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1977 - NSL Season in Review Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 21:13

The Philips National League was launched and Australia stepped into a new era in Soccer. The year was an outstanding success with large crowds pouring through the gates to see the best soccer teams
from throughout Australia do battle. The competition can only improve and this augers well for the future of the game in this country.

1977 MUST go down in the soccer history of Australia as the year a giant, courageous step was taken. It was the year when soccer became national. It was also the year when big business started to see a future in soccer sponsorship in this country. Before this, soccer was played on a State basis, each State running its own championship. But in 1977 Philips (Aust.) made it happen. There will be a national championship. Strictly speaking, it is not yet a truly national championship because Tasmania and Western Australia are not - yet -represented. Considering the size of the country and the cost of travel it might not be practical, especially in the case of the West, for them to join the new league. And gate money is not yet big enough to help defray costs. However, NSW, Victoria, Queensland and SA have courageously taken the plunge in spite of the pundits' prophecies of disaster. Far from proving disastrous, the National League kicked off on Saturday, April 2 to an enthusiastic public that showed a great interest ftom the start.

Perhaps the only sour note was that Apia, the Leichhardt (NSW) club, 1976 champions, opted to sit out the first year, to see how teams went, how clubs managed financially, and then, perhaps, apply to join. The soccer public missed Apia at first, but then soon forgot about this great club and concentrated on the 14 teams in the top division.

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Click image to open!

These were: Queensland - Brisbane City and Brisbane Lions; . NSW - Marconi, Hakoah-Eastern Suburbs, Sydney Olympic, Western Suburbs and St George-Budapest; Victoria - Footscray, Mooroolbark, Fitzroy and South Melbourne. South Australia - West Adelaide and Adelaide City. Canberra City completed the list.

Sponsors: Living Insurance Co.
($150,000 for three years). Borzi, Rathmell, Tokesi, Echeverria, Kibbey, Hermiston, Pimblett, McLeod, Gaffney, Coyne, Johnston, Conner, Caldwell, Lavelle (transferred from the Scottish club, Merton FC), Wishart, Herdle, Wallace.
Coach: Nereo Saftich.

Phil Dando, Roddy McKenzie, Ian Park, Alan Niven, George Potter, Leon Wilson, Col Bennett (ex-Apia), lain Fagan, Alan Hughes, Paul Laszlo, John Neale, Geoff Morris, Tom Murray, Alan Venables, Eddie Spearrit, Laszlo Koroknai, Will Henderson, Roy Drinkwater and Lowry. Coach: Les Scheinflug, who was assistant coach for the 1974 National Squad in Germany for the World Cup.

Malcolm Heynes, Tony Pezzano, Kevin Mullen, Eddie Thomson, Steve O'Connor, Alec Robertson, Henry Mowbray, Murray Barnes, John Stevenson, Alan Kershaw, Joe Watson, Terry Smith, Adahilton Silva, Lutton, McGuiness, Kershaw. Also Todd Clarke (goalkeeper), who was injured for a long time and Agenor Muniz who was later proceded to Adelaide City. Coach: Gerri Chaldi.

Alan Maher, Fabio Fabrianesi, Stuart Robertson, Barry Jones, Ivo Prskalo, Les Hucker, John Russell, Paul Degney, Ray Richards, Gary Byrne, Jim Rooney, Peter Sharne, Ernie Campbell, Alberto Mariani, Williams. Coach: Rale Rasic, the coach who took Australia for the first time into
the World Cup finals (Germany, 1974).

Dave McQuire, Martin Coe, George Harris, Doug Utjesenovic, Harry Williams (the only Aboriginal in first division soccer in Australia, and one of the best in the National team), Brendan Grosse, Robert O'Shea, John O'Shea, Rodolfo Gnavi, Will Hamilton, Neville Morgan, Marco Jankovics, Phil O'Connor (transferred from Wollongong for a record fee), Fred Aitken.
Coach: Manfred Schaefer; he later resigned and the team passed to
Takacs half way through the season.

