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Frank Parsons Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 19:58

In Jack Pollard's Soccer Records, Sid Grant the legendary soccer statistician and historian describes Frank Parsons as "One of the many Novocastrians who went to Sydney from northern NSW to win every honour the code could offer. Parsons was robust in his approach work in the tackle. In the air he was a real "killer". At times he showed that degree of impetuosity that one expects from an auburn-haired youth full of vigour".

In an era of great forwards Frank was one of the best. Playing centre-forward for the Leichhardt-Annandale club alongside such greats as Joe Marston, George Russell and Harry Robertson, Frank became a standout player in a great side. He set new goalscoring records for his club (69 goals in the 1947 season) in a career that saw him as a regular in the NSW and Australian sides. He toured South Africa and New Zealand with the Socceroos scoring a whopping 16 goals in international football.

In the end it was the politics of soccer that saw his premature retirement as a player but Frank threw himself into the administration of the newly formed NSW soccer federation with the same vigour and commitment with which he had worn the green and gold. Over a cup of tea and his old scrapbooks Frank took me right back to the beginning to where his long and distinguised soccer career first started.

FP : "Adamstown Public School. I was seven not quite eight in third class I was a youngster. With 'Squida' Dunn and myself, we were picked in the under tens. From there I played with nobody but Adamstown right through to U-18 grade. In the last couple of years I had a few games with the senior team and when the war started I turned eighteen and went away in June '44 so I missed out the rest of that season and all of the following year. I was posted up to Williamtown so I could get back to Adamstown and I thought I could get a few games at the end of '45 but of course they had their team and they didn't want anybody else then. Coming back then they hadn't known me for a couple of years so I had a couple of games with Dudley.

They were playing against places like Lysaghts and those teams around Newcastle.

I played three games with them and we won that competition (laughing). In the next year I thought I'd better go back to Adamstown and play and I travelled up and down from Sydney. Trained on Bondi beach which was hopeless trying to train on your own and then travelling up on Friday night and back on Sunday night. So I played with them for the whole of '46 and at the end of '46 I said "This is no good, can I have a transfer?".

You were signed for life back in those days and there was no such thing as a transfer. Anyhow I pestered them for a while and they understood that if I didn't get a transfer I wasn't going to keep travelling up and down because it was too much. I used to get the paper trains, which took six or seven hours just to get to Newcastle and that was a good fast trip.

So yes, I could have a transfer to Metters. So I had everything signed up. We were down in Sydney to play a team, and I wasn't a drinker in those days but all our mob were terrible and they'd go to the pub and have a few beers. I remember Ernie Screen and a few others were in Radistocks Hotel over at Leichhardt and somebody said something about football and what we were going to do this year and I said I won't be playing next year, I'll be in Sydney. I said I've got a transfer and I've got to present it today. We were playing Metters in a Everson Cup game at Arlington Oval and he said 'You've got your transfer, give us a look at it'. So I dug it out and gave him a look at it with my chest out (laughing) and he showed evrybody 'Look what Frank's got'. Then he tore it up and threw it on the floor. So that was the end of Metters.

But a fortnight later Bill Orr came to see me where I was living (in Leichhardt) and he offered me ten pounds to play with Leichhardt. That was the big deal and ten pounds in those days was more than a months board. So it was good money and I said thanks very much I'll play with Leichhardt under these conditions. If you agree with the conditions that I play as a midfielder. He stuck to his conditions for ten minutes (laughing). Metters folded up many years later so I would have been with somebody else anyway.

GS : You enjoyed your time at Leichhardt-Annandale?

FP : "Leichhardt were a good mob. Old Jock Parkes you couldn't have had a better father figure in the team. He was a quiet man very good footballer, very solid, a gentleman and in his own quiet way made me feel at ease. If I was in strife you could always go and talk to him and he'd tell you how stupid you were (laughing). I played with them right through to the end of 1954."

