Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

From Plough Lane to Bob Jane Stadium

Here's a nice piece. Once upon a time (OK for 3 weeks in 2007), I edited and produced a matchday program for South Melbourne. I had plans, I had vision, I had a dream. Unfortunately South had no money and it fell by the wayside.

One of the initiatives I introduced was to get guest writers to write a match report. The one below was written by Jason Steger, books editor of the Age and all-round football supporter. It is a wistful piece that pays homage to grass roots football. Click on the image to make it readable.

If anybody wants PDFs of the programs I produced I'm happy to email them to you. You'll find me via google.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Vale Bobby Bignall

1956 Socceroo Ted Smith generously offered us his recollections of his captain and friend, Bobby Bignall who died on 11 August 2013 at the age of 91.

I am privileged to pass on my recollections of My Captain whose contribution to Football in Australia was unmatched, particularly on the South Coast of New South Wales over many years.

Most of you will have heard of his all-round Sporting ability over many Sports, including Football, Rugby League, Cricket, Tennis and later Bowls, when in that era it was possible to take part in the various Football codes without censure.

He was very fast in his Youth and took great pleasure in letting you know this, but it was accompanied by a laugh and the twinkle in his eye, meant that you took it as read, and there would be those here who can attest to this.

My first contact with Bobby was in 1956 when we were direct opponents in one of the trial matches where an Australian squad was selected to play the various State teams and I was in the Victorian team directly opposed to Bobby.

When I was ill with the Flue for the Second game, I was then taken to Sydney & played for NSW against the Australian Select and yes against Bobby again. The following day in Newcastle I played under Bobby against Northern NSW.

In the meantime Bobby had told My Club teammate Frank Loughran, a regular Socceroo, to pass on his good wishes and “Play the same way in subsequent trials” which for a 20-year-old was enormous encouragement from the Captain and regular Socceroo.

This encouragement continued when we were team mates at the 1956 Olympics – the first major World Football tournament we took part in, and the 6 weeks in the Olympic Village representing Football, which was a minor Sport then, as part of the team was a wonderful experience thanks to Bobby .

There was very little publicity of our matches and one of the few Photos, includes one of our Bobby in a classic Heading duel.

Although our disappointing exit against India – hit hard, Bobby’s main comments were that we missed an opportunity to reach a semi- final that would have given our game a big lift. There was no recriminations, just disappointment.

Bobby has always supported the advancements of Football in Australia and in particular the great years when South Coast under Jim Kelly were so successful, and he was hopeful that there are some signs that in the next few years that ‘The Illawarra” would again be part of the Football hierarchy.

The 1956 team met again at the draw for the 2000 Olympic Football tournament and we saw Bobby with his Twinkling eyes and laughter coming to the fore when interviewed by Jane Holmes, and it was difficult to be sure who was interviewing who !

Our next contact was when Bobby was invited to attend a Socceroo match in Melbourne and gave me a call so we could catch up! He came in casual clothes and as He was invited to the inner sanctum so I arranged to lend him something more formal. He was unperturbed.

Bobby came again in 2006 to Melbourne for the 50 year reunion and at the Melbourne Town Hall reception and later formal Dinner next day, he worked the room and had all in the palm of his hand.

We later caught up at various Socceroo Club functions and it was always cheerful even when he wasn’t 100% following his Accident, and it was pleasing that He showed great improvement Health wise in later years.

He in later years continued to care for His wife who was unwell for a long period of time and we are thankful when His time came, at 91 he was ready to go.

I am pleased to share the have many great memories of Bobby who as a mentor when I was starting out helped me, and He also did for many others.

The example is of throwing a pebble in a pool – the rings keep going out, and out, continuously as those he helped – helped others, to appreciate the values and to take part in the strengthening of our Game.

He never queried the evolution of Football in Australia, or the benefits now available to our Players, but was comfortable with His Role as one of the later pioneers of our game and pleased to see the improved standard of play and support.

I honor his contribution and thankful that he continued to be a fantastic mate who was always the same each time you caught up, and leaves us all with a smile and memories of those twinkling eyes.

So my thoughts are with His extended Family, and all the friends who are here to acknowledge his contributions and Friendship and am sorry that I can’t be here today to join you all, but will be in spirit.

