathering snippets of information - for example, there seems to be a connection between his family and the Agius family (that produced NSL and A League player Fred Agius) - but I would appreciate any communication on the matter.

I'd like to know: who was Buddy Newchurch? How good was he? Taken in his prime or lost to the game already? While he is one more forgotten (some might say abandoned) player in the history of Aboriginal soccer, it seems that there is so much more to tell. Sent to England as a 16-year-old to trial with Chelsea by a community that probably failed to understand and account for the pitfalls waiting for him; murdered outside a pub. A story with such and bright optimistic beginnings; such a sad and tragic tale in the offing. I will try to tell the story of Buddy Newchurch in such a way as to give him the kind of dignity he seems to deserve.

PS Feedback. I have received some further information about Buddy. This is from 'Soccerroo' on Football News
Talked to one of my ex-team mates of years ago who played with Croatia Whyalla, knew him and played against him in his later playing days. Apparently he was a very skillful left footer midfield-striker, and a real gentleman on and off the field. Struggled with the cold weather in London and home-sick badly, he returned home although Chelsea were quite impressed with his skills, attitude and potential.
Other information confirms a general sense of respect for Buddy as a person and as a footballer within the soccer community in Whyalla and beyond.

Another respondent informed me that his "late uncle played against Buddy Newchurch in the NASA league and spoke very highly of his ability".


The Canberra Times 27 July 1971 p 22

LONDON, Monday (AAP. — A sixteen year-old aboriginal boy, Buddy Newchurch, has the chance   millions of British schoolboys dream of — a trial with top English football club, the Daily Express reported.
Buddy, who comes from Whyalla in South Australia, was spotted by Chelsea's assistant manager, Ron Suart, in Australia earlier this year.  
And yesterday he arrived in London for a three months trial, which, if he passes, will make him an apprentice with the club.
Buddy flew in on a £500 ($ A 1.071) subscription raised by the people of Whyalla, the Express reported.
He also has the cash backing of a soccer scholarship awarded by the Aboriginal Sports
The Express today featured a picture of Buddy showing English boys in London's suburban Streatham a demonstration of his soccer skills. 


The Canberra Times Thursday 29 July 1971 p 26

Aboriginal Buddy Newchurch, 16, from Whyalla, South Australia, takes part in soccer training with Chelsea FC apprentice players at Mitcham, London. He is with the Chelsea club for a three-month trial period. — AAP-AP cable picture. (illustrated article)


The Canberra Times 1 September 1971 p 31 

LONDON, Tuesday (AAP); - Sixteen-year-old Whyalla soccer player Buddy Newchurch, who is trying out with the London club, Chelsea, still does not know whether he will make professional football his career.
"Frankly I don't think I'm up to English Standard", he said.


The Canberra Times 26 October 1971 p 18

Aboriginal Soccer player to return

LONDON, Monday (AAP). - Aboriginal socccr player, Buddy Newchurch, of Whyalla. South Australia, will arrive home tomorrow after a three-month trial period with Britain's Chelsea football club.
A Chelsea spokesman' told AAP today that the young Whyalla star had played "reasonably well" in trial games, "but wasn't quite up to our standard".
"He played in two friendly games, and showed tremendous improvement during his time with us", the spokesman said.
"The decision for him to return to Australia was taken after he had had discussions with Chelsea coaches and staff.
"He left on Sunday morning".
Newchurch travelled to London after the people of Whyalla had raised money for the trip.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Maccabi-Palestine in Australia in 1939

James Hothersall sent us this piece which follows up on Neos Osmos' interest in soccer and the military. He reveals an interesting story about the racist contradictions inherent in the way we view some outsiders.
The role of Australia and its war mythology needs to be explored further. During the depression Australia had undertones of racism. According to Rutland in Edge of Diaspora (1988) anti-Semitic organisations in the Thirties included: The Australian Nazi Movement, The Australian Unity League, Eric Campbell’s New Guard and The Douglas Credit Party of Australia.

The rise of Nazi Germany and the displacement of Jews led to the 1938 conference in Evian in to discuss the problem. At the Evian the Australian delegate Thomas Walter White spoke against taking Jewish refugees: ‘As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration…..’

Non-Empire immigrants had to have 500 pounds and be literate in a European language. The financial stake was eventually reduced to 50 pounds for the Jewish diaspora which was little consolation when the fascists’ had stripped them their assets.