Gary Meier, David McIntosh, Paul Luckett (from English club Hartlepool) , Bill Palmer, Ritchie Bell, Berney Cullerton, Joseph Senkalski, Greg Allan, Mike Cross, Don Allan, Peter Raskopoulos, Ray Botham, Ken Wilson, Alex Jamieson, George Gibson, Kris Thamnidis, Con Ikonomou.
Coach: Kaz Kulak.

Terry Eaton, Col Curran, Steve Perry, Peter Wilson, Bob Noble, Bob Fryer, Graham Norris, Clive Eaton, Alan Ainslie, Dave Harding, Peter Stone, Pat Lowry, Brian Dodd, Ian Moores, Ian Turnbull, Lloyd Hades, Alan Fischer.
Coach: Mike Laing.

Ron Tilsed, David Lindenmayer, Danny Moulis, Tony Henderson, Nick Boskov, Ivan Gruicic, Mike Black, Alan Bourke, Brian Stoddart, Stephen Hogg, John Brown, Roy Stark, Jim Cant, David O'Connor, Adrian Alston (from Tampa Bay Rowdies, US for the American off-season), John Stoddart, Keni Kawaleva. Coach: John Warren.

Peter Blasby, Bill Whiteside, Jim Campbell, Jimmy Tansey, Pat Bannon, Nick Rakovalis, Joe Tront, Vic Bannon, Jim O'Reilly, Bobby Provan, Andrew Bouzikas, Ken Taylor, Garry Cole, George Gillan, Branko Buljevic, Mike Glykokalamos. Coach: John Margaritis.

Dennis Boland, Miro Litvin, Andrew Kazi, Allan Parrott, Jim Milne, Jim Kondarios, Jim Kriaris, J. Piciaone, Frank Micic, Andy Ristic, Slobodan Zoraja, Mendo Ristovski, Stratos Adamgikis, Zoran /loski, Joe Palinkas. Coach: Cedo Cirkovic.

Lou Ivanoff, Paul Wilding, Alan Pongho, Mike Sinclair, Peter Vaughan, Dave Rigby, Walter Boskzuk, David Ellis, Paul Ontong, Geoff Ontong, Max Irvin, Mike Clarey, Barry Fairbrother, Nick Lowe, Mike Shuttleworth, Pat Lowry. Coach: Brian Edgeley.

Jack Reilly, John Kennedy, John Daperis, Kris Kalafatidis, Mike Pye, Bill Rogers, Ian Gibson, Arthur Xanthopoulos, M. Hatzimanoel, John Gardiner, Peter Ollerton, Graham French, Noel Mitten, Chris Kent, Lou Tsigaris, Duncan Cummings.
Coach: Kon Xanthopoulos.

John Perin, Ron lasello, David Leane, Tito Correia, Ian Bendall, John Pope, Brian Northcote, Roger Romanowicz, Ron Fraser, Sergio Melta, Frank Lister, Fred Yung, Tony La Paglia, Ian Di Bartolo, Philip Russo, John Besir, Garry Marocchi (from Perth), John Nyskohus, John Kosmina.
Coach: Edmund Kreft.

Sam Service, Martin Crook, Geza Farkas, Graham Honeyman, David Jones, Nick Pantelis, Phil Branson, John Kritikos, Gordon McCuliock, Allan Bourke, David Pillans, Neil McCaghey, Malcolm Haines, Barry Reynolds, Lucki Vagianos, Steve Amoi.
Coach: Howard Wells.

Few changes were made during the season; notable was that of Agenor Muniz, who left Hakoah after some disagreement with the club's coach. Of the 14 teams competing, one, Canberra City, was almost completely new and was considered the baby of the League. It did not figure very much through the season, but the team caused some surprises.

The favorites were St George, Marconi and Hakoah, all of Sydney with the former a little disappointing to the management and supporters of the club; while Marconi, though doing well in away matches, played its worst games on its home ground. Adelaide City, sponsored generously by Living Insurance and coached by Edmund Kreft, who once coached one of the best teams in Europe, the Legie of Warsaw (Poland), promised great things, and the club worked well. West Adelaide (late Hellas) had as patron no less than the Premier of South Australia, Don Dunstan. The club (as Hellas in the State League) won the State Championship five times, the Ampol Cup five times, and the Federation Cup as well as other iwnors, but found the National League a different proposition.