SBS Tribute to the 1956 Australian Olympic Soccer Team


Monday 26 August 2013

Top 10 Australian Football History Moments

Top 10 Australian Football History Moments (below) was originally published on 442's on-line version. It came about after its author, Kathy Stone contacted me for a list of my top 10 moments. She gave me a broad brief and so I thought I'd select things that were significant but not so-well-known. I could have said: Aloisi's penalty; Timmay; Iran; formation of NSL; formation of A League; even YNWA a few weeks ago. But I was interested in conveying a deeper and more hidden history of significant moments and facts.

I appreciate that many will find gaps in the list and Roy Hay has contacted me to offer his own version. I would welcome any comments and lists to be published in the comments section below. If you can be bothered writing your own article I will be happy to publish it here.


Top 10 Australian Football History Moments

Record school participation numbers, investment and crowd attendances – but how much do we really know about our growing game? Whether you’ve followed football for years or jumped on board during the hysteria surrounding the recent Man U and Liverpool visits here’s a quick fix for sounding like a long-time know-it-all. asked football historian Ian Syson to roll back the years and give us his Top 10 facts every Aussie should know about the game they love. Yes, he wanted to include another 700 but you have to start somewhere…

1. Where it began

The first recorded game in Australia was not the Wanderers versus Kings School in 1880, although that was the beginning of regular competition. A year earlier games were played by the Cricketers FC in Hobart. Four years before that, in 1875, the Woogaroo Asylum, near Ipswich in Queensland, played association football against Brisbane FC. Of course if you’re keen to ignite an all-in history war between the codes just slip “Harrow football” into the conversation – what looks very like proto-soccer was played in Adelaide in 1854.

2. Mining for talent

In 1888, arguably the best team in Australia was neither NSW nor Victoria who played in regular competition. Instead, it was a bunch of shale miners from the tiny NSW town of Joadja who had the disconcerting habit of thumping all-comers. As it turned out, the Scottish workers brought to the southern highlands to mine shale oil for kerosene proved none-to-shabby with a football. The Joadja Creek Southern Cross Football Club showed their class with a 5-2 demolition of Victoria who in turn downed NSW a few days later.

3. Stumping the Poms

For many Ashes tours during the first part of the 20th Century, the coda was a game of association football against a Western Australian selection, which the English cricketers tended to win. Sadly the tradition died out between the wars but could it be revived with some insistent prodding? Certainly it may be our only consolation if Perth Glory can give the likes of Broad, Swann and co a shellacking after the Poms thump us in the summer.

4. War recruits

Contrary to popular belief, football was particularly strong in rural Australia and, prior to World War I, spread like wildfire on the back of substantial immigration. Vibrant competitions emerged in places like Mildura, Geraldton, Wonthaggi, Goulburn, Warwick and others only to be nipped in the bud by the Great War. Football contributed to the ANZAC war effort as players enlisted in their droves, helping to explain the game’s development lag during this period. A football match played at Gallipoli between allied troops was cheered on by a crowd of hundreds.

5. Women make their mark

When the FA refused to allow professional clubs in England to host women’s games the prohibition spread quickly.  But our girls proved resilient and matches continued in Australia from the late 1800s and throughout the 1900s. The Advertiser of Adelaide reported in September 1921: “More than 10,000 persons witnessed the first ladies’ football match in Brisbane, played on the cricket ground yesterday under the Soccer code. Ladies representing respectively North and South Brisbane were given a flattering reception as they tripped onto the field… and although hard falls were experienced at times, the services of an ambulance lady, who sat on the touchline, were not required.”

6. ‘Soccer’ at Lang Park

Rugby league-types like to think of this as their spiritual home but football actually has a longer association with the ground. While league was getting down and dirty at the Gabba, football in the 1920s and 1930s was played at Lang Park (now Suncorp) which originally formed part of the North Brisbane burial grounds. The Queensland Soccer Council and Latrobe Soccer Club were among the early sub-tenants. It wasn’t until 1957 that the precinct became the headquarters for Queensland Rugby League. These days of course it’s also home to A-league club, Brisbane Roar.