An interesting soccer tour took place during this time of increased tension. In 1939 The Maccabi-Palestine team arrived in Australia for 5 test matches. Overall media response was very negative with suggestions that future tours should only be accepted from members of the Empire. The Sydney Morning Herald of 7th August 1939 described play as ‘wretched’ and stated that it ‘caused resentment among paying spectators’. This assessment is bemusing as although the tourists lost the test series they won 11 and drew 3 of their 19 matches – including big wins over Queensland, Victoria, Melbourne, South Australia and Western Australia.

Despite the negativity Avraheim Reznik, Avraheim Beit HaLevi and Menaham Mirmvotich remained in Australia. According to records at the Australian War Memorial two were killed in action serving Australia:
  • Menaham Mirvotich (2/11th Battalion - Infantry) died 12 May 1945 in New Guinea
  • Abraham Bezalel Beth-Helevy [Anglicised] (2/12th Battalion - Infantry) died 21 January 1944.
What this story highlights is that the ANZAC story isn’t simple.

Maccabi-Palestine v Australia SCG, 1939

Tuesday 21 May 2013

The Mav does Rugger Buggery

Paul Mavroudis

As a favour of sorts to Steve from Broady, who's been to several footy matches with me, even though he doesn't like the game - I think he mostly gets a kick out of watching me being sullen in a different context - I decided that it was time to make my debut at a rugby union match last Friday.

I bought my ticket from a scalper outside the gate. OK, he was probably just some guy with spare tickets, and honestly, I don't even know if I got a good deal or not, but man, did I feel like a badass by not buying a ticket at the gate.

Now I know the basic rules, some of the history, but otherwise don't give a toss about the game. I knew it was a Rebels' match I was going to, but I had no idea who their opponents were. Turned it was the Stormers from South Africa. I was hoping that it would have been one of the Kiwi teams, as that would have increased the Maori and Islander count a bit, but there were a few Saffas in the crowd at our end, including one who waved his flag around like nobody's business.

Otherwise, it was classic case of 'who are these people and why are they here?' Part of that answer was that a lot of them in our vicinity seemed to be from private schools. Marcellin was one of them (I have no idea who they are; their website seems to indicate they have a rugby program, but no soccer, even though I've read elsewhere that they have or had a soccer program). I could tell they were from Marcellin because it was written on their hoodies.

There were some others behind us in maroon tracksuits with blue and yellow trim, couldn't see what school they were from. And yes, there were blazers, and talk of whether one had ever been to Xavier or not. The rest of the crowd seemed to made up of a certain upper middle class type of person, in that they wore tasteful scarves, cheered and occasionally jeered at the appropriate moments and mostly kept to themselves. Pretty boring.

Every time there was a break in play, there was music. Not just for injuries, not just after tries, but even every time the ball went out of play. And I thought the AFL was bad in this department. There was scarcely a free moment to think, and considering the copious amount of time lost due to as far as I could tell, not much at all, it was bloody irritating. The Mexican style trumpet at the start of each also grated.

Though this was of course not a Wallabies game, it has always confused me as to why the upper classes, those descendants of the squattocracy, who watch this sport at a national level, have somehow chosen Waltzing Matilda as their song. It makes no sense. It's an anti-authoritarian song you goons. Anyway, the game of the upper class calling their Melbourne franchise the Rebels is also a bit of a laugh - more so when you see people displaying the Eureka flag as well. Jas H. Duke might have had something to say about that. Or perhaps not.

I used to think, perhaps in my own Victorian way, that the extra kicking in rugby union made the game more watchable than its league cousin. Seeing it in person made me realise how wrong I was. While I still think there's a place for kicking in rugby league - if they bring back unlimited tackles - the kicking in this match was terrible. More often than not, when the Rebels were resorting to kicking it was also unnecessary.

And the knock ons! So many knock ons! I suppose it was a combination of the quick play - somehow I had this idea that rugby union wasn't quite as fast as that - and the relative crappiness of the two teams on show. But back to the fast play for a moment. Rugby union on a pristine surface didn't make sense to me - shouldn't these matches be played on a mud pile? But there wasn't much time to ponder that because of the classic 'What was that for? Oh, you've got it on the screen' moments.