However, if never a serious threat to the leaders, it always figured among the teams at the top of the League table. Wests dominated the table for the first five weeks, but then had ups and downs when stiffer opposition was met. However, the team was built on solid basis and fought well throughout the season. Hakoah started well but then got in trouble and went from spectacular wins, to unexpected, unproductive results. However, the team with the Star of David stay a serious contender to the end.

Sydney Olympic changed its name from Pan Hellenic, a club representing the Greek community of Sydney. The team took quite some time to settle down and at first was near the bottom of the ladder. The club had the distinction of being the first team to stop the runaway leaders, Wests, giving them their first defeat of the season in the sixth week.

Marconi, coached by Rale Rasic, the ex-National coach, started shakily, but the Blues soon proved to be the team to beat. At one stage, though leading by three points, inter-club trouble developed with the coach who, with five weeks to go, gave notice that he would leave the club at the end of the season.

Naturally, this affected the players and the team lost some of its lustre. Some supporters felt that Rasic was dictating terms and this was resented by the armchair critics.

St George caused a sensation just before the competition started when they signed Phil O'Connor from Wollongong for a reported fee of about $8000. Other Sydney clubs were after the English striker and it was thanks to coach Manfred Schaefer that O'Connor finished with the Dragons. St George disappointed the fans and stayed in the middle of the points table. Halfway through the season Schaefer resigned, but his successor could not do any better.

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Click image to open!

Brisbane City, ex-Azzurri, an Italian club, was generously sponsored by Living Insurance. Their aspirations were to cut a good figure and to offer good arid sporting opposition, without aspiring to win the championship.
Generally they succeeded in this intention and didn't disappoint their supporters. Brisbane Lions were reinforced when they signed Col Bennet of the Socceroos from Apia, and George Potter from England. The Lions stayed near the bottom of the table throughout. With five games to go, the orange shirts caused an upset when they beat a tired Marconi side on the latter's home ground, thus bridging the difference in points between the leaders and their nearest rivals.

Footscray FC was known as JUST before changing its name to become more integrated into the local scene. The club relies on the personal ability of the players, and on that ability the club had won the State League of Victoria four times as well as other cups and trophies. In the National League, Footscray never figured prominently and did not get a win until the seventh week, when they beat Canberra City at home.

Fitzroy United proved to be a tough team at first and for a time was in third position after Wests and Marconi. It suffered its worst defeat of the season at the hands of the blues of Marconi, then surged back later in the season. Mooroolbark United, known as the "Dutch team" was another Victorian club to do badly. The "Barkers" were engaged with Brisbane Lions and Canberra City in a fight to avoid the wooden spoon. Mooroolbark did well in the State League of Victoria and were once finalists in the State League Cup; but they couldn't repeat that performance in the tougher, more professional National League.

South Melbourne has the greatest following in Victoria, but throughout the season it occupied the middle positions and was never a contender. This must have been very disappointing to its many supporters and the club needs major reinforcements for next season.

As in every National League in the world, the first national championship in Australia proved to contain three c classes of clubs - those trying to win the title of the nation's champions, those without great ambitions trying to hold their positions around the middle, and those few clubs fighting it out between themselves to avoid the wooden spoon. All in all, the first National League was well balanced, although it will be a better spectacle if some clubs amalgamated to be able to field a stronger combination.
There may be some additions later.

In fact, Newcastle, the traditional cradle of soccer in Australia, will be a new member in the League during the 1978 season while some other clubs that preferred to stay in the State League - notably, Apia - will probably try to join as well in the near future. It is too early to talk of relegation and promotion, but until this world-wide system is introduced, the competition will lack in interest. This is because around the sixth round the points table has normally settled which two or three clubs will be fighting for the championship. The clubs near the bottom of the points table, with nothing to win or lose, can become somewhat apathetic and this has a bearing on the general level of interest.

When apart from the championship there is also the spectre of relegation, then there are two battles being fought. Many times this produces tremendous football. Of course, relegation is closely connected to the financial health of the clubs. The management of a club taking the great step into National League plans to stay there. But on the other hand, a club should not be allowed to buy a place in the League; it has to work for it, and this is ensured by the threat of relegation. When this does happen the relegated team doesn't become a complete financial loss for the club, as some of the players can be traded. Whichever way one looks at it, the promotion and relegation system is the best; sooner or later it will be adopted.

