STATE LEAGUE : TEN THOUSAND HOARSE MEN
Yes, 10,000 and many more cheered Perth Azzurri through the most tremendous and dramatic season of their tempestuous history. No one on the opening day of the 1981 season who watched Azzurri run out on to Dorrien Gardens turf for the opening match of the year realised that the team was taking its first steps into immortality. The Soccer Federation, in conjunction with Red Rooster, had initiated a prize of $10,000 to any State League Club who could go the whole league season without defeat.
Of course it had been done before, but that had been in the days when the strength of teams differed vastly. It had been accomplished in those halcyon days when centre forwards would amass thirty-five to forty goals in eighteen league games, and a top club could total close to a hundred goals - more than double the figure reached by clubs today. With the improved coaching techniques and the increased professionalism in clubs, the feat looked to be virtually impossible today. As can be seen, each playing date was a milestone on a journey that passed through confrontation, bitterness and violence before reaching the final success.
April 4: Captain Eric Marocchi and Ronnie Campbell score goals against Stirling Cracovia to begin their challenge.
April 11: Azzurri's striker Willie Kelly is sent off for fighting, but they prove too strong for Macedonia. Kelly, Campbell and Paul Tombides provide the goals and Middleton scores for Macedonia.
April 18: They only just win against Morley Windmills; Paul Tombides equalised a David Sneddon goal, but it was an own goal by Windmills' Keith Cockburn that gave Azzurri the points.
May 3: After three games Spearwood Dalmatinac are level on points and goal average. Azzurri meet East Fremantle Tricolore in an Italian Derby but an absence of star players mars this game which Azzurri won 2-1.
May 9: Willie Kelly is sent off again after a tackle on Forrestfield's David Brookes. The crowd erupts on to the field and attacks linesman John Handley. The game continues but at the final whistle match officials are again attacked. Azzurri share the points in a goalless draw.
May 16: Azzurri trounce Gosnells. Paul Tombides scores a hat trick and two more by Tony Trinca snowed under the two goals in reply by Lewis and Godfrey. At Morley Windmills, Spearwood remain undefeated with a 1-1 draw, while Forrestfield under Ray Ilott win against Inglewood Kiev.
May 30: Forrestfield lose 1-0 to Kingsway.
May 31: Paul Tombides goal gives Azzurri a narrow 1-0 victory over Kiev at Inglewood, where world famous international Bobby Moore had appeared for Kiev.
June 6: Federation Referees refuse to officiate at Dorrien Gardens in matches involving Azzurri. Although qualified officials were provided by Federation, Kingsway Olympic refused to take the field and forfeited the game to Azzurri. Forrestfield and Dalmatinac fight out a 1-1 draw.
June 14: Spearwood lose to West Perth Macedonia.
June 21: Paul Tombides spearheaded a victory for Azzurri over Spearwood Dalmatinac. His two goals coupled with a goal from Ronnie Campbell took Azzurri through their eighth game without defeat.
June 27: Cracovia give Azzurri a fright when a Tony Trinca goal is the only one of the game.
July 5: Kelly and Campbell score to give Azzurri their eleventh game without loss. Paul Middleton scores for Macedonia.
July 11: The pressure is on. The strain is beginning to show as Morley Windmills, one of the bottom three clubs, force Azzurri to struggle for a 2- 1 win. Paul Tombides scores both goals.
July 19: Paul Tombides scores two and brings his league goals to 12. Two ahead of Kingsway's Lenny Dundo. Brent Atherton and Willie Kelly add two more goals to East Fremantle Tricolore's defeat by Azzurri.
July 25: Forrestfield looked the most likely team to stop Azzurri but could not hold them at Hartfield Park. Willie Kelly won the game for Azzurri with the only goal of the match. This match also decided the 1981 Red Rooster League championship, as after fourteen games Azzurri were ten points in front of King sway Olympic and could not be caught.
August 8: Four games to go. Would Azzurri make it? Gosnells nearly stop them with a close 1-1 draw at Thornlie.
August 15: Inglewood Kiev no match for Azzurri as they go down 3-0. A penalty from Campbell and further goals from Atherton and Pye push Azzurri within two games of the $10,000 payout.
August 23: A large crowd go to watch Kingsway Olympic play Azzurri. It's a match with smouldering embers which need only a gently breeze to fan into a blazing inferno. But the past is forgotten as two evenly balanced teams fight out a even contest with Azzurri getting the important winning goal, ironically through ex Olympic star Paul Tombides.