In soccer there seems to be a limited number of infractions, and thus you can pretty quickly get on with the game while abusing the referee for giving the opposite decision of what he should have awarded. In the footy, the umpires make it up as they go along, but at least provide clear signals most of the time as to what made up decision they actually decided on, and then we have the pantomime of everyone craning their necks towards the scoreboard for the replay to justify to ourselves that they got it wrong.

In rugby, it goes like this. Everyone gets in a big pile. At random moments during these piles - and not at every pile - the official in charge declares that some sort of infringement has happened. And apparently we look to the screen not for a replay, but for a text message telling us what it was for. Good luck to people like for whom every one of these piles looks exactly alike.

It may be due to my own petty Victorianism, but I could not this question out of my head. Why is this team in existence? Whose needs are they serving? Yes, I understand that as a city with a certain amount of people in it that we 'need' to have one of everything when it comes to sports franchises, but someone should have drawn the line here.

Finally, two things stood out above all else. Firstly, South needs to play at this stadium. Hurry up and make the grand final you clowns. And secondly, tries mean nothing to me. Seriously.

FFA Fans Forum, Perth

Chris Egan

I have to say this blog for Neos Osmos is going to be a little self indulgent, however as it’s a history blog I wanted to expand on the historical notions and themes of the question I asked at the FFA Forum.

What do Perth Glory fans want as part of their history? Do they want to continue to challenge the narrative? Or are they happy with recognition only. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a divided view from the feedback I received on my facebook page – I am lucky that people are comfortable in delivering feedback, likes and discussing the issues on the page. 
At the forum I put a question to David Gallop about whether statements to the press have to be logical and defined by facts, or whether he can deliver his own interpretation of ‘unprecedented growth trajectory’ in regards to Western Sydney.

The question sought to challenge this narrative of disconnection the past from the present. Now I am not saying the FFA are anti-history at present, but the narrative that continues, that the past is not connected to the future, is something I disagree with.

When David Gallop says, “Western Sydney are on a growth trajectory unprecedented in Australian Sport” I sit back and wonder is that a reflection of reality or can it be challenged.

I am used to asking hard questions of sports administrators, so I asked, “Will the FFA continue to denigrate the Glory’s legacy to promote Western Sydney?” I come to this question, based on the evidence from the interviews I have conducted for the book I am currently writing.

One individual, who had been on the Glory board during the first season of the A-League and had been part of the NSL era as well, gave me this insight on how the FFA viewed Glory’s legacy: “The FFA didn’t really give enough respect for what Nick Tana had done for Australian Football."

So wanting to hear his answer, I asked a direct question regarding how Glory’s legacy should be looked at.
Gallop's response was to the point. He said, “You are wrong, what I was getting at was that we had started from an idea in April to what it is now.”

His statement was a disconnect from the past, but in saying it he didn’t want to diminish Perth Glory’s history.

As a Historian I questioned on my facebook page whether I had a legitimate gripe.

The response was mixed, half said I had overstated the word ‘unprecedented’, that Gallop was not making a statement against Glory’s role in moving Australian football towards professionalism. The other half said it was a legitimate question, because the A-League doesn’t recognise anything pre-2005. But was it right for me to challenge the FFA’s narrative?

One of the central purposes of the book I am writing is to challenge the narrative of the FFA, to assert that it must show more attention to the Glory legacy as part of the story of the A-League. The challenge is embedded in the title of the book, playing on the view that New Football only began in 2005.

In his response, Gallop delivered his perspective on the history narrative of the FFA. He doesn’t see the links many see with the rich football past of Western Sydney and that this automatically connects to season one of the Wanderers. He sees only the growth trajectory of a club grown from ‘an idea’ to a very impressive first season. And that he says is why he made that statement. 
I challenged the FFA narrative on football’s past in this country. Some supporters of the club agreed with me, others are simply happy for our history to be recognised but for it to be disempowered by statements David Gallop makes. We should not see the past in the Wanderers, because they are the creation of an idea in April.

There is no right way to interpret and utilise history. But the responses deliver a fascinating insight into whether Glory fans in 2013 believe the FFA’s A-League narrative of the past has to be changed.

Channelling Migrants to Sydney for Nefarious Soccer Purposes

Kevin Sheedy. All is forgiven. You were right. The Department of Immigration seems to have been involved in the illicit practice of moving English migrants to Sydney, in 1947, 66 years ago. Though perhaps the dept wasn't involved; perhaps it just turned a blind eye . . . OK, maybe it wasn't involved at all. 

This is from the Goulburn Evening Post, 15 January 1947.