7. Captain Blood, sweat and tears

When Aussie Rules legend Jack “Captain Blood” Dyer skited he could train a bunch of VFL players to wipe the floor with the 1964 Dockerty Cup winners, Slavia Port Melbourne, he got more than he bargained for. Dyer inflamed passions by describing football as a game for “big girls” which raised plenty of questions about the virility of his own men when they were duly spanked 8-0. Ron Barassi, one of the most vociferous critics of football, was carried off with an injury that was to end his VFL career.

8. Behind enemy lines

Never ones to shirk a major confrontation, the Socceroos found themselves in the middle of a raging warzone in 1967. The euphemistically named ''Friendly Nations Tournament'' pitted the Aussies against South Vietnam, New Zealand and South Korea where the on-field action was accompanied by the distant sounds of artillery fire. As The Guardian’s Richard Cooke describes: “The birthplace of the Socceroos’ success wasn't Sydney, it was Saigon, where the team won their first international tournament under flare-lit skies rumbling with helicopters with the Vietnam War in full flow.”

9. That other moment

Yes, there was another moment to match the John Aloisi penalty which fired Australia to the World Cup after an agonising 32-year wait. Scottish-born midfielder James “Jimmy” Mackay scored a 30-yard belter to break the deadlock against South Korea and send us to the game’s showpiece event for the first time in 1974. Former Socceroo Doug Utjesenovic described the freakish moment: “There was a free kick, the ball was knocked back and he ran onto the ball. It was a real thunderbolt."

10. Indigenous stars

Jade North, David Williams and Kyah Simon are household names these days but the list of talented Indigenous football players is much longer than often imagined. At one point in the 1950s more Indigenous players were playing first grade football in Adelaide than Aussie Rules in Melbourne. We’ve now reached the point where selection of an all-time Indigenous team would require some controversial omissions. The proud story begins with goalkeeper Bondi Neal who played between 1903 and 1912 on the NSW south coast and Hunter Valley and includes the celebrated Harry Williams who represented Australia 17 times, including during the 1974 World Cup.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

How a Postal Strike prevented Niall Quinn from Playing AFL

We all have our sporting highs. This is one of mine Who else but the big man? 
And this is perhaps the greatest supporter song ever composed (albeit by Man City fans):
Niall Quinn's disco pants are the best, 
they go up from his arse to his chest, 
they're better than Adam and the Ants,
Niall Quinn's disco pants!
For a lot of contemporary Sunderland supporters Niall Quinn is an icon. Scored goals against the barcodes. Led the team out of championship misery. Scored goals against the dirty mags. Played in the most dominant Sunderland team for 50 years. In retirement, as chairman, led the club out of one of its frequent troughs. Did I mention that he scored goals against the horse punchers?

Yet it is little known that he might have been lost to English and Irish football if not for the interference of a postal strike.

What follows is a nice piece by Daniel Garb from the Footy Record this year about Niall Quinn's connection with Australian Rules. It is astounding just how many codes of football Quinn seemed to be good at. He also played in an All-Irleand Hurling final according to Garb.

We might take with a grain of salt the suggestion that Quinn would have preferred to play Australian Rules - given the purpose of the magazine in which the piece is published - if not for the fact that he is quoted as saying "I'd probably have gone" if the deal had arrived in a timely fashion.

It would have been fascinating to see how he might have gone at footy though I am pleased he stayed with soccer and contributed so positively to the fortunes of my club and the game in general.

Click on the images to enlarge them to a readable size.

Monday 19 August 2013

A-League team for Ipswich?

So someone has raised the prospect of an Ipswich A League team. It's an idea worth some consideration, even if only to dismiss the idea with sound arguments instead of emotive ones. This is a point expressed well by Leave for the Cup in a recent post.

I've seen a number of comments that pooh pooh the idea because Ipswich is a Rugby League stronghold. So it is. And so are Newcastle and Western Sydney but that hasn't stopped a vibrant soccer culture existing within those regions. There's something about the relationship between the two codes that can transcend antagonism and become symbiotic. Sure League and soccer followers can be dismissive of each other's games but they have existed side-by-side in too many places for there to be a fundamental problem between them.

Punters have also wondered about the demographic make-up of Ipswich, the less charitable mentioning the 'bogan' element. Aside from the fact that local knowledge would suggest 'bevan' as the correct epithet, there is no necessary disconnection between beer, flannelette shirts and watching soccer. The negative arguments will have to improve to convince me.