August 30: A large crowd is joined by representatives from Red Rooster to see if Azzurri can bring off the impossible. Came the climax of a fantastic league season - seventeen games without conceding defeat. The opponents, Spearwood Dalmatinac, who themselves had been amongst the honours in recent seasons, found that Azzurri had saved their brightest performance for the finale. The brave Oalmatinac players ran around almost bemused as the Azzurri team fired six goals past the hapless Tony Witschge to record their highest win of the season, and remain undefeated and deservedly win the Red Rooster $10,000 prize.
Azzurri's performance eclipsed anything else in the league season. But Forrestfield's achievement in coming runners up in the league was most praiseworthy. Even so, in the end they were thirteen points behind the leaders, and were followed by Kingsway Olympic a further one point behind. We are all left to wonder what might have happened if Kingsway had taken the field on the 6th June. It may well have been Azzurri's '0' day - the '0' being for defeat. East Fremantle Tricolore fought hard to make fourth place, just ousting Oalmatinac by .187 of a goal. Congratulations Azzurri!
Of the seven teams from the country and Amateur Association who entered the D'Orsogna Cup, only two were left at the end of the preliminary round. Morley Windmills Amateurs had a good two nil win over Second Division club University. Whilst Windsor Athletic from the Amateurs overawed the South West Association side by ten goals to nil. Albany, who normally do well in the D'Orsogna Cup, surprisingly went out to Fourth Division Whitford City by three goals to one.
The first round always creates interest as the State League become involved, and in consequence we see the emergence of giant killers. 1981 was no exception, as Second Division Melville Alemannia decisively bundled out East Fremantle Tricolore by three goals to nil. Morley Windmills Amateurs were again successful against a Federation side when they put paid to Tuart Hill's aspirations by beating them 4-1. But Azzurri had no difficulty in disposing of lowly Fourth Division Ashfield Dynamo by twelve goals to nil.
This saw the demise of a very gallant amateur club Morley Windmills, who fought hard but finally had to succomb to the overall strength of the State League side Stirling Cracovia. West Perth Macedonia and Spearwood Dalmatinac had to be separated by penalties after full time and extra time showed them goalless. Macedonia eventually won with five converted penalties to Spearwood's four. Azzurri, who had the luck of the draw, put paid to Balga with a five-nil thrashing, all goals being scored in the first half. Morley Windmills struggled against Fourth Division Fremantle Benfica and just snatched victory with a 2-1 win. Kingsway Olympic were hard pressed by Melville Alemannia, and just managed to win by 2-1.
Wanneroo and North Perth Croatia were the only two non State League teams in the Quarter Finals. Third Division Wanneroo came through a battering from Cracovia to go on to the Semi Finals. Andy Ridgewell and Neil Smith scored Wanneroo's goals in the first half and Cracovia's goal was scored by a Wanneroo defender. Although in the second half, Cracovia had all the play, they just couldn't findthe back of the net.
North Perth Croatia's game with Azzurri finished on a sour note as a very disappointed crowd showed their feelings at some strange referee decisions. The game was in injury time and Croatia were leading by a goal scored by Johnny Fiamengo. Referee Barry Harwood awarded a penalty to Azzurri; when it was converted Croatia unfortunately lost some of their composure and Azzurri added two more goals to make the final score three-two.
In other ties, Inglewood Kiev easily beat Morley Windmills by five goals to nil, whilst the West Perth Macedonia-Kingsway Olympic game went to penalties with Kingsway being the eventual victors.
Wanneroo at last came to the end of the line when they ran out of steam against an in form Inglewood Kiev - Brad Holden two, Pat Deller two, and a fifth from Lee Strickland gave Kiev a fairly easy trip into the Grand Final. Perth Azzurri met Kingsway Olympic in the other Semi Final. After the incident of the league match in mid season when King sway refused to take the field, relationships between the two teams were not the best. As was expected, a tough encounter was witnessed by a large crowd at Dorrien Gardens, when Azzurri enhanced their chances of a grand slam with a two-one victory with goals from Alan Pye and Paul Tombides putting them into the final against Inglewood Kiev.
The Grand Final
The Grand Final was marred to a degree by prematch criticism by Inglewood Kiev concerning the long layoff experienced by their club in view of the Grand Final being the last game of the season. This was belied on the previous year when West Perth Macedonia, after a similar prolonged period of inactivity came out to thrash Azzurri at Dorrien Gardens by six goals to one.