Recently - Arrived Players 

SYDNEY: A report that Soccer clubs were inviting some of the British immigrant builders to leave Canberra and work in   Sydney may he investigated by the Soccer board of directors at the meeting in Sydney next Saturday. One club is said to have communicated with members of the British party aboard ship at Fremantle, offering jobs in Sydney to any with outstanding Soccer ability.
Some of the men, it is believed, are considering traveling from Canberra to Sydney at week-ends for matches. It was claimed in Canberra last night that a representative: of Metters, Ltd., interviewed a number of the men on the day of their arrival in Canberra, Including Eddie Robertson; formerly a prominent player for Dundee United.
The president of. the N.S.W. Soccer Association, Mr: C. Sullivan said last night that reports of  any move to take members of the party away from their employment at Canberra were, if true, "most distressing." The Soccer directors might find it necessary to adopt methods to prevent clubs from such action he added.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Soccer in Western Sydney

A response to Kevin Sheedy

So it has come to this. According to Kevin Sheedy, Western Sydney Wanderers have been successful because the Immigration Department recruited its support base.The whistler has whistled and the dogs are barking. The Victorian imperialist has inverted logic and history and turned the local game into the foreign one while his imported culture is promoted as the one that truly belongs.

Perhaps the whistler has a point. At least half of the members of Granville Magpies (pictured below) were migrants. Let's not let the fact that the photograph was taken nearly one-hundred years ago spoil the argument. The Magpies were a strong club in the early 1900s and continue today in various forms. [Happy to hear from people who want to point me at a good history]. They represent one of the many historical elements upon which the present support for the Wanderers rests.

Reading left to right. — Front Row: *J. W. Masters, E. Mobbs, *W. E. S. Dane. Second Row: *H. Wheat, J. Riordan (chairman G. and D.F.A.), R.H. Moore (captain), .T. Nobbs (patron), H. Hoffman, J. Tillman, L. Gill. Third Row: A.  Epps (hon. sec. G. and D.F.A.), *R. Fairweather, * J. W. Cottam, F. M. Smith, J. Davis, *E. J. Doherty, F. Robertson (hon. sec). Back Row: F. Waddell (manager), A. Peaty, S. Hilder, *Sergeant-major F. Doherty, P. T. Williams. Asterisk denotes those at the front. J. W. Cottam has been killed, and R. Fairweather is a prisoner in Germany.
The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate Saturday 18 August 1917 p 4

Like many of the soccer clubs established in the pre-WW1 period, the Magpies contributed to the war effort. Seven of the twelve players pictured went to the front. In total 17 out of 22 Magpie players in 1914 could "be accounted for as having done or are doing their bit for King and country in foreign parts."

At least one, J.W. Cottam was killed in the fighting. Even the military circular announcing his death comments that he was a "paramount soccer player".

