|Introduction - Sources - Match Anomalies - Missing Referees|
seeds of vicfootball were planted some time in 2001. I had already embarked
on a career change at this point in my life, returning to study a Diploma in
Sports Administration after a few years in the corporate sector soured any
desire I once had to establish a career in IT. With more time on my hands as
a mature-age student, I needed an extra-curricular interest which would
exercise my mind as well as occupy my time.
I had already collected records on well over a thousand Australian footballers derived from various sources, but when I discovered the Victorian league archive on what was then OzSoccer, the scope of my work evolved into something greater than I had imagined. When you explore OzSoccer on the Wayback machine, it was very much of its time - a patch-work quilt of disparate pages cobbled together to make sense of a sport that did little to honour its past.
But even then, I could see that John Punshon was doing a mountain of unheralded work and once we began to correspond via e-mail, it was clear the extent of his efforts was broader than those early pages suggested. John would spend inordinate amounts of time searching through news archives at the State Library, working his way back through time, uncovering the history of the game before my very eyes. I was excited every time an additional season was added to his pages.
Eventually, I devised a series of macros in MS Excel which would take John’s season files and transform them into player appearance records. Before long, I had managed to audit every season from 1991 to 2003 and my database had grown exponentially. The fruits of that labour and my initial foray into OzFootball eventually resulted in the first release of the Australian Club Database. You can see the building blocks of what is now vicfootball in some of those pages.
Come 2004, I would gain employment on a casual basis with the Victorian Soccer Federation, helping launch and support the organisation’s first online player registration system during the week and manning the phones as Results Coordinator on the weekend. By the end of the year, I was a full-time member of staff and promoted to the executive team. In what proved to be the most chaotic time in my administrative career, I was handed the reins of the Football department in late 2005 with the Premier League my key brief for three years.
It was during this time that my stats-based research ground to a halt and my contributions to OzFootball were limited to the odd update here and there. While my time at FFV came to an end in 2008, I would continue my involvement in football, working as a Match Commissioner at A-league and W-League matches for a few seasons and volunteering as Media Manager at Northcote City for a few more.
Perhaps it was a reawakening or an ever burgeoning desire to give back to the game I was deeply passionate about, but I picked up my research again early in 2017 and after ten months of scrounging every ounce of spare time I could muster, returned to OzFootball with the launch of Aussie Footballers in October. I released an update in June the following year and there was even time for a side project as the Victorian Club Archive was launched a few months later in October 2018.
I always felt that this passion would be something I would return to with more vigour in retirement, that the countless hours needed to invest in these projects was perfect for someone entering this phase of their life. But a health scare in 2018 forced me to revaluate that notion. I elected to take some time away from work and concentrate on some of the things I had neglected for far too long. The concept of vicfootball was always on the backburner, but now, it was in the forefront of my thinking.
In my e-mail conversations with John Punshon, I had become aware of the issues he was facing in documenting the most recent seasons of the NPL which was an astounding thought to say the least. Records were largely incomplete for some of these seasons and without access to the physical team sheets which were the cornerstone of his research, it became apparent that I needed to take action.
Thus, for the past four months, I have reviewed every season from 1991 to 2018 as a means of arriving to some semblance of an official record of the Victorian Premier League and what is now the National Premier Leagues Victoria. 28 seasons and 4,788 matches done and dusted. It has proven a mammoth task and almost broke me on a number of occasions, but the results have been worth it, with several errors uncovered and resolved, and missing information found from a variety of sources. You would be amazed how often I have watched a YouTube highlights package just to confirm whether a player did make it onto the pitch as a last-minute substitute.
The reasons for beginning with season 1991 were twofold.
Firstly. 1991 was the first year of the Victorian Premier League. It was something of a reset by the Victorian Soccer Federation at the time, the condensing of a stagnant competition that had grown unwieldly and cumbersome to manage. It seemed like a good place to begin given that I had already traversed much of this period some fifteen years earlier.
Secondly. The final ever Victorian State League in 1990 was a marathon – 18 teams over 34 rounds – with double-header rounds on selected weekends making it virtually impossible for the local media to cover every match in detail. As a result, the records from that season are largely incomplete.
Some day, I will return to 1990 and commence the long road back through the 1980’s and most likely to as early as 1976 when the first issues of the great Soccer Action were released and began a decade long coverage of the Victorian State League unparalleled by any publication before or since. John has already documented much of these seasons and Mark Boric has a near-enough-complete collection of Soccer Action back issues available to help fill in the gaps.
For now, I look forward to my next project, whatever that may be, and hope that some of the anomalies that still exist through the vicfootball era may be resolved by fans, officials or media pundits who have kept records of their own.
My final word is reserved for John Punshon. Without his extensive research, this archive would simply not exist. Victorian football owes John a great debt for picking up the slack where few feared to tread.
Tony Persoglia. vicfootball. August 2019.