Greg Stock, a leading Australian Soccer Historian speaks with Ron Lord.
The way Ron Lord took up goalkeeping is a story in itself. At the tender age of seventeen Ron was playing left back for the now defunct Drummoyne club. In his first game against Woonona-Bulli at Bulli Sports Ground he suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of soccer for what he thought would be two months.
Unfortunately the injury took more than a couple of months to heal and he spent many weeks on the sidelines. It was while down watching his team mates play at Drummoyne Oval that he saw their second grade goalkeeper had not turned up. Asking officials if he could fill in that position he was given the number one shirt and so began an outstanding goalkeeping career that would eventually see Ron represent his state and his country and be considered by many to this day to be the greatest Australian goalkeeper.
Now retired from the game and living in the Illawarra I was privileged to have been asked down for lunch to his family home to meet the man who had kept so many of the great forwards of the 50's and 60's scoreless. On his family room wall hang photos of his days in the green and gold and his teammates at Prague and Auburn.
On the floor are spread the contents of a few suitcases filled with all manner of old photos, newspaper clippings, letters and memorabilia. Ron's career at the top lasted nearly twenty years and it should be pointed out in an age where goalkeepers received no protection from referees and wore no gloves. With his lovely wife Kath as the perfect hostess I quickly felt like a part of the family as Ron recounted his career with great affection. It was a truly fascinating experience to listen to a man who had clearly done it all for his club, state and country.
I started off asking Ron about his club career with the highly regarded Prague side of the late 50's and early 60's. The side contained a number of high profile European imports including the legendary Leo Baumgartner the man they called 'Sabrina'.
RL : "He scored a goal once, I forget who it was against. But he took one defender on and beat him took another defender on beat him and left them behind. The goalkeeper came out and he beat the keeper and he was still reasonably well out from the goal. Taking the ball up to the goal line and had time to get down on his hands and knees and just nod the ball over with his forehead. It was sheer arrogance but artistry the way he did it and of cause all the crowd chants "Sabrina Sabrina". He was sheer entertainmant and that's what you have got to do, entertain the crowd."
GS : The crowd would come back week in and week out to see what he would do next.
RL : "Exactly. Conversely you had (Karl) Jaros. A lot of people have the feeling that Jaros was a player who gave you one hundred percent and I have that feeling too. He was a player who just hated to lose. Even if Karl was playing a game of football on the beach, Karl would still want to win. He had that drive and determination whereas Leo would save himself for the big points in a match. He'd nearly always get them for you too. A good footballer and a good bloke. I always got on well with Leo."
GS : Andreas Saghi?
RL : "Saghi was a thorough gentleman and a good footballer. Wally Tamandl was also a good bloke and footballer and he scored a lot of good goals. I remember once in particular he got a cross from the right wing, he laid back took the ball on his chest cooled it down to his feet and just turned in one action. Then bang, it's a goal."
GS : The Ninaus brothers, Herbert and Erwin?
RL : "Herbert was very strong and at times he was like a raging bull. You felt him coming at you, very strong and robust with a terrific left foot. Erwin was a good centre-half though he was the type that would never trust his goalkeeper. Lets put it another way if Erwin was running back towards goal and you gave him a call for the ball he wouldn't pass it to you because I guess he felt it was beneath him to pass the ball back to the goalkeeper. He would want to get out of it his way. Even though it might mean turning and running towards the sideline and eventually losing the ball, but it was beneath his dignity to pass back to the 'keeper. I can't say that I particularly like playing behind Erwin. The best players to play behind were the defenders who did the simple obvious things. There was another guy who was similar to Erwin and that was (Mita) Stojanovic a centre-half. Both were good footballers but I thought this was a weakness in their game."
GS : Les Scheinflug was one on the left wing.
RL : "Yes very good on the left foot. Les could kick with his right but I think he used his right foot mainly to stand on (laughing). He could play anywhere on the left side, left fullback, wing half or wing. He played in those three positions with Prague and it just depended at the time who you had as coach and how he thought Les would help the team best. I think Les would have preferred the left half position because he was more involved in the game there.
GS : Your time at Prague,would that have been the most memorable of your club career?
RL : "At club level I would say so particularly when the Austrians initially came out in 1958 with Baumgartner and Jaros, etc. It was a more professional outlook and attitude. We had a guy there who was our gear steward and he used to assist me a lot. His name was Frank Didgy. He was a goalkeeper with Prague in their earlier years and he understood a lot about goalkeeping. At training we would go off to the side and he would throw and kick balls to me and work one on one and that helped me a great deal. They were some of the best years of my life at Prague. I thoroughly enjoyed the company both on and off the field. We had some great social nights and balls. For match talks we used to go down to Dunbar House at Watsons Bay and on many occasions particularly before the more important matches and we'd have a meal and a talk. It was a long way to go for me because I lived at Padstow at the time and it was like half a day's journey. But I enjoyed it and from there we'd go to Marks Field for the game."
