History of Newcastle

History of Newcastle Breakers

by Andrew Howe

In 1951 a group of migrants from the Greta camp in Newcastle came together to form a football team. Recently arriving from all parts of the European continent, these men were itching to apply their footballing skills developed back in their former European homelands in their new home nation.

And so the Austral club were born. Originally accepted in to the north NSW second division, the club eventually rose to prominence. They won their first northern NSW first division grand final in 1966 and followed suit in 1969. Continuing to thrive throughout the seventies and eighties, Austral searched for higher-ranked company. In 1988 Newcastle Austral entered the NSW state league first division, reaching the semi finals at their first attempt!

Things then started moving quickly for Austral. In 1990 a major sponsorship deal with BHP steel was announced, and together with an extensive monetary loan made by the NSW government, Austral vastly upgraded their playing headquarters. Purchased twenty years previously at Birmingham Gardens in Newcastle's western suburbs, their home ground soon boasted an impressive grandstand and was now - at least cosmetically - ready for national league status.

A major report commissioned by the national league executive in 1990 (the Bradley Report) determined that it was imperative that a team from the Hunter region be included in the national league, if the competition was to continue viably.

A hard-working committee, and the final recommendations of the Bradley Report saw the Breakers - direct descendants from Austral - set foot in the national league for the 1991/92 season.

Soccer fever had previously hit the Hunter region, and in a major way. Formed in August 1977 and entering the national league the year after, Newcastle KB United (sponsored by Tooths breweries) took the Newcastle sporting world by storm. Crowds at KB United's home games regularly surpassed 10,000, climaxing at 18,367 in the game against UTS Olympic in April 1979. British football star Bobby Charlton played once for the club in 1978. In that same year (and again in 1982) one of Newcastle's favourite sons - FA cup goal-scorer Craig Johnston - returned home for playing stints with KB United.

The club's biggest on-field success happened in 1984 when it had to travel to Melbourne to take on the Melbourne Knights in the 1984 national league cup. Newcastle won 1-0. But an overall unspectacular team performance and eventually financial turmoil saw KB United fold in April 1984. Although local club Adamstown Rosebud quickly stepped in to ensure Newcastle's continued national league presence, the club couldn't get back to prominence and was subsequently relegated from national league status in 1986.

Now Newcastle - the traditional home of soccer in Australia - has its chance for footballing glory again. Mistakes of previous years can only be learned from. Hopefully the Breakers can remuster the support that we know soccer has within the Newcastle region.

The Breakers are unlikely winners in the ongoing ARL-Super League war. In 1995 the Super League franchise for the Hunter Region chose the magnificent Breakers Stadium as their headquarters. Subsequently, several hundred thousands of dollars have been pumped into the ground to help make it one of the most impressive Ericsson Cup bases in Australia.

The Breakers management scored another coup in signing former Socceroo legend John Kosmina as new coach in 1995. And together with a set of locally bred, young and enthusiastic players, led by the experienced David Lowe, Newcastle should soon again be the hotbed - both on and off the field - of soccer in Australia.

Statistical summary of Newcastle in the national league

league season
Final ladder
National knock-
out cup placing
home crowd
- as KB United/Rosebuds -
1978 11th (14 teams) =3rd (32 teams) 8500
1979 6th (14 teams) =3rd (32 teams) 10200
1980 6th (14 teams) =9th (32 teams) 6400
1981 10th (16 teams) =29th (36 teams) 5300
1982 12th (16 teams) =9th (16 teams) 4400
1983 5th (16 teams) =5th (16 teams) 2900
1984^ 8th (12 teams) 1st (24 teams) 1700
1985^ 12th (12 teams) =3rd (24 teams) 1500
1986^ 6th (12 teams) =9th (32 teams) 1800
- as Breakers -
1991-92 11th (14 teams) =8th (14 teams) 4200
1992-93 8th (14 teams) =9th (14 teams) 3700
1993-94 12th (14 teams) =8th (14 teams) 2800
1995-96 12th (12 teams) 2nd (12 teams) 3700
^ national league divided into two conferences. Newcastle in northern conference.