But so will the positive ones. I'd be interested to know whether there is a practical possibility that Ipswich could fill a 15,000 seater. Could they (a la Western Sydney) capitalise on an antagonism between the west and the city? Could they nod towards the substantial history of soccer in the West Moreton region - again much like the Wanderers have done with Western Sydney?

Indeed, soccer has a long history in the Ipswich region, one that goes back to the 1880s (though we might say 1875 if we allow for the Woogaroo game). This means nothing without continuity of course and this is the million dollar question. Nonetheless, this is at least a rich seam to tap. The metaphor is deliberate because a lot of the early Ipswich players were miners from Scotland and elsewhere around Britain. Many of the teams in the early days of Ipswich soccer were founded by coal miners.

The Brisbane Courier reported in May 1886:
The Brisbane exponents of the British Association game of football will no doubt be pleased to hear that a club which will play under the Association rules, has been started at Bundanba. A preliminary meeting was held at that place on Monday evening last when there was a very fair attendance. Mr W. Hastie in the chair. The club was duly formed, and thirteen members were enrolled at the meeting, while it was announced that several good players from Dinmore and Blackstone intend to join. Mr. James Glasgow was appointed as secretary, and it was decided that the club should be known as the Bundanba Rovers. I am informed that the Rovers intend to try conclusions with one of the Brisbane clubs shortly.
 This team was added to the mix that saw a Rangers club already in existence in Bundamba.

Rangers of Bundanba 1895

The Bush Rats were founded in 1890 by a group of miners (hence the nickname). I need to get my head around this because sometimes they are referred to as the Bush Rats, sometimes the Dinmore Bush Rats. The club has the honour of including perhaps the first Aboriginal player in Queensland, Quilp. Quilp was an all-round sportsman and soccer referee!

Original Bushrats 1890. or is it 1893?

Dinmore Bush Rats 1909

Dinmore Bush Rats 1910, note Quilp in the centre of the photograph

And just to remind the sceptics that this was a decent level of competition, the combined Ipswich and West Moreton team beat NSW by 4 goal to 1 in 1914.

Ipswich and West Moreton British Football Association executive and team
that defeated NSW by 4 goals to 1, 1914

One of the early clubs was Blackstone Rovers. It survived well into the twentieth century.

Blackstone Rovers 1915
Back row - J. Halls (Chairman), Geo. Hill, F. Elson, A. Perry, J. Follett. Second row - W. Evans (Selector), W. Halls (Treasurer), C. Davies, W. Jones, Private A. E. Law, Jas. Halls (Selector). Front row - R. H. Lewis (Vice-president), J. Pedley, T. G. Bowen (President), Private W. Paterson (Captain), Geo. Leeks (Selector), G. Evans (Secretary), Jas. Law (Vice-president). In front - Geo. W. Law, A. Halls. (Description supplied with photograph.)

As the game becomes established in the region it takes hold in other workforces. The Queensland Times reported in April 1911 that:
The "soccer" game will be very prominent in Ipswich this season, as I have heard from reliable authority that the North Ipswich railway workshops are putting forward an excellent combination, including quite a number of British Association exponents from the old country.

Ipswich Railway Workshop team 1924
More to come . . .

Thursday 15 August 2013

South Melbourne 1884?

Paul Mavroudis tuned in to Soccer Stoppage Time recently and heard some interesting things: some floated his boat while others boiled his piss. This caused him to reflect on a number of things including one issue close to my heart -- the origins and continuity of South Melbourne (association) Football Club. The following is excerpted from his excellent South of the Border blog.

Soccer Stoppage Time is some sort of Sydney radio program. First time listener, and I was impressed. If they were a Melbourne-based show and I was a fan of an A-League team, I'd listen in again. But neither of those things are true, so it ain't going to happen. More's the pity.

Anyway, the magic of the internet alerted us to the impending appearance of one Tom Kalas on this show. But first we had to wade through some Joe Didulica stuff and how the Heart have signed three 35-year-olds or something. "Yoof!" as Victory fans would say. Interestingly, Didulica claimed that Heart aren't for sale. Also talk about Heart making a profit, which seems to be news to some of the presenters, even though I figured that everyone knew about that news. Next to no mention that I can recall of how they made that profit - selling a truckload of players for some decent coin.