GS : You made your Socceroo debut on the New Zealand tour of 1948

FP : "Yes thats right. We went to New Zealand by flying boat. We took off from Rose Bay and we headed out in the general direction of Auckland (laughing) and when we got pretty well established out over the waters and we were looking out over the port side and I said to Allan Johns who was sitting beside me. "Hey, that can't be right". I'd been in the air force and I'd seen planes crash and I said ' theres something wrong with that motor its leaking oil'. A little while later there were a few puffs of smoke, nothing bad and the hostess was coming through looking after us and I said 'come here and have a look at this that can't be right, theres oil coming out of that motor'. So she went up front and by that time it was flame as well as smoke and we were flying at about 10,000 feet. As soon as the pilot saw it he feathered that prop and came around as he was just beyond the point of no return, down to 1,000 feet and bought her down straight through the heads back to Rose Bay. So we thought that's a bit of luck what do we do now? So the old Association booked us into one of the hotels in town and took us out to the races at Rosehill and entertained us, took us back and gave us dinner and said your leaving at 11 o'clock. We left about midnight on the first of the Constellations that flew out from England to New Zealand and that was a luxury after the old flying boat, the Sunderland. So thats how we finally got to New Zealand. We left at midnight here and it was daylight when we finally got in so it was a five hour trip at least."

GS : On that tour you played about nine games and in one particular match you scored six goals. Do you remember much about that game?

FP : "That was in Wellington and I had an uncle who lived over there and I was most anxious to do something to please him (laughing). That was how I got some of the stuff thats in my scrapbook. Uncle Tom used to get the papers and send them home to mum and mum would cut out the bits and stick them up."

GS : You played for Australia against Hajduk Split from Croatia in 1949.

FP : "Yes I remember the first introduction I had to that team was at the (Sydney) Showground and they beat us 4-1. I came off the field with red and blue marks from the base of my neck to my tail. They were clever. The fellow who was their stopper, centre half, was named Katnik.

I'd have been a good six inches taller than him but he was nuggety and he had all the skills of a ballet dancer. If we went up in the air for a ball and no matter where I went he'd go straight up over my back with knees and elbows. Quite legitimate because he didn't use his hands to pull me back but I could feel him all through that game and when I came home I was blue and red.

But we were outplayed by them. They were a much more professional side than we were. The best chance we had to beat them was when they beat us scoring 6 goals in Brisbane, but we had them over a barrel. We'd had a penalty and scored and we got another one and then we were leading 2-0 and we got another penalty and they all walked off the field - goalkeeper and everybody! By that time I had the ball on the spot and I said 'Don't worry about it, we'll score, its an extra goal for us'. Anyhow there was a kerfuffle and the referee was calling them back.

He came over and he was quite ready for us to score the goal even if they were off the field. It would mean the end of the game. Anyway Cec Drummond walked up to the ball and kicked it straight over the side for a throw-in where they were towards the stand. They immediately picked up the ball and threw it in to one of them. We were all standing up near the penalty area and they just went through and scored a goal. From then on they just went through us and scored five or six goals."

GS : So what was their objection to the game?

FP : "They weren't happy with the penalty. We'd already had two penalties and this was another one. They were all legitimate penalties but they were so much more professional than us, we wouldn't have tried to get away with the things that they tried to get away with. With our referees they were pulled up if they did any kicking from behind or subtle little trips but they were a very good team. I went back and renewed acquaintances with some of them thirty years later in 1979. I went back to Split with Nancy (my wife) and met them. They knew we were coming and took us up to their new ground and then they organised a trip for us around Yugoslavia.

We had a lovely time there. I spent some time with Red Star where Vladimir Beara who had been their goalkeeper in '49 was the goalkeeping coach. So I'd go down every morning about eleven o'clock and spend a few hours with a few of them. About two o'clock they'd all turn up because they all worked and they'd have the full afternoon being coached which was an eye opener. I would have liked to spend more time with them because they had methods of coaching which we hadn't even thought of. I had never been coached in my life except by an ex-player who said I am the manager of the team and I'll look after you and see that you get to the right place on the right day."

GS : Most of the Australian teams of the 40's and 50's didn't even have one training session before their matches!

FP : "Never. Well the team that went to New Zealand (1948) we had players from Queensland, South Australia, a goalkeeper and one other and I hadn't seen them before in my life. One was a little fella who could play on the wing and the goalkeeper who I guess were selected to introduce someone from that part of the world to an Australian side."

GS : On tour did you train together and develop a combination?

FP : "You did everything together alright but there was no method about it because we didn't have a coach who could present us with a method. It was in your own sight and if you saw somebody there who was capable of doing something you kind of fitted in. But there was no method in teamwork you just fitted in as well as you could. The only time we planned anything as players was on the South African tour, but in New Zealand there was absolutely nothing.