It may be argued that teams winning the State League, which in this case could be considered the second division, may not want to join the National League, mainly because of their finances. This is something club managements have to study and solve.

One way is to canvas for big sponsorship. The first year of the National League was a success. The fact that in the end the two teams fighting it out for the championship honors were both from NSW is not significant, as some pundits maintain so fatalistically. Marconi, one of the leaders and a Sydney team, went down to Adelaide City 0-4, So did Sydney Olympic 0-4 to West Adelaide and 0-4 to Canberra City. These two Sydney clubs suffered their heaviest defeats not at the hands of other Sydney teams but by teams from other States. Another example was in the 11th round when the Adelaide City "zebras" joined Western Suburbs and Marconi on 16 points, only one goal behind Wests on goal average. The next week Adelaide was on top on goal average and equal points with Marconi.

The first day of the new League presented a surprise in that of the seven matches on the program, only one saw a win for the home team - Western Suburbs who beat Mooroolbark 5-0. Four wins were registered in away games - South Melbourne in Sydney against Olympic (2-0), West Adelaide in Canberra (3-1), Marconi in Queensland against Brisbane City (1-0), and Hakoah, who beat Fitzroy United 3-1 in Melbourne. This was repeated the following week when three teams won in away matches - Adelaide City who beat Marconi in Sydney 4-0, Western Suburbs' 1-0 win against West Adelaide in Adelaide, and Canberra City 1-0 against Lions in Brisbane. Obviously Australian teams are not affected by the syndrome of playing away that so affects European teams. By round two the only team that had not scored a point was Brisbane City who had lost both games - to Marconi 0-1 on their own ground in the first round, and St George 3.2 in Sydney.

By the third round, the only team on full points was Western Suburbs. Wests also led on goals - nine in three games without conceding one. The only other team with a virgin goal-line was Adelaide City, in second with two wins and one draw, 0-0 against Brisbane Lions in Adelaide on the first day. In the fourth round the number of away wins was five out of seven games with the other two games drawn. Teams playing away scored a total of 15 goals, while the home teams could manage only five. Western Suburbs were still leading on full points (eight), had piled up the highest number of goals, 12, and so far no team had scored against them. This honor was shared with Adelaide City, with eight goals for, nil against. The team that had seen most goals' stored against them and first reached double figures (10) was Mooroolbark; while Lions of Brisbane, at the bottom of the table with only one point - a draw in Adelaide against Adelaide City: on the first day - was the only team that had not scored a goal. Also on the fourth day, two teams, Hakoah and South Melbourne, who had previously not lost a match, went down - Hakoah to Marconi 2-4, and South Melbourne 0-1 on its own ground to Brisbane City.

This left Western Suburbs and Adelaide City the only unbeaten teams. In the fifth round saw the two leaders meet in Adelaide. Wests won 2-1 and bagged both points, to remain the only team with full points, 10 out of five games. To Adelaide went the honor of first putting a goal into the net of Wests. Adelaide were a bit unlucky when three times in this match Terry Eaton, the Western Suburbs' goalkeeper, was saved by the goal posts.

Marconi, winning 3-0 against South Melbourne, dislodged Adelaide City from the runner-up position with eight points. At the other end of the points table, Brisbane Lions scored their first goal of the season, although they lost 4-1 to Fitzroy in Melbourne. Lions, together with Footscray and Mooroolbark had yet to win a game.

In the sixth round Western Suburbs had to lower the flag when they went down 2-0 at the hands of Sydney Olympic. As a result, coupled to Marconi's away win against lowly-placed Mooroolbark (3-2), the Blues of Bossley Park joined the leaders on 10 points. Both teams had five wins and one loss, but Wests were still leading on goal average, having scored 14 goals against three, while Marconi, equal on the number of goals scored (14), had nine goals scored against them. Hakoah-Eastern Suburbs became the first team to score six goals in one match when they beat Adelaide City 6-1, and moved into third, two points behind the leaders. Previously the record was held by Western Suburbs, 5-0 against Mooroolbark in the first round. Fitzroy, with a 1-0 win in Canberra moved from sixth to fourth on equal points with Hakoah. Footscray, Mooroolbark and Brisbane Lions were still without a win. Last were Brisbane Lions with only one point.