Then Ray Gatt.

Then news or rumours or something. Patrick Kisnorbo asking for too much money apparently. Ah, here we are.

Tom Kalas 'the' director of South Melbourne? First up he starts by disagreeing with Didulica's assertion that Heart aren't for sale, pointing out how Scott Munn had been talking about Heart's meeting with overseas investors. Maybe investing means not for sale? Buy in, not buy out?

Then the questions about South's A-League ambitions. Where's the money coming from for a South A-League bid? Kalas replies that we have guarantees from a 'Big 4' bank, but it's all down to firstly doing your due diligence and such. What a relief.

Are we ready? Kalas replies with talk about our now four year old transformation program. Third largest broadcaster of football in Australia (pretty easy when no one else outside Fox and SBS does it), mention of our Youtube stats, with no mention of it being it watched by Russian gamblers. But Youtube stats have always been a rubbery concept to me.

Sustainability seems to be the main selling point. We can do the job of being Melbourne's second team better, and more efficiently. Mention of Heart's alleged $75k cost per home match at AAMI Park. But what about South's facilities? Surely they're not up to scratch? Kalas and one of the hosts make the point that the lighting and corporate facilities are what need improving, and those can be done fairly quickly, with government support.

The questioning moves on to what form a South team would take in the national league. Kalas makes the very interesting assertion that 'The South Melbourne Football Club brand will always be a state league based club'. It's the FFA who will have the final say on what would happen in that situation, what we could call ourselves etc. The follow up questions are obvious - if all of that is the case, could a South Melbourne takeover bid take over the entire Heart licence and remain as Melbourne Heart? Well yes, that's an option.

Now, a brief break from me. Kalas is seriously having a laugh here, and more or less repeating the same routine that our erstwhile friend Jim Mellas performed so many years ago - a whole five of them, my how time flies - during the Southern Cross bid era. Remember this stuff? Will it, won't it be South Melbourne? Is it a Trojan horse bid? Broadbased and compelling? Kalas tried to make the point that 'a broadbased club in the A-League' is what we hope to get, as well as a member run (owned?) club in the top flight (who's members?) and that we are football club, not an ethnic club.

So, under the model that Kalas was discussing, South as South would stay in the Victorian system, and whatever this new thing is would be 'our' national league representative. Who would support such a thing? And without my trying to second guess what our fans would do this in situation, Kalas seemed hopeful that enough Heart fans would come over to make it a genuine combination of efforts. You must be kidding. Regardless of how pitiful and inconsequential I think Heart's raison d'etre is, and by extension the feelings that their season ticket holders have for that organisation, in their fantasy world that feeling of belonging to something important is very real.

And before anyone jumps on that sentence, let it be clear that I consider that fantastical sense of attachment as scarcely more ludicrous than the fantasy we South fans have about our club being the biggest, best, demanding of excellence etc. Because that fantasy is real, the idea that they could easily switch allegiances to this supposed mulatto entity is just absurd. Maybe some could, but most wouldn't. And to do so would require a certain amount of magnanimity and humility from our end, traits which South has seldom if ever possessed.

Kalas tried to talk about the soccer demographics that only go to Melbourne A-League derby games. What makes him think that those people could be relied upon to commit to a full length season? The next question is why aren't South attracting more people if we have so many people on our database, and watching our TV show? A truly daft question, but it gave Kalas a free hit. It's because we play in winter, in a state league competition, with no marketing from the FFV and no mainstream media attention. Could the Heart or Victory do any better? Kalas reckons it's apples and oranges, and he's surely right on this point. It's why even Collingwood can only get a couple of hundred to VFL games at Victoria Park.

SMFC: A history

So how did Kalas go about talking about our history? By deliberately goading me with references to 1884. Now I'll preface this part of the discussion by not claiming divine authority for the accuracy of this history, only for where my understanding currently lies of the limited details we have at present. Any corrections, new info, send it our way.

For those not up to speed on 1884, here's the deal. The original South Melbourne soccer club began playing way back then. That club went through a number of changes and periods where they (and soccer in Melbourne in general) didn't exist. At some point in the 1930s - 1936 according to this article - they amalgamated with South Melbourne Juniors (a separate club previously called Middle Park Schoolboys).