Cec Drummond was our captain and with all due respects to Cec he was not really able to sit and talk to anybody about football because he didn't have a great capacity for conversation. Our managers over there were unhelpful. Neither of them were soccer players and neither of them would have known anything more than the fundamentals they had picked up from being spectators."

GS : So there was not even a coach appointed?

FP : "When we were playing we didn't ever have a coach. We'd pick up a rubber somewhere. While we were in South Africa we picked up one of their rubbers. We had two managers who couldn't have said anything about how to pick a team or deciding on a playing method against a team over there they might have seen, nobody knew anything. It was pathetic. We had Bobby Lawrie who had played football in England and he was very able as a player and a method came into the team through him. Then we had Tom Jack who was the first stopper centre half we had. Now we had never played the stopper centre half system in defence until we went across there and didn't have any idea until we went across (to South Africa). We would feel our way and Tom would tell us what his role was and what he felt were the other roles around him and we did the best we could under those circumstances. So they were more skilled than us in those games because many of their players were playing in the U.K. and they'd come back to be in the national side. They were being coached professionally in England so that meant it wasn't strange to them at all."

GS : On the South African tour you scored a whopping 16 goals yet you were in and out of the Australian team. Was there a reason behind that?

FP : "The first test I played in was the third test. I spoke to management about one game I wasn't involved in but I was given a negative answer like 'your turn might come'. In that third test we won and I scored both the goals and when I came off the field at the end of that game the senior manager who was known very well to my family in Newcastle congratulated everybody as they came off the field except me (laughing). I was ignored, not that it worried me very much because I had a few words to say to him."

GS : So even at that stage of Socceroo history politics was creeping into the team management and selection of the team.

FP : "Oh yes. But you see the manager from NSW was antagonistic, he had been before I went away. The other one was from Queensland. 'Bunny' Nunn was from Queensland, and we were the pair of strikers, but really only one of us was supposed to be in the team at a time. Even though in the last test we both played thank goodness, because 'Bunny' scored the goal that allowed us to win that game.

I did go over (to South Africa) under a cloud. I got out of hospital after being sent off at Leichhardt after having a bit of trouble against Bankstown and I finished up being carted away to hospital and waking up three days later. Then a lot of people thought I shouldn't have gone but when I got over there I wasn't too bad but I wasn't as fit as what I should've been. I played in the first couple of games and scored a goal in each of them but I wasn't playing in top gear. So you can put the first time I got dropped down to the fact that I wasn't playing as well as I should have. Maybe the other players looked better on the field than I did."

GS : There was also some selection trouble before the team even went away, with Australia's greatest ever striker Reg Date being excluded from the squad.

FP : "Reg Date didn't make either of those tours to New Zealand or South Africa and he should have made both of them. Reg was about two and a half years older than me and he should have been the first picked to go to New Zealand. Yet he didn't even play in the interstate game we played. We had a game at the old Cricket Ground number two to finalise the team to go to New Zealand between New South Wales and Queensland. Now I wasn't picked in that team and I went away courting Nancy (his wife) where she was teaching up in Orange. Somehow they contacted me up there and said you've got to be back to play football tomorrow. So I got the night train back went out to my digs and had breakfast. I didn't get any sleep and went out and played and we beat Queensland about 6-0 and I don't know where Reg was. He should have been in but he wasn't. He was the outstanding player of those years, no doubt about that."

GS : That makes it even more hard to understand his omission.

FP : "Well I can't either. I don't know if there was any antagonism between him and any of the selection panel on the board. I was a very quiet and mild sort of fella while Reg was outspoken. But you wouldn't think anything would come up between a player and an adminstrator that would exclude selection from an Australian squad."

GS : I would liken that non selection to say the current Australian cricket team leaving out Steve Waugh, the best current Australian batsman.

FP : "It would be at least as serious as that - at least. I can still remember times playing against the pair of them with Artie Quill and Reg (Date) together with Artie laying balls off to Reg and belting them in the back of the net. He'd do them from ten metres or thirty metres it didn't make any difference. As a foil for a centre forward to be playing to him left or right he could do the job of any inside forward. I just don't know what could have gone wrong with him and he couldn't either. Until he died I was in pretty close contact with Reg. We had a few nights together in Newcastle and enjoyed each others company. He just loved to talk about soccer. Reg was a character and that pub of his........"