This is an extended notice of his death in the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate on Saturday 5 May 1917:
The deceased soldier, John Willie Cottam was a great favorite in this district. He was a noted Soccer footballer, and many members - and high officials, too - of the G. and D.F.A. have this week quietly and unassumingly bowed their heads as they heard the sad news. He was a prominent member of the redoubtable 'Magpies, and played centre forward in the team that won the double event-  the Gardiner and Rawson Cups - in one season (1914), following it up in 1915 by again winning the Rawson Cup and only meeting defeat for the Gardiner Cup in the semi-final, in 1915. He also held an honor cap from the Sydney association. His only, brother, Private Albert Cottam, is 21 years of age, and is still fighting in France; He enlisted in November, 1915, was ill in Egypt, completed his training in England, and has been in the firing-line since November 10, 1910. He, too, was a footballer before enlisting, but was attached to the Parramatta Juniors, who won the Soccer medals in 1914.
Another Magpie not pictured in the team photo also met his death at the front. The Cumberland Argus Saturday 28 July 1917 reported:
PTE. WILLIAM ERNEST BRICKLEY, of Clyde, killed in action. Soccer enthusiasts in the Granville district will regret to learn that Private W. E. Brickley, better known as Billy Brickley, paid the supreme sacrifice on the battlefield in France on 3rd May last. He was a prominent member of the old Magpie team and one of its best players. His poor old mother, Mrs. A. Brickley, who resides in Factory-street, Clyde, received word from the Defence Department on 3rd June that Billy had been reported missing on 3rd April. Then on 10th July she got further word that he was killed in action on 3rd May. The last letter she received from him is dated 2nd May, the day before his death. He was then in cheerful mood and seemed pleased to let his mother know that after waiting anxiously for many months for a letter from home, he had just got a whole bundle of letters. He belonged to the 18th  Battalion and left for the front in October last year. He went straight to France after leaving Australia? He was 28 years of age, was married, and leaves one child. His father died about two years ago. He was the youngest son and was born at Kendal-st. Clyde. He went to North Granville public school and  afterwards was employed for years at the Clyde Engineering Co.'s Works and later at Messrs. Ritchie Bros.    
Other men is the district also fell. The Cumberland Argus Saturday 5 June 1915 reported that the
Granville and District Football Association, at its last meeting, carried votes of sympathy to Mr. Mills and family and Mrs Rea and family in the fate of their sons at the Dardanelles. The fathers of both these gallant boys were two of the earliest players of the Soccer game in the State, and are not yet forgotten by many friends they then made. Trooper Mills, of course, was only wounded.
SERGEANT WALTER E. REA. A promising popular Parramatta boy - at the time of his death 20 years of age - gave his life for his native land and for Empire, when Sergt. Walter E. Rea fell on the field of battle at the Dardanelles on May 24. The deceased soldier was the eldest son of Mrs. Rea, of Church-street, Parramatta North (widow of the late Mr. David Rea, a popular Parramatta citizen and footballer of 20 years ago). Sergt. W. E. Rea was grandson of the late Alderman John Saunders. He was an officer at the Parramatta North Methodist Sunday School for a time before he left. He was one of the first of the Parramatta lads to volunteer; and his high character and attention to his military duties soon won him promotion.
More work needs to be done on the commitment of the district's soccer players to armed service and this represents just a taste of it. But the point of this is not only to acknowledge this contribution but also to reflect on how the language of the obituaries indicates that these men and the game the played were embedded in their community. Soccer is celebrated as a central (and not peripheral or foreign) aspect of their social lives in Granville and Western Sydney.

The Cumberland Argus on Saturday 22 February 1919 reported on the return from duty of two of the Magpies in the team photograph.
Harry Wheat, the well-known Magpie player, returned from the war a week or two ago and visited Granville on Monday. He was captain of a Soccer team at the last camp he was at in England, where a competition. was held amongst the different companies, of soldiers. The final game was played on the Saturday prior to his leaving for Australia, and his team scored a good win. Ned Doherty, the well-known full-back of the Magpies, was also a player.    
Wheat and Doherty had played a fair bit of soccer while in the army, many Australian troops did, and they returned, expecting to resume their careers with the Magpies, which they duly did. They certainly wouldn't have expected to have been thought of as migrants and foreigners in their own country. Nor would they have expected their game to be seen as a curiosity played and supported by people who needed to be "channelled" and "brought" into the region by a government department. And they certainly wouldn't have expected a dog-whistling migrant from far away Melbourne to announce 100 years later that the game they played and nurtured in Sydney's west was anything other than a rich and established local culture of 130 years standing.

PS. Informants have indicated that two of the family names in the team photo live on in the names of the Eric Mobbs Reserve (a present day soccer facility) and the Cottam Cup, a Granville district knockout trophy that goes back to 1907 (resuscitated in 2011 after an eight-year break). Interestingly, the earliest reference I can find to the Cottam Cup is in 1920. Perhaps the name was changed after the war to commemorate John Cottam.

Indeed it was:
To-morrow will be a gala day at Clyde Oval and the whole of the net proceeds are to be donated to charities in the Granville district. The match of the day will be the Cottam Cup final between Two Blues and Granville Rechabites. Play will start at 2.30. The Cottam Cup is a memorial trophy. It was originally the trophy for the First League premiership, and was donated by the late Sir Harry Rawson and known as the Rawson Cup. It was won outright   by Granville, who handed it over to the Granville Association, to be played for annually as a memorial to Jack Cottam a clever forward, who made the supreme sacrifice in France. Arrow 15 October 1920 p 6 
See my follow up here on the Lidcombe Methodists.

Saturday 11 May 2013

An open letter to Greg Baum

Dear Greg
That must be the sourest column of yours that I have ever read. Fergie was no angel, but you do not rack up the contribution to the game of football that he has made over his career by luck, violence, bad manners and other people's money. If it were that easy everyone would do it. The dominance of Manchester United is not accidental as the careers of some of its managers demonstrates and Fergie's first half-dozen years in the post confirms.

