History of Canberra Cosmos

History of Canberra Cosmos

by Andrew Howe

Canberra Cosmos were formed as a completely new entity to the Ericsson Cup season of 1995-96. The ACT Soccer Federation, some leading ACT soccer clubs, and corporate sponsors combined to rectify a major misnomer: the ten year long absence of a national league club from the nation's capital city.

Canberra had previously sustained sustained national league representation, from 1977 to 1986. To coincide with the birth of the national league in 1977, a completely new club was formed - Canberra City. This was the only one of the fourteen foundation national league clubs not to have previously existed as a state league club. Canberra City's first coach was Johnny Warren, who coached the club for their first two years of existence.

City only enjoyed limited playing success - their best performance was when they finished fifth in the sixteen team 1981 season. But off the field Canberra had some better success. Helped by an enthusiastic support staff, and the move to the newly opened Bruce Stadium in 1978, Canberra attracted some big crowds. Despite never finishing above tenth, and playing in a Canberra winter where the maximum temperature rarely reaches ten degrees, Canberra City drew fifteen crowds of 5000-plus between 1978 and 1980. Not bad for a city of 215,000 people in 1978. Canberra's biggest crowd was in round five 1980, where 8875 packed Bruce Stadium to see City lose 1-0 to then champions Marconi. It was at this game where visiting coach Rale Rasic admitted that he had not heard any sound to match the Canberra roar that thundered down from the packed Bruce Stadium grandstand that day.

It was in Canberra's visit to St George on the 24th of April 1983 that Frank Farina made his national league debut. Farina stayed at Canberra until he was bought by Sydney City after the 1984 season. Other current day notables who made their national league debut playing for Canberra City include Tony Franken and Manis Lamond.

And despite not having a national league team to call their own between 1987 and 1995, the Canberra region still managed to produce the likes of Socceroos Ned Zelic and Andrew Bernal.

Despite enormous predictions to the contrary, Canberra Cosmos finished respectably in their first A-league season 1995-96. In finishing ninth, they performed better than much more experienced teams Wollongong, Newcastle and Gippsland Falcons. Much of the credit could be given to legendary and experienced Socceroo captain Paul Wade. But 1995-96 also saw the revelation of talented Canberra-based youngsters Michael Musitano and Alex Castro, who were accordingly snapped up by other clubs in the 1996 off-season.

Canberra's second season was much more forgettable however. In finishing last, the club ended the season 16 points behind second-last placed team.

But a positive aspect of a dreary 1996-97 was to sting the club and the Canberra community into major action - and computing company Novell came on board with a stunningly large sponsorship in 1997. This allowed the Cosmos to recruit the 1996-97 coach of the year Branko Culina. And after losing their best players the previous year, Canberra was a net importer of quality players for this season.

If Cosmos were disheartened by their less than favourable birth in the A-league, they only need to look at the history of their rugby league counterparts for enlightenment. The Canberra Raiders finished dead last in their inaugural season (1982). But within six years the Raiders made their first rugby league grand final, and by 1994 they had won their third championship.

If Canberra Cosmos can further enhance the local support from the ACT, then they're sure to have a long and proud record to look back on - and sooner rather than later!

Canberra Cosmos' A-league record

league season
Final ladder
National knock-
out cup placing
home crowd
1995-96 9th (12 teams) =3rd (12 teams) 2900
1996-97 14th (14 teams) =9th (16 teams) 3200