GS : I'm told Reg's pub was a haven for the soccer community of Newcastle.

FP : "And fighters. I think he fought most of the Sands brothers who'd come and try to knuckle on with him. He'd take them out the back and give them a belting and send them on their way (laughing). He was an athlete but the problem with him was he had some kind of problem that made him a little bit different in his movements but it didn't stop his agility with a soccer ball. He was a tough hombre Reg, the right man for a hotel."

GS : In 1951 England toured Australia. You played against them both for New South Wales and for Australia. Were you at the 'infamous' 17-0 flogging of Australia.

FP : " I had a beer every second time they scored. I was in the members bar and it was a terrible day. Mud up to their ankles and our fellas couldn't handle it at all. Datey played that day and they told me I was dropped and Reg was in because I couldn't play in wet weather (laughing) and that was fair enough and I didn't miss that game at all. There was no replacements in those days you were either in or out. I finished up spending the afternoon with George Russell in the members stand."

GS : Were they are a far superior side or was it just they adapted better to the ground conditions.

FP : "The wet weather was a lot to blame because we'd played them in the dry and they beat us 4-1. I scored that goal and it was the only time my name has been up on the board at the Cricket Ground (laughing) and I hit the bar in the second half. But we had a few chances and they scored four good goals and that was the difference between the teams. 17-0 was not an indication that we were so far behind really. I can still remember them waltzing around Cec Drummond. Cec was only back most of the time with his sliding tackles and they'd just stop and let him go and he'd go two metres past them. They were so agile and they had wet weather football down to a fine art as they should coming from England. Though I'd like to be playing football today under the conditions our players have with their gear and their balls and the grounds. Its so totally different. You pick up a ball today and feel it and it makes you want to kick it. Its a different piece of equipment to the old leather ones we had. They'd not only get wet but they'd also expand and get bigger with the water going into them filling up the leather."

GS : What bought about your representative retirement? After the England match in 1951 you never wore the green and gold again.

FP : "I wouldn't have either. If there were any politics in the game in those days I would have been excluded by them (laughing). The last representative game I had was in 1952 against Victoria. Reg played in that game, in fact we played together and we really should have beaten Victoria in that game. They had the migrant groups coming in then, playing good football and I was in quite a bit of trouble on that particular day.

I found myself very close to goal, in the wet and I thought I might have had a chance to score a goal when I was hit in the face with a hand full of mud. I just lost everything. I couldn't see anything and I wiped my face and looked around and the first thing I saw was a Victorian face that far away from mine laughing at me. So unfortunately I hit it. That's the first time I've done that and the last time in a game. The first time I had actually hit anybody so of course that started a donnybrook. People came over the fence the mounted police came out and the only two people who came to give me a bit of assistance was number one Reg Date and number two the rubber who was from Australian Rules. So between the three of us we kind of staved off the opposition until the police came with their horses and got everyone away. But then of course I was sent off and that was fair enough too.

I did the wrong thing so I was sent off. Anyway, that evening we were coming back to Sydney and out at the airport was the referee with his two little girls of six or seven and he was wanting to be friendly. I just didn't want to talk to him very much and I said I don't mind you sending me off but why didn't you send the other fella off. He just looked at me and said 'You're going home tonight, I have to live here" (laughing). So that was the end. When we got home I was expecting to go before the committee and in fact I even wrote to them after a while and said I should be given the chance to appeal against anything that you may decide to do. But they didn't call me in and nothing happened at all."

GS : But after that you never got selected again.

FP : "I was on the outer and if there was a tour the next day I wouldn't have been in it."

GS : What bought about your club retirement even though you were still one of the leading goal scorers for your club Leichhardt-Annandale.

FP : "Controversy. The old Leichhardt team knew what happened. I was at the stage where I was a bit browned off at Leichhardt because I'd been given a pretty bad trot with finances.

It started when we went to South Africa we were promised the world and Leichhardt paid a bonus of 80 something pounds. Harry Robertson and I got just 6 pounds instead of the 80. When I complained they said we decided we'd give you a pound per game. The others had played so many extra games and been loyal but before they went away all the other players that went were looked after by their clubs and given a bit of a bonus except the promise that we would be looked after. So that didn't make things too good as did the next couple of years.