The seventh round saw Marconi sole leaders on 12 points for the first time as a result of their 2-1 win over West Adelaide. Also for the first time,Western Suburbs lost their position at the head of the table when they drew with Fitzroy in Melbourne 2-2, after being two goals down. Brisbane City, the last team to gain a point in the third round when they held Hakoah to a scoreless draw in Brisbane, had in the meantime quietly worked their way up to sixth place on seven points. Footscray left the "No Wins Club" as they downed Canberra City 3-0. The only two teams without a win were now Mooroolbark with two points and Brisbane Lions with one point.

Mooroolbark were also the team with most goals scored against them - 21, 10 of which were registered in two games, 0-5 against Western Suburbs on the opening day, and 1-5 at the hands of St George. On the credit side, Mooroolbark had scored seven goals, an average of one goal per match, against Lions' two goals scored in six games. (Lions had one game in hand at this stage).

The eighth round saw the leaders, Marconi, held to a 1-1 draw by Brisbane Lions, who by this draw brought their points tally to two. However, as Western Suburbs were held to a scoreless draw by Footscray in Sydney, the first two positions at the top remained unchanged - Marconi leading on 13 points; Wests runners-up one point behind.

This round was marred by ugly scenes at the end of the West Adelaide-St George match in Adelaide when a group of the South Australian club's supporters invaded the ground when the referee awarded a free kick from which St George got the equaliser. The match ended in a 3-3 draw.

In the ninth round, Wests again joined Marconi at the top of the League thanks to their 1-0 away win against Brisbane City. Marconi in a downpour ended 0-0 with Canberra City. Marconi now had in its lineup file Italian First Division guest player, Roberto Vieri, who showed his class even on an impossible ground. This was the round when the fewest goals were scored so far in the National League - from seven matches.

Only one team, South Melbourne, scored twice, against Mooroolbark, 2-0. Marconi-Canberra and St George-Brisbane Lions couldn't produce a single goal between them. Hakoah and West Adelaide tied 1-1; while Footscray, Wests and Adelaide City beat Sydney Olympic, Brisbane City and Fitzroy United respectively by 1-0. At the bottom of the points table, Brisbane Lions and Mooroolbark, each with three points, hadn't yet had a win.

The 10th round saw the two leaders confronting each other. Wests, playing at home, chose their new ground of Englefield. This was not perhaps a very good decision as the ground is not handy to transport and its whereabouts almost unknown to most soccer fans; so much so, that only about 2500 people saw the most important match of the competition at this stage. The result of the match was 1-1. Rooney of Marconi dribbled past Terry Eaton, the Wests' goalkeeper to put his team ahead in the 70th minute, while Wests got the equaliser five minutes from full-time through Clive Eaton.

At the head of the table, Wests and Marconi shared the lead on 15 points, with Wests leading on goal average, 18-16, Marconi 18-12. Close behind the leaders were Adelaide City with 14 points. Lions and Mooroolbark both
lost and stayed on three points.

In the 11th round both Marconi and Western Suburbs drew; the first with Sydney Olympic 0-0, and Wests with St George, 1-1. Taking advantage of these two draws, Adelaide City by beating Footscray 4-1 joined the leaders on 16 points. The high score even helped the Zebras to overtake Marconi with a goal average of 21 to 10, against Marconi's 18-12. Two points behind the three leaders lurked Hakoah-Eastern Suburbs with 14 points. Down at the bottom, Mooroolbark had their fourth draw and showed four points, leaving Brisbane Lions on three points, but with one match in hand.

With the 12th round, two points separated Wests from the leaders for the first time in the League. This was when Western Suburbs lost to Hakoah 3-4. Adelaide City beat West Adelaide 4-1 in the local derby to stay on top with 18 points together with Marconi, who bettered Eastern Suburbs' record for goals scored in one match (6-1 to Adelaide City in the sixth round) by beating Fitzroy 8-1 in Melbourne. Hakoah-Eastern Suburbs stayed in third position by beating Wests and was showing serious' signs of doing even better. At the bottom of the ladder, it was a direct clash between Mooroolbark and Brisbane Lions. The Queenslanders emerged the winners by two goals to one, and with this, their first win, they overtook Mooroolbark who now were the only team in the League who had not won a game and were at the bottom with four points.