It was a disappointment that the match turned out almost as an anti climax after the wonderful games which had been witnessed in the preliminary rounds. Matters were not improved when Referee Gordon Love sent Kiev's captain Johnny Davidson from the field after a tackle on Aldo Trinca in the twenty-fifth minute. Inglewood Kiev fought on, to their credit, and particular mention must be made of Tommy McKenzie's contribution to the game which won him the Gold Medal for Man of the Match, the award given by Mr D'Orsogna. Nevertheless Azzurri deserved the victory and was a product of their consistency which had been the hallmark of their play for the whole season.
As the Earthquake Benefit Cup came to its exciting climax, so then began the Solahart Night Soccer Series. Opening at the Velodrome on Sunday 8th February with games between Kingsway Olympic and Perth Azzurri; and Spearwood Dalmatinac and Inglewood Kiev, it was thought that the results of the Italian Cup would be some measure of the clubs' potential success, but this was not to be.
Gosnells and Azzurri, who both had inglorious exits from that competition, went on to contest the final of this 21st Night Series Competition. The series included all ten teams in the State League, and it was played in two groups of five. Their positions in the group were determined by their places in the league at the end of the 1980 winter season.
Gosnells City topped Group A and started off well, winning their opening game against Cracovia by three goals to one, although Cracovia were leading at half time through a goal from Ian Galloway from the penalty spot. Gosnells went on to beat Kingsway Olympic and East Fremantle Tricolore and dropped their only point when they drew one-one with Azzurri.
Perth Azzurri drew their first match with Kingsway Olympic, but as yet had not signed the Tombides brothers who were to create such a difference when they began playing, for in the next match against Cracovia, Azzurri won by six goals to one with Ronnie Campbell netting a hat trick, and the other goals coming through Paul Tombides (2) and John Cain.
Kingsway Olympic, the current league champions at that time, were understandably weakened at the loss of the Tombides brothers, Lenny Dundo, who rarely plays in the night series, and captain Steve Sceats who missed most of the games through injury. Nobody was surprised at their results, winning one, drawing two, and losing one.
East Fremantle Tricolore collected only two points from their only win against Stirling Cracovia. Stirling Cracovia, who seemed to start each game with a flourish only to die in the second half, managed to pick up only one solitary point which they earned when the drew against Kingsway Olympic.
Spearwood Dalmatinac led Inglewood Kiev by goal average as Group B finalised their preliminary fixtures. The Dallies started off by beating Kiev 4-3, and it was the brilliance of goalkeeper Tony Witschge who gave them a successful start. In their next game they defeated Morley Windmills with the help of a brilliant display of four goals by Dave Fidoe. Spearwood went on to defeat Macedonia with two goals from Fidoe, but dropped two points when Forrestfield brought a halt to their successful run by beating them three-one.
Inglewood Kiev looked as if they might be the team of the tournament, despite their losing their first game. They went on to convincingly beat Macedonia, Morley and Forrestfield. West Perth Macedonia were quite unlucky having thrashed Forrestfield and Morley 6-1 and 4-0 respectively, they lost by the odd goal to Inglewood after being two up at half time. Paul Middleton equalled Fidoe's feat by scoring four goals in one match against Forrestfield. Both Forrestfield and Morley concluded with only two points each.
Inglewood Kiev were not a match for the strength of Perth Azzurri who won the first semi final by three goals to one. Paul Tombides scored two fine goals and Ronnie Campbell was the ever Mr Consistent from the penalty spot. Kiev drew one back through substitute Paul Mochon, but Azzurri went on into the Preliminary Final. Gosnells qualified for their first ever Grand Final in a Night Soccer Series when they scored the only goal in the game which they dominated throughout.
The Preliminary Final
It was another Ronnie Campbell penalty that put Azzurri ahead in the first half, when their captain Eric Marocchi was brought down in the penalty area. In the second half the Sky Blues began to dominate the game and Willie Kelly scored with a magnificent curling shot in the 52nd minute. A goal from Milan Katinski could not halt Azzurri's passing on into the Grand Final.
The Grand Final
The atmosphere at the Velodrome was enhanced by a large crowd, and a small section of Gosnells City supporters whose chants and noise created a wonderful background to one of the best Grand Finals we have seen in the Night Series. The great difference between the two sides was Paul Tombides who was in scintillating form and scored two goals in the first half from almost impossible half chances that have become his trademark. Andy Godfrey scored from a penalty to keep Gosnells in the game.