Matt Busby built two great teams in his long tenure in the post on the basis of equally iron control of the whole operation, which he could hardly relinquish when it came to an end. Before and during Busby's career there were periods of less than stellar success, but usually attacking football and style even when the 'cattle' were not up to it. Fergie has done that and more. He did not inherit a youth team. He set in place the structure which enabled several cohorts to flourish and one to excel. Alan Hansen said you cannot win anything with kids, but Fergie did. He saw and moulded some of the fiercest men in the game making them better players and disposing of them when their contribution fell short of what he needed for his unrelenting pursuit of success.

In all high level competitive team sport if you do not have control of the dressing room and your working environment you don't last a week, something Ferguson learned as a player at Rangers and Ayr United and practised at East Stirling, St Mirren, Aberdeen and United. He learned the hard way and also from one of the greatest managers and another who insisted on control of his club, Jock Stein, both while Stein was at Celtic and in the sad final days with Scotland in 1985. I don't think you appreciate the apprenticeship he went through in the backwoods of Scotland, where he never had a fraction of the resources he was later to command. He did that with more than a little success. But that is only haggisography (Loved that opening line).

As to his contribution to the wider world, Ferguson is one of the largest individual contributors to the British Labour Party. He has just been lecturing to the Harvard Business School, not something that came the way of Kevin Sheedy. Sheedy went to Manchester to find out how Fergie managed his empire incidentally. He will be probably be offered a life peerage for his services to the game and the wider British society. He has worked hard to improve the status of managers in football as well as assisting many of them by helping them in finding and rejecting jobs. He has had a huge influence on the redevelopment of the Old Trafford stadium which is unrecognisable since the days when I used to watch United on alternate weekends with City at Maine Road in the 1950s.

You do not believe that sport is somehow divorced from business these days surely? So if someone is signally able to combine the two successfully, why should this be a strike against him? By the standards of some of the business leaders going around Fergie is far less duplicitous and a lot more transparent and he is judged every week in public in a way that most are not.

As to his attitude to referees. Of course they are always agin him when United lost and some of his rants and browbeating make me grue. Even though I was one for some years I still behaved badly towards them at times when I was coaching. I don¹t say that to excuse Fergie, but given what was a stake at top level he insisted on professional performance to the highest standards and when this was lacking, in his eyes, he spoke out. He did a lot behind the scenes to improve the quality of officiating.

I write this as a member of FC-United, which is in the play-offs for the Conference North. Just this morning the latest issue of the Pink Edition arrived by email.

On Saturday men, women and children all over Manchester will awake knowing that, by the end of the day, glory could be theirs. An armada of coaches will be filled with songs of hope, trains will clatter to the rhythm of excited chatter and mates will stuff themselves into reluctant, groaning cars as fans head south for the most important game of this season. This is it. FC United of Manchester, going out to play at 3pm on a Saturday, against HednesfordTown, in the play-off final.

This has been an amazing season. Not only has the team won a record points haul, but plans are finally being made to start digging in Moston. Owning our own ground is now more than a terrace song of intent. It's finally a clear and tangible reality. The club has arrived and the club is here to stay.

Manchester is more than United, and more than Fergie, but he is huge part of the city and the game and we would all be poorer without him.

Roy Hay

Tuesday 7 May 2013

I come with the strength of the living day and the weight of the bureaucracy behind me

Victoria University is sending this press release out to all Victorian sports journos today. I don't know about 'leading sports historian' but that's spin for you. Do I expect some interest? Do I . . . .

Saturday 4 May 2013

130 years of organised soccer in Melbourne.

Also published at Oz Football Weekly

2013 represents the 130th anniversary of organised soccer in Melbourne. As the evidence shows, people began to organise association football clubs and played games in 1883. However, the FFV sees 1884 as the anniversary year because that when the Anglo-Australian Football Association was formed and four clubs started playing under its banner. It's a contentious decision (made more contentious by recent discoveries) which needs to be revisited.