The 13th round ended the first leg of the championship. Six of the 14 teams had still one game to play - South Melbourne, St George, Sydney Olympic, Footscray, Canberra City and Brisbane Lions.

After just one week at second last, Brisbane Lions went back to the bottom when they lost to West Adelaide 5-1. Rivals Mooroolbark celebrated the end of the first leg by winning their first game of the season in grand style beating Canberra City 3-1. Now there were no teams without a win; Lions had the consolation of a game in hand. At the top, Wests were showing signs of slowing down. The four points separating them from the leaders were too much for a team in this condition. They had lost their early brilliance, and although there was still a long way to go the signs were there that coach Mike Laing had to improve his boys' performance.

Hakoah-Eastern Suburbs were playing consistently and at only three points behind Marconi were not too worried. But Adelaide City was the team worrying the leaders at this stage. Marconi's march had been characterised by convincing wins against the better teams and disappointing results against the lesser sides. However, with players like Maher, Richards (pictured right), Rooney and Campbell, the Marconi Blues would be there at the end.

The second leg started with Adelaide City regaining the lead on equal points with Marconi, whom they again beat (1-0) in Adelaide. Hakoah drew with Footscray 2-2 in Melbourne and on 18 points was still two points behind the joint leaders. Western Suburbs closed the gap from four to tltree points while no change was registered in the middle positions. At the bottom, Mooroolbark got their second consecutive win -heady stuff! - by beating, somewhat surprisingly, Sydney Olympic 2-1 in Sydney, and were now third from the bottom on eight points. Brisbane Lions beat Canberra City 2-1 and now shared last place with Johnny Warren's boys from the Australian capital.

In the 15th round Marconi increased their lead by one point over Adelaide City, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Brisbane Lions, while Marconi beat Brisbane City 1-0. Hakoah-Eastern Suburbs helped by being held to a 1-1 draw in Sydney by Fitzroy United. However, Western Suburbs succeeded in getting back into the top four. The Reds defeated lowly Mooroolbark in Melbourne and by this win joined Hakoah in third position on 19 points, three points behind the leaders, and by no means out of it. Canberra City drew "away" with West Adelaide, and Brisbane Lions held runners-up Adelaide City to a 1-1 draw, each gaining a point over Mooroolbark who lost at home to Western Suburbs. Thus three teams shared the bottom position with eight points each.

None of the three teams on top improved their position in the 16th round. Two of them, Marconi and Hakoah-Eastern Suburbs, clashed at the Marconi Oval in a 1-1 draw, to show 23 and 20 points respectively, while Adelaide was held to a similar result on their own ground by St George. This benefited Western Suburbs who beat Canberra City decisively 3-1 to take Hakoah's spot in third place with 21 points. Meanwhile, the three bottom teams all lost their games; Canberra to Wests, Mooroolbark to Footscray 0-1; and Brisbane Lions to Sydney Olympic 0-1. There was thus no change at the bottom of the League ladder except that Footscray, by their win over Mooroolbark, increased their tally to 13 points.

In round 17, St George repeated their performance of the last round and held Marconi to a scoreless draw. However, the one point difference separating the leaders from runners-up, Adelaide City, stayed unchanged. Adelaide could do no better than a draw with Canberra, who this advanced to nine points. Hakoah closed the gap and though still third, the Bondi club was now only two points behind the leaders. Western Suburbs alone among the top four failed to add any points from this round when they were resoundingly beaten 4-0 by none other than wooden spooners Brisbane Lions. This was also the heaviest defeat Wests suffered in the competition so far. Meanwhile, another club was coming up fast; Fitzroy United, who after their 1-8 defeat by Marconi in the 12th round had never gone down again. The Victorians had accumulated seven points from five games for two wins and three draws, and were now fifth on equal points (19) with West Adelaide. The bottom three, who had not won a point between them in the last two outings., now showed a dramatic change, due mainly to Lions' win against Wests. The Queenslanders were now third from the bottom with 10 points, leading Canberra City with nine and bottom of the table Mooroolbark with eight points.

