Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

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.


  1. With the tokeism being used by the mainsteam sports I think it is time to re-examine the Aboriginal influence on the Australian football codes?

    Very little is known about how they original 'integrated' into teams. If talented Aboriginal players were recruited or if all Aboriginal teams had to operate due to racism.

    We know that Doug Nicholls was turned away from Carlton (according to his biogoraphy the Carlton players said he had a bad smell) but found success at Northcote (VFA) and Fitzroy. The legacy of Sir Doug Nicholls seems to have been forgotten in football despite him representing both the VFA and VFL in state games.

    We also know that in the Northern Territory Football League there was a split along racial lines. We also know that Brother Pye felt the need in the 1950s to form the St Mary's FC for members of Tiwi community. St Mary's later developed stars such as Michael Long, Maurie Rioli, Cyril Rioli, Ronnie Burns & Peter Burgoyne who became stars in the AFL.

    James H

  2. Ian, regrettably, this type of story is not uncommon in Australian sports history. Aboriginal cricketers, boxers, footy players (of various codes) shining briefly in sport but then enduring a pretty miserable existence thereafter. Suicide has also been a major problem, whether for Aboriginal athletes or other CALD sportspeople: witness two such deaths in the NRL this year. For readers who want to learn more on Aboriginality and soccer, look for The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe by John Maynard; on cricket look for Passport to Nowhere by Bernard Whimpress; on Aussie Rules I suggest Brotherboys by Sean Gorman, and an overview of the field by Colin Tatz, Obstacle Race, though now dated given it was published in 1995.

  3. G'day Ian, I hope you have the time to pursue this story further. We'll get this link up on The Footy Almanac site.

  4. thank you ian , whoever knows anything or heard something please say something ,, i diddnt know of buddy until i was shown your story , made me proud , sad, mizerable, stunned even ,reading of him , whyalla , i love it though not living there now , giving some thought to a better memorial than just a street name,,, ,, i will look for funding,id like his story to end, the true story, buddy rest in peace ,i hope someone can help

  5. Hi anonymous, thanks for your comment. A number of people have supplied me with some information already but I don't know a great deal more than I've already published here. Something has touched me about this story and I am very keen to follow it through. I understand about the emotions that the story inspires in you because I feel similar. I'll be on national Indigenous radio tomorrow night (3 June) at 7.30 talking about Buddy btw.

  6. My husband went to Eyre High school in Whyalla around 1970/71with Buddy Newchurch. Buddy was a popular all round nice guy, friendly and well liked at school. Married young to a girl called Sandra had either one or two children. Know he played for Wanderers soccer club and trying out for Chelsea. There were a lot of rumors of how he died, it was believed to have started with an altication with more than one person outside the hotel, as I said rumors. It was a tragedy that affected so many people in the community at the time, definitely a life cut too short.

    1. Hi I personally knew Buddy played in same Whyalla Select team. He also later on in his career played for Inter Stuart & Westlands Utd (briefly). Unfortunately he WAS murdered outside the Westland Hotel by 2 assailants who were dealt with very descretly by their own individual cultural tribes. Everything said about Buddy is true he was a great guy, funny as, always up for a laugh, very kind, big heart, a fantastic player and a great representative of his own people. It's such a shame he died in the way he did and by who it was that brought his life to a short ending RIP Buddy

    2. Thanks. Feel free to email me on if you send a number I will call you.


  8. Hi, Buddy is my cousin. You should talk to his girlfriend and mother of his children Alexandra - I can give you contact details if you're interested? I also have numerous articles about his soccer career and letters he wrote home whilst in England.

    1. Archimedes I'd love to talk. Please send your phone number to

  9. Two Whyalla males were arrested for Buddy Newchurch's murder, following his death.
    Unfortunately the Court ruled at the Committal proceedings that there was insufficent evidence on which a jury could reasonably convict beyond reasonable doubt. Difficulty in getting eye witnesses to give evidence did not assist the prosecution case.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I played in the Whyalla Croatia team when Buddy left for Chelsea.I also remember him returning a bit down. He got a job painting the Housing Trust houses when people had vacated. I. used to see him on a Friday night in the back bar at the Westlands with a large family group. I heard about this a few years after leaving Whyalla for Adelaide. We all wallowed in his success and willed him to make it but us that came from UK wondered how he would cope with playing in the harsh winter weather.

    1. Thanks for that David. There's a certain inevitability about the tale. He might have been better often chasing decent money on the East Coast or even in Adelaide as a starting point.