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Frank Hearn Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 19:57

The arrival of Frank Hearn in Sydney in March 1956 was big sports news in a rapidly developing sporting city. The 'larrikin' from Crystal Palace had decided to leave the colder climes of England in search of an adventure in the land down under. Like so many others who came before and after him Frank decided to emigrate and was signed by the equally ambitious Gladesville-Ryde soccer club in Sydney. Gladesville-Ryde in Sydney's north-west were a district club which needed an injection of experience and with a top line footballing pedigree from England he was the ideal choice.

Frank was born in Camden in England and by his late teens he was on the playing roster at Torquay United. A transfer to Northampton Town followed before he finally made his first team debut with Crystal Palace in 1954. The following season he was transfer listed and with the blessing of his club he decided to immigrate to Australia. Only three players in Sydney soccer at the time had any professional experience in England. There was Joe Marston at A.P.I.A.Leichhardt, Billy Walsh the former Sunderland and Darlington centre half at Hakoah and his teammate Billy Murphy an inside forward at Exeter City. When Frank arrived, it made four high-profile English players and Sydney soccer was set to benefit.

I caught up with Frank at his home in Sydney's eastern suburbs and started by asking him how it all started in coming to Australia.

FH : "I was on the transfer list and I thought I would come down here. There was only Billy Walsh and he came from Sunderland and Billy Murphy from Exeter City. I had an offer to go to Los Angeles and play football in America but I thought I'd give Australia a try and haven't looked back since. Johnny Thompson was the guy who bought me out here because Johnny was playing for Gladesville then. There were players at Gladesville like Rex Foster, Tommy Rowles, Bede Greenfield, and Maxy Walker. I was only there for six months before the federation started and I went to Hakoah."

GS : When you transferred there you were one of the highest priced players at that point in Australian soccer. What was it like?
FH : "When I signed with Hakoah I got a thousand pounds and a brand new car. The supporters were all mainly Jewish and they had a lot of clothing factories. You could always go down to their factories and pick up a couple of shirts or a coat and you still got your wages. The top teams then were always Hakoah, APIA and St. George Budapest. I never thought I'd see the day when there was no Hakoah club in this country."

GS : Where did you go from there?
FH : "After I left Hakoah and I went with the Australian side down to Melbourne and I decided to stay and play with Wilhelmina. I had six months there and had a good time playing at the Melbourne Showground. My wife wasn't real happy down there so we came back here and then I went to Pan Hellenic."

GS : What were the major differences with training in England and Australia?
FH : "Over there and I don't know why it was never bought in here. We'd go in (to the club) for injuries, Tuesday we'd have a practise match, Wednesday and Thursday were training and Friday a small for half an hour and then we'd have sprints. Sprints and nothing else where you would run on your toes not flat-footed and I've never seen that out here.

GS : And in Europe?
FH : "There was France and Belgium and when I went to Holland on tour they were more or less turning pro. There was no money there. America was just starting up their pro football in Los Angeles. I was 23 when I came out here. I went back with my wife and played a few games for non-league Romford. The skills were there but the pace is one step faster. When your playing full-time your one step faster. We used to train hard and we had some good coaches out here."

GS : Plenty of highly talented European players followed your footsteps into the early 1960's. Players like Alick Jeffrey.
FH : He broke his leg for England against France and his club said go out to Australia and get yourself fit. So he came out here and liked it. He went back and played with Doncaster and bought a pub and suffered a car accident. He had a stocky build. There was Danny Clapton and he played for England against Juventus. Gordon Nutt and he were in television out here for a while but he played for Coventry and Arsenal. Erwin Ninaus played for the Austrian B-side after being out here. Joe Galeczka went back and played for Poland. Phil Botallicco, Archie Blue, John Giacommetti, Willie Rutherford and his brother Harry and Danny Walsh, Keith Jones who played for Wales and Doug Holden played for Bolton. There were a lot of personalities in those days"

GS : And of course the high-profile Len Quested. What were your thoughts on him?
FH : Lenny was always a smart player. He played the old English way, getting the ball push it around and tackle hard. I always remembered what Lenny Quested said to me years ago - give me an Aussie defence and a pommy forward line and it always made a lot of sense in them days. You could always have a joke with Lenny. His nickname was Bugs as in Bugs Bunny. What I liked about him was he had ten Australian boys around him as he was the only overseas player in the side and he got them all working hard and they won through to the final. He was one player who other players in England said should have won a full cap. He got a B cap against Turkey but should have got a full cap. You could be drinking with him the night before but he would still give it to you, always very fair though."

GS : And you coached his son Gary at Auburn.
FH : "Its funny how son and father are different. Now Gary was a ball player very quick. Lenny was a ball player but he played the game simple. Get in, push it and run."

GS : You played for Australia against Hearts with Len in 1959.
FH : "Yeah I scored the only goal for Australia that day. We played Hearts and they had won the Scottish league by eight clear points. They had a few Scottish internationals playing for them Murray, Willie Bauld, and Hamilton. It was a good game and a good crowd."

Frank Hearn retired from playing in 1964 after stints with Gladesville-Ryde, Wilhelmina, Hakoah and Pan Hellenic. He went on to start a lengthy coaching career with Pan Hellenic, Auburn, Prague and Hakoah where his ability to relate to his players often saw him as a popular figure in the soccer scene of the 1960s.

These days Frank has settled in the eastern suburbs of Sydney where he has retired from all things soccer. That is apart from a regular kick around on a Sunday morning in the Rose Bay area. Formeroos like Roy Blitz and Archie Blue are regulars as are soccer identities Harry Michaels, Charlie Perkins and David Hill.

Frank in his own words 'captains both sides' but its more of a reflection of Franks love for the game that now into his 60s he still feels the need to don the boots and to have a run with some of the lads that made this game famous many moons ago.