But in the last year I was pretty anxious. We had two kids in those days and I was pretty anxious to get a home and I started to work with a friend up at the hotel at Fairfield. I then hurt my shoulder against Bankstown and I had to have a couple of weeks off.

While I was off I still went up to the pub and earned my couple of quid up there and Jimmy Scullion one of the officials at the club came up to the hotel on a Satuday afternoon while I was working and said 'You're fit enough to pull beer'. I said ' Oh yes, I'm not too bad' and he said 'if your fit enough to pull beer you'd better come and play next Saturday'. I said 'Snowy Parkes (the club doctor) can have a look at my shoulder but I don't think I should be'.

Anyhow I went back and played and did what was needed. At the end of the season I was given an offer, by the old Bankstown group, of a house. They said there is a nice two bedroom cottage you can have rent free while you play for us. We were in a one bedroom flat at this stage with two kids. So I was very anxious to do that so I went back to Leichhardt and said this is the situation, Bankstown are prepared to have me transfer to them and give me a house where I can move in with Nancy and the two kids. Harry Miller was the secretary.

I got to know Harry before he was interested in soccer and in fact I introduced him to the Leichhardt club. I said to him this afternoon and there was a game on at Lambert Park and I wasn't playing and he was going around to a meeting. He said your application for transfer is going to be heard today, I said 'oh well give it a good hearing I need it'.

He came back an hour or so later and I said how did it go? He said the committee have decided if you want to play football there is always a game for you at Leichhardt. Under those conditions I said I have retired. I went back and worked at the pub, got enough money bought myself a house and that's it."

GS : You were obviously young enough to still keep playing.

FP : "At that stage I got interested in what was happening with the ethnic groups. I heard a bit about Hakoah and read a little about what they were doing. They a good side in those days playing in the metropolitan league and they had won it so many times they were getting sick of playing the same teams and winning so easily. Then of course soccer in NSW was controlled by a Scottish group that would not tolerate anybody trying to break in and I decided I'd do what I could to help the other mob. And that is how I got interested in the federation."

GS : This was 1957 when the first federation meeting was conducted in Walter Sternberg's living room.

FP : "We started working on it at the end of 1955. There were meetings going on before they started the competition. Coffee shop meetings mainly but the big meeting was at Walter Sternberg's. That was the one where all the cards were put on the table and we agreed, yes it was a goer."

GS : So what made you become interested in the game's adminstration. Was it a conscious decision to pursue a career in administration.

FP : "It was something I was determined to do. My whinge was always about players playing the game, they retired and drifted away and we never saw them again. Players that I looked up to as a young fella, when I started to play with Adamstown for example, blokes who were ten years older than I was that you'd expect to still see around had disappeared. Didn't go to football, didn't take any interest in football, wouldn't come and help. Nobody wanted to go and get them and bring them back. Not only administration, but they could have started coaching."

GS : So with the federation coming into existance in 1957 this was one of the reasons you wanted to…

FP : "Yes! I was glad I had the opportunity. I didn't realise that I'd finally be an administrator of the code, I just thought I'd act as a go-between, get in and pass a message. I worked with the (Sydney Morning) Herald for a while, the ABC and whatever I could do I did for soccer.

Eventually I was asked to go onto the NSW Federation committee when they had their first meetings at the old Sydney Hotel. That would have been the beginning of the second season, 1958. We went from there to down to Hellenic House, and it was there until I gave it away in the seventies."

GS : An enjoyable experience or a frustrating one?

FP : "Enjoyable, generally speaking, but there was a lot of frustration. Stuff you just wouldn't believe. You always think that you're right, I know, and I used to think that I had a few ideas that were possibly right but you couldn't get anything through that body if it meant the clubs didn't get the money. Any money that came into the federation the clubs had to get, because the clubs controlled it. It was their vote at the meetings that decided what happened about rules and money.

I used to get so fed up with the fact that I wanted to put money into bricks and dirt but as soon as you got a little bit of money in the kitty you'd have it read out at the AGM and somebody would move that so much be paid to each club and away it would go. We had some sizeable amounts, a pittance now. We'd get 20,000 pounds and think we were doing pretty well and 15,000 of it would be gone in five minutes at a meeting and you'd be left with just enough to keep it going until next year.