South Melbourne United would of course become one of three clubs to merge to form the South Melbourne Hellas we know and mostly love. It is my strong opinion however that when Kalas makes these claims about claiming that history - and I've warned him about this - he makes serious factual and cultural errors. Factual, because we aren't even sure what and who the original South Melbourne were for large periods of time. Factual, because even the article mentioned above which claims South Melbourne United involved a merger of South Melbourne with another entity in 1936, is clearly missing some important detail, as both the South Melbourne and South Melbourne United clubs are listed as being in existence after that year.

In 1937, South Melbourne was in Division 1, South Melbourne United in Division 2. The same goes for 1938 as you can see here and here. In 1939 they finished first and second in Division 2. In 1940 both teams played in Division 1. South Melbourne ceases to exist after this season. South Melbourne United struggle during the war years, but re-emerge after them.

When looking at the 1959 foundation date for South Melbourne Hellas, this is a bit of misnomer. 1959 is when Hellenic and Yarra Park merged. The merger of that new entity with South Melbourne United happened in early 1960. The Greeks needed a ground, and United took a chance that the Greeks would respect their identity and history. That lasted just a few years, and the most visible part of United's contribution to the new club - outside of the venue itself - the red 'V', was ditched, and little to no pretense seems to have been made that this was in any way a local club. Callous perhaps, but at least eventually honest. I reckon it was an awful thing to do, but it was done and most people never gave it a second thought.

On rare occasions the official wing of the club has dug out the 'heritage' shirt, but not often. Again, if that's the way the majority of the club's support feels about South Melbourne United, that's OK. But having overwhelmingly rejected the history of the clubs that preceded South Melbourne Hellas (and this includes the complicated Greek club history), and focusing only on what was created in 1959, I find claiming that 1884 date is unconscionable, and a ruse designed to get away from the real problem.

At best, we can claim that we are a living representative of the soccer tradition that has existed in the South Melbourne/Albert Park/Middle Park area - perhaps the original heartland of soccer in Melbourne - since 1884. That also includes teams like Hakoah, Park Rangers, Middle Park, Albert Park, St Kilda, and both defunct and new teams with those names.

Some more temperate minds may try to claim the 'custodian' tag, but I consider that an illegitimate attempt to monopolise a history and local tradition that is not completely ours to claim, especially considering the over 50 year rejection of that tradition and history mentioned earlier. To even begin to be able to start claiming that history as our own, we have to show a humility that is not in keeping with the traditions of this club, and for better and worse I have seldom seen here.

Which leads us to the real problem. Who are we? When we talk among ourselves, we are pretty sure of who we are. While some still hang on to an older style Greek nationalist or patriotic identity - as is their right - most younger supporters I think are able to easily claim the identity of being a club with a mostly Greek past and heritage, with an Australian future. These two ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive. We can be both, and I would argue that we actually exist in that manner right now.

So why can't we take that to the outside world? Why do we have to lie about who we were and who we are? In some deranged way, I can understand why we tried to do it back in the Southern Cross days - because we knew (even those who argued otherwise) the FFA and general public was utterly against us. But these days we go out there with the claim that the FFA is encouraging us to make a push for the A-League, a claim which was reinforced by one of the radio show hosts.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Quilp of the Bush Rats

In 1952 the Sydney Morning Herald published an article on an Indigenous soccer player that raised more questions than it answered.

James Mulgrave, a 19-year-old aboriginal, may soon be playing first-grade Soccer for the Bankstown club.

Only two or three aborigines have played in major Soccer in N.S.W. during the last 20 years. There is none playing major Soccer in the State at present.

The president of the Bankstown club, Mr. Jack McFarlane, saw Mulgrave playing first-grade Soccer for Blair Athol against Ipswich recently. He was so impressed by Mulgrave's play at centre-half that he immediately offered to bring him to Sydney.

Mulgrave practised with the Bankstown second-grade side on Wednesday night and showed promising form.

He is staying at Mr. McFarlane's home at Bankstown until he can find somewhere to live permanently.