The 18th round benefited mootly the leaders, who by beating South Melbourne 2-1 were now two points ahead of their nearest rivals. All the others, Hakoah, Adelaide City and Western Suburbs, did not score a win. Fitzroy suffered their first defeat since the 12th round while West Adelaide advanced two points at the expense of Footscray, whom they beat. Canberra City emulated the exploits of Brisbane Lions and downed Sydney Olympic 4-0 to show 11 points; while Lions at their second consecutive win were third from the bottom on 12. Mooroolbark held Brisbane City to a 1-1 draw, a tally of nine points. A goal by Mariani gave Marconi the necessary two points to stay at the top. Mooroolbark did everything they could to stop the leaders, but the Bossley Park Blues had too much class for the lowly Victorians. Adelaide City lost at home to Hakoah (1-2). Western Suburbs defeated Sydney Olympic 3-0. The other important results were: Fitzroy-Canberra City 2-0; Brisbane City-West Adelaide 1-0. All three teams at the bottom lost and in that nether region positions were unchanged.

The 20th round; and with six rounds to go, Marconi kept on their winning streak and in Adelaide beat West Adelaide 1-0 to stay leaders. Hakoah dropped a point when they drew with South Melbourne 0-0; and Western Suburbs loot to Fitzroy 0-1. Among the battlers at the bottom, Mooroolbark out-barked the Dragons to get another two points from their 1-0 victory. The Lions beat Brisbane City 2-1 in the Queensland local derby.

In the 21st round the lion's share was taken by Brisbane Lions, who beat the leaders at the Marconi Oval by one goal to nothing, the goal scored by Fagan halfway through the first half. Thus Marconi's lead dwindled to a single point over Hakoah-Eastern Suburbs, who beat Mooroolbark 3-0 at home. Adelaide City won against South Melbourne 2-0 to retain third. Canberra City beat Brisbane City away. With five games before the finish, the top three were: Marconi 30 points, Hakoah 29, and Adelaide City 26. The last three points difference all but cut Adelaide City from the running for the championship and the first National League suddenly became a two horse race. At the other end, Brisbane Lions had worked their way out of real trouble and had joined Sydney Olympic on 18 points. After this pair came Brisbane City who after some good effort had failed badly and were one point behind; then Canberra with 13 points, and finally Mooroolbark 11 points. After going down to: the Lions, Marconi lost again the next week to Canberra City, again by a single goal. With this defeat, Marconi lost the leadership they had held, singly or with other clubs, for 16 rounds. Now the leaders were Hakoah, with Marconi one point behind.

Round 23 saw the first score in double figures when Adelaide City beat the hapless Mooroolbark to the tune of 10-3. This was the new record, that demolished the one established in the 12th round when Marconi beat Fitzroy United 8-1 in Melbourne. Hakoah had a win against Brisbane Lions at Wentworth Park and kept the lead on 33 points, while Marconi downed Western Suburbs to stay within distance of the leaders. Three points behind was Fitzroy United on 29. Fitzroy was patently the most improved side in the League, but they had started their sprint too late to worry the two Sydney teams. Adelaide City had now dropped out of the race in spite of the big win against Mooroolbark. Western Suburbs, who had shown so much promise, were now eight points behind the leaders. . . they were paying for their inexperience.

Coach Mike Laing has the job ahead, and must find more players of the same class as Norris. With three rounds to go, Eastern Suburbs stumbled in Canberra just as Marconi had done a few days before, although not to the same extent. Marconi had returned from the capital empty-handed; Hakoah came back with one point. This game was played on the Saturday and next day Hakoah watched Marconi beat Sydney Olympic 2-0.

Easts' draw in Canberra gave them a total of 34 points. Marconi's win gave them two points to equal Hakoah. To the two leaders it was back to square one. Of the two teams, Hakoah looked on paper better placed for the championship, not only because of their better goal average, but because the last two games were to be played in Sydney.