Gosnells equalised in the 75th minute from a great goal by Mike Galpin, who converted a pass from Nick MacCallum. The game proceeded until it seemed a replay on the following Wednesday would be inevitable when a goal mouth scramble at the Gosnells end saw the ball run loose to Sauro lozzelli who racked a low shot into the back of the net. It was a jubilant Azzurri who collected the prize money and trophy for the Solahart Night Series 1981.
TOP FOUR PLAY-OFFS
Nobody could doubt who were the leaders in the Top Four Cup. After their devastating unbeaten league season, Azzurri were on top of the ladder by thirteen clear points. And they sat there in all their glory whilst the other teams fought for the remaining three positions. Forrestfield United, whose games with Azzurri during the year had been some of the most exciting of all, as well as the most controversial, deservedly picked up second place, followed by Kingsway Olympic and East Fremantle Tricolore.
In the first semi final, Kingsway Olympic and East Fremantle Tricolore were so evenly contested that the game went to sudden death penalties before they could be separated. After full time, the score stood at one goal each. Treasure of Tricolore, who opened the score after nine minutes, was followed by an equaliser from that perennial goal scorer, Lenny Dundo. In extra time Tricolore were dominant, but couldn't find the back of the net, and so the game went on to penalties.
After the mandatory five had been taken by each team, the score was four each. It was now that teenage goalkeeper Anthony Franken came to the aid of the team by bringing off a brilliant save from the penalty taken by Paul Terpkos.
The second semi final between those old antagonists Forrestfield and Azzurri turned out to be a thriller. Thegame had everything - end to end play, goals, goal mouth incidents and super performances by many players on the field. Paul Tombides hit four of his team's five goals and was at his arrogant best as he tantalised the Forrestfield defence with his ability to turn half chances into possible goals.
But Forrestfield would not give up, and they contributed a great deal to a game that had the spectators on their feet for most of the 90 minutes, particularly at the end when both teams were cheered from the field. Brent Atherton scored Azzurri's fifth goal, whilst McCaffery, Sanderson and Ripley scored for Forrestfield.
After the Semi Finals, Forrestfield were obvious favourites to win the Preliminary Final against East Fremantle Tricolore who had struggled to beat Kingsway the previous week. And although Forrestfield did make their way through to the grand final, it was only after a grim and dour struggle which again went to extra time, that a result was reached. Again it was Anthony Franken who kept Tricolore in with a chance as he saved shot after shot from Forrestfield players who attempted to put the issue beyond doubt. Wayne Sanderson scored in the second half of extra time to put Forrestfield through with a chance to win their first ever Top Four Cup.
Perth Azzurri were in with a chance to win the Grand Slam consisting of the Night Series, the Red Rooster State League and the Top Four Cup - especially after their five-three beating of Forrestfield in the Semi Final. But the largely partisan crowd were to be terribly disappointed as Forrestfield chopped Azzurri down to size in a hard and fierce match that saw Forrestfield the victors by two goals to one.
It was a wonderful note on which Forrestfield's coach, Ray Ilott, ended his playing career. He had accomplished a remarkable revival of the club since taking over as their coach - Runners Up in the League, and now Top Four Cup winners. Indeed an accomplishment to be proud of. Kavanagh and McCaffery scored the all important goals for Forrestfield while Alan Pye scored the consolation goal for Azzurri.
ITALIAN EARTHQUAKE CUP
At the beginning of 1981, over a period of just twelve days, the Soccer Federation organised and played a total of 47 games of soccer. This came about when the Federation Secretary Ted Gray suggested the idea to run a special competition in aid of the victims of the Italian Earthquake which devastated parts of Italy and made thousands homeless at a time when the areas were experiencing their most severe winter for many years.
The Federation Executive quickly endorsed the plan, and almost every club in the Federation's four division participated. Executive members volunteered to man the gates; Referees gave their services free and the competition got off to a rousing start on Saturday 17th January. Five games were played on that day at Dorrien Gardens and another five the day after. A week later a concentration of games commenced at the Velodrome and over twelve days thirty seven games were staged under lights.
State League sides became involved after the preliminary round of the competition and the luck of the draw saw the demise of Gosnells City who went down to the eventual winners Kingsway Olympic by two goals to one. There were some rather surprising results along the way. Perth Azzurri, with a strong team turn out just managed to beat Third Division Subiaco City by one nil. A jubilant Bayswater Inter beat East Fremantle Tricolore by the only goal scored and eventually advanced to the semi final, only to lose three nil to Kingsway. Stirling Cracovia defeated West Perth Macedonia in the other semi final by three goals to one.