Sydney Morning Herald 19 July 1952, p8.
Who were the two or three other Aboriginals to play the game in the period outlined? Were there Aboriginal players in other regions at other times? What is the process by which James Mulgrave, an Aboriginal player from inland Central Queensland, came to be playing first grade soccer in Queensland in 1952? The questions are generated because the article seems so out of phase with our contemporary preconceptions about the history of football in Australia: surely Indigenous Australians had little affinity with the round-ball game.

Indeed, about the only substantial and published evidence of Aboriginal participation in soccer before the 1950s is in the story of W. 'Bondi' Neal who played as a goalkeeper on the NSW South Coast and the Northern coal fields of the Hunter Valley for nearly 10 years between 1903 and 1912. The highpoint of Neal's career came in 1909 when he kept for a South Maitland representative team against the touring Western Australians. Despite his heroic efforts the team lost 2-0. Around 1912 "he left the coalfields for his native South Coast" and disappeared from the record. John Maynard in his The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe claims that "Neal is certainly the most famous early Aboriginal soccer player. But whatever became of this legendary player has disappeared from both the archives and memory." (John Maynard, The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe: A History of Aboriginal Involvement with the World Game (Magabala, 2011), p40.)

This notion of disappearance is an important one. It is a term that resonates across Indigenous history and soccer history alike. The tendency of Aboriginal subjects and soccer organisations to recede from view means that researching the history of Aboriginal soccer players is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Fortunately recent developments in digital archives have shifted the odds a little in favour of finding the needle. For example, the following image was found in the Trove pictorial archive. It is as mysterious as it is exciting. Smack bang in the middle of this fantastic photograph of the Dinmore Bush Rats (is there a better name in Australian sport history?) 1910 2nd Premiers, is a man who appears to be Aboriginal. He is named as Quilp and his presence in the photo sends a frisson through the settled histories of football in Australia.

Dinmore Bush Rats, 2nd Premiers, Ipswich, 1910.
Top row: W. Lucas, W. Pioch, G. Humphrey, D. Potts, N. Randolph. 2nd row: C. H. Jones (Vice-president), J. Potts (Vice-president), G. Skellern, Quilp, A. Nunn, W. Dawes (Treasurer), J. Tedman (Vice-president). 3rd row: W. Jordan (Secretary), J. Burns, J. Staafford (Patron), E. Dawes (Captain), G. Jones, M. Bailey (President), W. Thompson, A. Stewart (Vice-president). Front row: M. Reichart, W. Tait, H. Randolph, H. Hainsworth (Vice-president).

As is the way in these matters, so many questions are raised by this startling image. Who is Quilp? Where is he from? How does he come to be playing British Association Football? Why is he smack in the middle of the photograph? Why the Dickensian name?

While it is hard to answer any of these questions, perhaps the source of his name is easiest to gesture towards. A Quilp is a bird found in the region around Quilpie (so-named after the bird in 1917). Daniel Quilp is a villain in Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop. Quilp was also the name of a prominent Australian racehorse in the 1890s. My money's on the racehorse! Answers to the other questions will have to wait.

A cursory glance at the Trove digital newspaper archive reveals one reference to a soccer player named Quilp, playing for the Reliance team from Dinmore in 1904. Confusingly, it suggests the Quilp was sent off for backchat and then subsequently scored the winning goal (which became the subject of a protest).
Quilp began talking to the referee and was ordered off the field. The game now was very fast and Hunter was playing well is also was Roberts and Salisbury. Verrol in goal as per usual was very clever in clearing his goal line. The Reliance got away, and Quilp had a shot at goal. To the spectators it did not seem as though they scored, but the referee gave a goal to Reliance, who were now 1 to nil. No further goals were scored, and at call of time a protest with regard to the above goal was lodged.

The Brisbane Courier Monday 30 May 1904 p 6
It is possible that this is the first recorded goal by a senior Aboriginal player in Australian soccer, though it is also possible that as a forward (winger) he had scored a few before that.

