|Lancelot "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 Sportsfoundation.
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
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.