The North Melbourne Advertiser of 6 April 1883 contained the following report:
As advertised, the scratch match under the British rules took place on Saturday last [March 31], in the old Civil Service Football Ground [diagonally opposite AAMI Park]. There were about 25 players on the ground, besides a good many spectators, most of whom seemed to understand the game. It appeared rather awkward to some of the players, especially those who have been used to the Victorian game, as the rules are altogether different, but after a little practise it is the intention of the club to give the game a fair test before the Melbourne public. The game is "football pure and simple." A free kick is accorded for touching the ball with the hand or elbow and the foot and head are the only portions of the body allowed "in play." There were many old Scotchmen and Englishmen who declared the game a treat to witness, but many of our colonials thought the play very tame, there being no opportunity to show "skilful manipulations and get up a series of excitements" during the progress of the play. The club has already on its list 45 members, and after the meeting of tonight at Young and Jackson's it is expected the number will be doubled.

The Melbourne Argus of 20 April 1883 contained a brief notice indicating further developments.

A general meeting of the members of the Anglo-
Australian Association Football Club was held in Young and Jackson's Hotel last night (Thursday). Twenty-one members were present. The business of the evening consisted of drawing up rules for the management of the club. It was decided to practice again on Saturday afternoon at Albert-Park, near the railway, play to commence at half-past 3.

And so began the 130-year ongoing relationship between organised soccer and that wonderful mix of sportsgrounds and parklands located between South Melbourne and St Kilda. The home of South Melbourne FC, for over 50 years, Albert Park continues to be a place where the beautiful game flourishes. 

Yet Albert Park is not the home of the very first organised match (as opposed to practice match) in Melbourne. That honour might well belong to Richmond Cricket Ground [Punt Rd Oval]. The Argus of 12 May reported that a game of soccer was set to be played there that day. The regular Saturday fixture list included this notice: "Anglo Australian Association v. Richmond, on the Richmond cricket-ground." And it was reported on the following Monday that the
Anglo-Australian Association Football Club, having secured the Richmond cricket ground for the season, played there for the first time on Saturday, the time being filled up with a well-contested scratch match.
It's not an extensive write-up but it is there. The rather startling conclusion is that the first game of soccer in Melbourne might have been between the Anglo-Australian Association Football Club (the proto-association or organising body) and a football club named Richmond FC, possibly a forerunner of the present-day Tigers AFL club. Put that in your sports quiz! Though it may also simply be a cricketers XI from RCC. It may also be the case that Richmond didn't front and the Anglo Australian Football Club played amongst themselves.

Whatever the case, Melbourne soccer might have a significant anniversary coming up on May 12. I wonder if the Tigers would host a a re-enactment at Punt Road between its best XI and an FFV XI. The shame of such a suggestion is that it is absurd. In a mature and sophisticated sporting culture befitting the 'sports capital of the world' it wouldn't be.

If that game didn't eventuate then a month later, one most certainly did. The AAAFC played a game against South Park FC. The Argus reported that a "match, under the association rules, was played on the Richmond Cricket ground between the Anglo-Australian Association and South Park Football clubs. The former proved the best team, getting four goals to one." The first in a long line of footy types assuming they could beat a soccer team at their own game?

No more inter-club contests were forthcoming in 1883 and the AAAFC satisfied themselves with intra-club scratch matches for the remainder of the season. Nonetheless a challenge was in the offing for the Victorians, an intercolonial series of two games against NSW was played in Melbourne at the end of the season.Victoria performed well, drawing 2-2 with NSW on Wednesday 15 August at East Melbourne cricket ground. This game was followed up with a 0-0 draw three days later on South Melbourne cricket ground. While they couldn't scratch a win, the undefeated start to the intercolonial contests probably represented a good end to a successful first season of organised soccer in Melbourne.

Possibly suffused with the glow of their relative success, the AAAFC decided to move on to bigger things in 1884. The Argus of 14 September 1883 contained this report:
The Anglo Australian football Club, at a meeting last night, appointed delegates from their club to make arrangements for forming other clubs next season in South Melbourne, Carlton, Richmond, South Yarra, Hotham, and Williamstown, so that the public may have opportunities of seeing the British Association game played. There is a probability of trophies being played for between the different clubs when formed, and of the Home Association being asked to send out a cup. Hopes are still entertained of sending home a team of footballers in 1885-6. 
As it turned out, this was a little optimistic, especially in regard to sending a team "home". Nonetheless, four teams were established and played competitively: South Melbourne, Prahran, Carlton and Richmond.

Others like Williamstown were formed but seem not to have made it onto the playing field.

Given this evidence is it time for the FFV to shift its anniversary date back to 1883?

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.