It was perhaps inevitable that when Australia took the International field the first games would be played against New Zealand. In June and early July of 1922, Australia played a series of matches in New Zealand of which, three were full internationals. The first of these three matches, played in Dunedin before 8,000 spectators, was the first ever that an Australian Soccer team had played in the National colours. When we say ‘National Colours’ one is bound to visualise those first Socceroos in the familiar Green and Gold. In fact, it was nothing like that. That first National team was in a light blue strip. The Green and Gold was not adopted till later.
Team : Carrtwright, Fisher, D. Cumberford, Gibb, Shenton, Doyle, Dane, J. Cumberford, Maunder, Ward, Thomson.
In this first match the Kiwis attacked from the start and kept the visitors from Australia busy defending in their own ares, never giving them the chance to settle down. Campbell, without any doubt their finest player, and Cook had many shots at goal, and only the prowess of the Austrslian goalkeeper, Cartwright, kept them out. Soon Australia became a ‘little nervous uisder the constant hammering of the home leans, and as the defence was caught on the wrong foot, Cook slipped through to open the score for the host country.
Australia reacted strongly, although handicapped by the slippery ground, that somehow seemed to affect them more than it did the New Zealanders. Then, with only a few minutes left for the half time whistle, Msunder equalised for Australia.
This goal encouraged the Australians who improved considerably after the interval, and repeatedly raided the Kiwis’ area with fine centres from Thomson, mostly to Maunder, the most dangerous man in the line up, who, however, was well marked. But then came Knott’s goal for New Zealand, and this time Australia could not find the energy to react.
Australia rallied later in the game, but only after Cook had scored again. This third goal had come after Ballard had made a brilliant opening for Cook, and was the best goal of the match. Then, as said, Australia fought bravely and severely tested the New Zealand defence, but it was too late the day, and the score remained unchanged.
Opposing the Australians, New Zealand had fielded the strongest team ever to represent thst country up to that time. It was reported in Dunedin thst day ‘the weather was dull, and the ground slippery’. The Socceroos debut in the international arena was not a happy one. The first match ended in a loss for Australia, and in many ways set the pattern for years to come.That pattern was to rely on certain qualities, foremost among these, the fight to the limit even against all odds, and to play a robust type of football in the belief that this will offset our limitations. This type of football in time came to be known as ‘the Australian Game’. But in New Zealand they played the game a little differently in 1922.
The players were more accomplished and, as the results of those first two years amply demonstrate, the Kiwis were superior to the Australians.