Then of course we had the ethnic trouble which was a bit frustrating. The last thing I did was to repremand the Croatia and Yugal sides who were well known for their donnybrooks. And I know that one side was more culpable than the other. There was always one that led the way but I just felt that the pair of them were a bit of a nuisance to the federation and until they were gotten rid of nothing would happen.

So I did get the others to agree that the names be changed and one would be Ryde and the other would be Liverpool. We'd been out and had a look at grounds around Liverpool and the mayor was quite happy about them coming out and establishing under a new name but I finished up leaving the federation over another donnybrook. Not with them but with the Greek side when they had a riot over at Drummoyne. As soon as I resigned they were given their names back and they played the first game of the new season out at E.S.Marks Field and a lady was stabbed and it was back to square one. I am pleased now that they have done what they have done.

While they haven't excluded anybody they have changed the names and even though everybody knows who belongs to who as far as the ethnic groups are concerned there is a chance that they'll settle down and broaden their base. If they can broaden their spectator base and get away from just one group everything will be alright in soccer. While they're just the one base things are pretty tough."

GS : What led to Frank Parsons becoming the Australian team manager in 1970? Was it related to your post on the NSW Federation Committee.

FP : "Yes it was. The first team I took away was the NSW team to New Caledonia. A year or so later I organised a student team to go over there because I was in pretty close contact with Guy Fawkes, who was (and still is) half the administration of soccer in New Caledonia. Then the NSW team went to New Zealand after playing on the islands and it was just a natural follow on to what I did. When Everton came out (in 1964) I managed that team and we had a good side. In fact we probably should have beaten them with guys like Jaros and Baumgartner. A good side except for a couple of unfortunate misses. So when 1970 came along I was there."

GS : It would have been a good trip to go away on with the playing talent that was assembled.

FP : "Rale Rasic was the coach and Les Scheinflug his understudy. There were a few bugbears there but it was a good side. They were absolutely at their peak in Greece and hit top form. They'd played pretty well in the islands and across to Hong Kong and Iran and did well in Israel but they played their best football in Greece. They had the Greece A team running in circles. From my point of view that was the best that Australia had played up to that stage."

GS : The experience gained from that tour would have translated into the success of the 1974 world cup side.

FP : "That was the start of it. They'd missed out on getting to the World Cup in '70 and that was the start of the build-up for '74. It was the eleven that were kept and there were quite a few that dropped out before they got anywhere near '72 but the nucleus was there. Rale knew the ability of his players much better at the end of that tour than he did at the beginning and he knew which ones he could put together as a team. I don't think he added too many to the starting eleven he took away to Germany in '74.

We went to Germany and had a look at their games and we were beaten by the two German teams fairly comfortably but we weren't disgraced. We weren't quite as fast or hard and strong on the ball. You get fellas like Beckenbauer to know that when you were contesting a ball with him you were contesting one and a half players as he was good as one and a half players.

But the boys did very well. The sad thing about all that was Rale Rasic getting done when he came back. It was the end of his reign and it shouldn't have been. It should have been the start of the next four year period. But politics again. Rale was single-minded and knew what he wanted but unfortunately what he wanted wasn't what the president wanted."

GS : Do you still have contact with the current administration of the game.

FP : I never hear from anybody and have never been invited back to anything since I left Sydney. Never. History would show I am probably the only ex-president NSW that has not been made a life member (laughing). These were things that most of those who went before and after me would ask for and expect at a meeting and I never would. I remember Michael Cleary said to me once when they were opening the hall of fame, he said "You write down everything about your history and I'll put it forward". I said no, I won't, I don't do that.

GS : Do you know that Soccer Australia had started a hall of fame last year.

FP : "No. I know there is one in Newcastle as I have been asked to do a few things for that.

I don't see the value in things like that. I know they're important to some people but I don't think you should put yourself forward. Why would I want to write a story about myself and send it somebody to put my name on a certificate. I don't see it as my right and not an obligation, but that's my belief."

Frank has given up the hustle and bustle of city life for a property on the NSW north coast. With his feet up after many years loyal service to soccer, Frank still keeps in touch with some of the many friends he has made in his career.