Patrick Cahill, buffalo hunter, farmer, and
protector of Aboriginals.
Quilp's employer and companion.
Quilp also played competitive quoits in 1908 and boxed as a featherweight in 1909. In 1919 an Aboriginal man named Quilp was employed as a shooter by a noted buffalo hunter, Patrick Cahill. In one instance he was lucky to escape death. As reported in The Queenslander:
His horse fell and Quilp rolled clear of him. Unfortunately for him, the buffalo was heading straight for him, his head down, its nostrils distended, and its eyes full of murder. Quilp fortunately retained his presence of mind, and when the furious animal was within a foot or so of him, rolled on one side, that escaping by a hair's breadth. Had the animal struck him he would certainly have met a terrible death.
A recent discovery shows that Quilp may also have acted as a referee, surely one of the first Indigenous Australians to officiate in any sport. A writer in the Queensland Times, 14 February 1919 wondered where a figure named 'Quelp' had got to. In doing so he noted Quilp's buffalo hunting exploits but also revealed his 'fame' as a soccer figure.
Does anyone know where the aborigine "Quelp," one time of Dinmore (and a famous "soccer" referee) has got to? I have before me a photo of a "Quelp," who is buffalo hunting in the Northern Territory, employed by a Mr. Patrick Cahill, a native of Toowoomba, and it is uncommonly like old "Quelp" who resided at Dinmore.
A portrait of Quilp illustrating
article on Patrick Cahill's death in 1923.
The photograph may have been taken in 1919
Truly remarkable.

So Quilp may well have been an all-round sportsman, competent across activities, a speedy runner (going by his position on the soccer field and the possibility he was named after the racehorse), intelligent, decisive and physically able. But already I feel I am speculating and deducing too much from circumstantial evidence, having run out of concrete facts to present.

More research needs to be conducted on the stories of Indigenous footballers in the past. The shadowy stories of Quilp, Bondi Neal and James Mulgrave (and the unnamed Aboriginal players mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald) are made fascinating and powerful by their strangeness. It is pleasing to think that in years to come research might reveal these stories to be more run-of-the-mill than they appear today.


In the "Queensland Times" on Friday a paragraph appeared relative to   the posing of Jacky Lynch (aboriginal) at Coolangatta for a photographer. Jacky Lynch is the well-known aboriginal who lived at Dinmore many years ago under the name of Quilp (writes our Bundanba correspondent). Quilp was at one time a keen footballer, and I think he played in some of the minor football matches with the Dinmore Bush Rats' Club. Quilp was formerly employed by the late Mr. Asburn, a well-known butcher of Ipswich, and whose home was at Riverview,  where the Salvation Army Boys' Training Farm is now situated. Quilp was brought down from out West when a little boy by the late Mr. Asburn and lived for many years with him. After Mr. Asburn's death and the removal of the Asburn family from Riverview, Quilp went to live at Dinmore and worked at various callings in the district for a number of years. Finally, some years ago, the police, acting under instructions from the Home Secretary's Department, removed Quilp to the aboriginal settlement at Barambah. About eight or 15 years ago Qulip went to Tweed Heads. and he still lives at the blacks' settlement on the Tweed River. Only last Christmas holidays the writer was talking with Jacky Lynch in the main street at Tweed Heads and called him by his old name, "Quilp," and he entered into earnest conversation about old residents of the Dinmore and Bundanba districts. Queensland Times 28 January 1929. p 6

Popular Aboriginal Dead. John Barama Lynch, popularly known to thousands of Tweed residents and visitors as "Jackie" Lynch, died on Wednesday, at the age of 63 years. Jackie, who was born in the Gulf country, was a full-blooded aborig- inal, was gifted with an exceptional sense of humour, and brilliance in repartee. Many whites who endeavoured to "take a rise" out of him found him more than their equal in a verbal skirmish, his inimitable native wit almost invariably routing an opponent. The Brisbane Courier 25 January 1930 p 20

John Baramba ("Jackie") Lynch, a Queensland aboriginal, and one of the best known identities of the Tweed district, has gone to the happy hunting ground of his forefathers. At the age of 63 years, he died in Tweed District Hospital, Murwillumbah, on Wednesday night. "Jackie" was born away up in the Gulf country, but was taken to Brisbane when a lad. He was popular with many Ipswich residents, to whom he was well and favourably known in connection with the pottery works, in which, it is understood, he held a position as foreman. For the rest 15 or 16 years, "Jackie" had lived at the Twin Towns, but previously he was a resident of Murwillumbah for many years. The remains were interred in the Church of England cemetery at Murwillumbah on Thursday, the Rev. W. E. Wrexal-Holborrow officiating.  Northern Star 25 January 1930 p 8