Of these two matches only one looked comparatively hard, that against Western Suburbs. Marconi's last two games looked rather tougher, especially the forthcoming one against Fitzroy United, who on 29 points still had a mathematical chance of taking the title provided they won both matches and Hakoah and Marconi lost theirs. Against Sydney Olympic, Marconi had scored two goals in the first half. Within two minutes of the changeover, the referee showed the red card to an Olympic player. Their supporters did not take kindly to the ref's marching orders and invaded the ground in an ugly mood. Their own players and team officials had to protect the referee from the angry mob. All this affected both teams, for
Olympic played much better with 10 men, than in the first half when they were a full team. On the contrary, Marconi took it easy and except for Richards, the blues looked a bunch of amateurs out to have a few kicks on a Sunday - nothing like a team engaged in a duel for the new League's honors. It's true that after the incident, when the game was interrupted for seven minutes, the Marconi players looked as if they had no further interest in the game and allowed Olympic to shine, but this shouldn't have happened.

Round 25: Hakoah-Eastern Suburbs v. Wests; Marconi v. Fitzroy. For a few minutes Marconi must have felt they had won the championship. This was when late in the game, with their game scoreless, the PA announcement said that Hakoah were trailing one goal down to Western Suburbs. At that precise moment, Marconi doubled their efforts and for a few minutes it looked as if their goal, and victory, was In the air. However, this elation did not last long; less than 10 minutes later, another announcement said that Hakoah had equalised. This was a dramatic moment for Marconi. At that moment the two leaders were equal again. Then Marconi's hopes slumped when towards the end the same P A system announced that Hakoah had won 2-1. As a last gasp, with only three minutes to the final whistle, Rooney came close to victory for Marconi when from a perfect pass by his team mate, Sharne he just missed the goal. The Marconi-Fitzroy match ended in a scoreless draw which left Marconi only a slim chance of winning the championship. Hakoah finally had to play in Sydney against third last Sydney Olympic. On the other hand, Marconi, trailing a point, had to meet Footscray in Melbourne. Hakoah had to be hot favorites.

Marconi's big hope, Ernie Campbell, was evidently out of form. In the match against Fitzroy he rarely touched the ball, and when he did, he was erratic - so much so that he proved a hindrance, rather than a help. Campbell relied on his old skill of dribbling a ball past opponents that he normally left behind with a remarkable body swerve. But this time it was surprising and fisappointing to see him insisting on a number of dribbling moves he couldn't pull off. Another player guilty of holding the ball too long was Degney, normally a very reliable and consistent player. Many times, especially in the first half Degney clung to the ball, trying to dodge opponents against whom he punctually lost it. Richards, to a lesser degree, did the same. The best men, apart from Maher who did his job well and twice saved his team from certain defeat, and the usual Prskalo, were Sharne (pictured right) and Rooney. Richards, too, towards the end, was his usual self. Fitzroy played a good game and the point gained at Marconi Oval was fully deserved. The Marconi players must have wondered whether this was the same Fitzroy they thrashed 8-1 in the first leg.

Now Marconi had to beat the other Victorian club, Footscray, in Melbourne I in the last round. On the other hand, Hakoah needed only a draw from their! last game against Sydney Olympic, to be ' played in Sydney.


The last day of the Philips National League couldn't have been more dramatic. Up to the kick-off, Hakoah had scored 52 League goals to 28 against -an advantage of 24 goals. This was very important because if the two drew on points, the championship would be decided on goal average. Against those 24 goals Marconi had 20 goals - 38 to 18. The difference between the teams was only four goals. This was really a lot, because Hakoah was playing in Sydney against a team - Sydney Olympic - that never shone at any time in 1977. By contrast, Marconi, one point down and four goals against them, had to beat one of the most improved teams in the game. Marconi's task was near-impossible. The impossible happened - with 10 minutes of play left. Up to that time, Marconi was leading, Footscray 4-0. At the same time in Sydney, Hakoah, which among other things failed to score from a penalty, was held to a nil all draw by Sydney Olympic. The four goals were what Marconi needed to play a final with Hakoah. But then it all fell apart. Marconi's net was hit three times in nine minutes, and Eastern Suburbs-Hakoah were the first National Champions.

At the other end of the table, poor Mooroolbark picked this last day to achieve the greatest win of the season for the club, beating Canberra in the Federal Capital by no less than four goals to one.