So the scene was set for an exciting Grand Final between two State League clubs -on the one hand, Kingsway Olympic, current State League Champions, and on the other, a youthful Stirling Cracovia side who had proved to be the prize packet of the tournament, with wins over Azzurri and Spearwood Dalmatinac after beating Rockingham United. Kingsway had to fight their hardest to over come the courageous Cracovia, and it was only a Derek Watt special that finally saw the "Green Machine" take off the honours and the Italian Earthquake Benefit Cup.
Due to the competition, the Federation was able to hand over to Mr Stefano Stefanini the Italian Consul in Perth, the sum of $7,500. This fine donation could not have been achieved without the participation of the clubs, the players and their families, the referees, and the City of Perth who allowed the use of their venues atthe minimum fees.
Of course most of the profits were achieved from the supporters of the teams who clashed often, consequently it was the players' wives and families who contributed greatly to the appeal. And to all who attended, a sincere thank you for your help. A number of people who were unable to attend or participate in the cup competition sent donations to the Federation, and they too were most gratefully received. Finally, a special mention of the Queens Park Soccer Club who donated an especially large portion of their receipts from the bar fund.
After receiving the Rothmans Gold Medal for being the Fairest & Best State League player for 1981, Spearwood Dalmatinac's Stephen Snell said that receiving this award was the highlight of his career. How does a player win this coveted award? Consistency is probably the greatest attribute, for a player is measured over the whole league season before he is adjudged the winner.
At each Red Rooster State League match the officiating referee will give points to the players whom he considers the fairest and best; three points to his first choice, two to the second, and one to the third. The referees will of course look for impeccable conduct together with ability and skill to a consistent degree throughout the whole game.
Simultaneously the player will have to impress the coach of the opposing team who will give the same number of votes to the players of his choice. The coach looks for different aspects of the players' contributions to the game. He will no doubt take into account the work rate maintained by the players, and will evaluate the opposing players' attitudes to his team members; his self discipline; whether he is able to control his own exhuberance for the benefit of his team; and whether he plays within the coaching directions.
So to score well a player must play hard, but fair to warrant the notice of the adjudicators and to gain the maximum points is an achievement of which any player may be justly proud. Such a player is Stephen Snell, who has played well for Spearwood Dalmatinac and has been part of the team which has won many honours over the past few years. He has also represented Western Australia both at home and overseas.
Stephen's win was a popular one and the applause he received at the end otthe Channel 9 Presentation was as sincere as it was sustained. He polled 53 votes and won the medal from his nearest rival, Forrestfield United's defender Malcolm Cole. After the first fourteen weeks of open counting, Snell had compiled 44 votes and led Stirling Cracovia's Dave Brooks by 7 votes. Stephen Snell also won the Umbro Fairest & Best and was the Soccer Federation's Sportsman of the Year at the Function held by Coca Cola at the Sheraton Hotel.
Memories of England's success in the 1966 World Cup were revived when the captain of that team visited Perth in 1981. World famous Bobby Moore joined Inglewood Kiev for two games in the Red Rooster State League. He brought with him recollections from the years of his heyday when his skills won him selection for England a record one hundred and eight times.
Bobby played for Kiev against Azzurri on Sunday May 31st; it was the seventh game of the season and Azzurri were unbeaten. But even with Bobby Moore exhibiting all h1s accuracy in passing, it was still not enough to subdue Azzurri and they went on to win by the one goal scored by Paul Tombides. It was a fair indication of Bobby's popularity that over four thousand people attended this game.
On the following week he led Inglewood Kiev against Gosnells City and they showed no respect for this former international and beat Kiev on their own ground by two goals to nil. Bobby made a quick transfer to Rockingham United to play for them against Perth City but he was not destined to be on a winning side in Perth, and this game finished in a two-two draw. A great ambassador for the game and his country, Bobby's exhibition of soccer were still worth watching.
He was followed out by Mike Channon who came from the Eastern States just to play one game for Gosnells City. On the 28th June he lined up in the team opposite Kingsway Olympic, and the fairly large crowd was expectant of a match full of goals. But this was not to be, although Channon scored Gosnells' goal in the 1-1 draw. Little of his known devastating scoring ability was seen, as he played mainly in the midfield. Nevertheless the importation of these stars into the game in Western Australia injects a welcome moment of variety and skill which can only do good for soccer.
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