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. au.fourfourtwo.com 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.