GS : The coaches at Prague. Did they have a lot of influence over the side?
RL : "We had Harry Brophy. Harry was an Englishman who came from Queensland and had played for that state in the early fifties. (Uncle) Joe Vlasits was another and Chanbal was a Czechoslavakian who came out in the mid - 60's. Leo Baumgartner himself coached for year or two."
GS : How was Leo as a coach?
RL : "He was pretty good. There was not a lot of coaching from Leo; he just let the players know individually what was expected of them. At the time Leo was coach we had a very experienced team and that made a lot of difference. Wally Tamandl was also a coach. In the years '59 through '64 we had some great players and I guess the coach has to take some kudos for the results but it did make his job a little easier."
GS : You started your career with Drummoyne under the old Association?
RL : Yes. Drummoyne became defunct in 1950. Drummoyne were the perennial wooden -spooners and as a goalkeeper I was kept busy picking the ball out of the back of the net. During most games I was placed in many different and difficult situations and I had to learn how to deal with them. This helped to develop my game quickly and I developed a style of playing as a third back patrolling the penalty area. I believe my experience as a fullback also helped as I was not perturbed about leaving the goalmouth. Goalkeeping coaching in those days was unknown."
GS : You went to Auburn after Drummoyne.
RL : "Yes. Once Drummoyne became defunct all players were free agents and able to negotiate with any club that was interested in them. I went ahead and joined Auburn and played with them until late 1957, the year the breakaway Federation of Soccer Clubs was formed. Along with Joe Marston (and Alan Garside) I would have been one of the last senior players to join the Federation. I was disappointed to leave Auburn as I had made many friends during the 7 years I played with them. But the Federation was becoming the stronger of the two competitions so I decided to accept an offer to join Sydney Soccer Club Prague."
GS : Your representative career started in 1950 for New South Wales against Queensland. The other prominent goalkeeper in the 50's was Bill Henderson. Right through that period it was either Ron Lord or Bill Henderson as goalkeeper and to this day you both remain the very best of friends.
RL : "First of all I'd like to say that perhaps Billy and I did play the major number of rep games in this period. Other goalkeepers who represented through this period that come to mind are Norman Conquest (Metters Canterbury), Jim Jenkins (Woonona-Bulli), Bill Mahoney (Wallsend), Dave Bone (West Wallsend) and Rudy Roth (West Wallsend). Australia has it seems always produced good goalkeepers from the days of the great Jim McNabb in the 40's to the present Mark Bosnich. And yes Billy and I are the best of friends and from time to time enjoy a game of golf together."
GS : You made your representative debut in 1951 against the touring English F.A. side. Do you remember much about the game or of the experience of being picked for your country?
RL : "My first game against the Englishmen was the first of eight games I played against them while they were here. It was to be their first match in Sydney. I had been selected as goalkeeper in a N.S.W. team to play the Englishmen at the Sydney Showground on Saturday May 19 1951.
When I found I had been selected I knew I'd be in for a busy time. I had gone down to Wollongong the previous Wednesday to see them play against a combined South Coast side in the opening match of their tour. There was a record mid-week crowd (10,500) and South Coast lost (7-0). Australian soccer officials said after this match that the team was the best ever to come to this country.
Just as a matter of interest, A Newspaper reported - A new feature of the third-back game was probably the most interesting lesson of the match for the many local and Sydney coaches who attended. It was the swivel defence demonstrated by the fullbacks Frank Lock (left) and Harry Bamford (right). When play went down the left wing, Lock moved up near the halfway and immediately Bamford dropped back. This strengthened the attack without weakening the defence. As soon as play was switched across field, Lock would rush back and Bamford forward. Two Sydney coaches said they would introduce this phase into their clubs.
I played in a trial game that was played to select the N.S.W. team to play the Englishmen on Saturday May 20th at the Sydney Showground and I was fortunate enough to be selected. Prior to kick-off the England and N.S.W. teams lined up in centre field, and the Duke of Edinburgh presented each player with a Commonwealth Jubilee Medal.
A newspaper report said "The crowd was 42,000 and the English professionals played with speed and skill to overpower N.S.W. by 8 goals to 1. To use an old cliche - thy let the ball do the work. Their skill in control of the ball was a delight to watch. They were very positive in what they did and their passing was very accurate.
" Conversely we gave away too much possession away by too many long lofted 'seeking' balls. To put it simply they gave a tradesmanlike performance and we were the apprentices. To their credit they were out to show the Sydney public just what English football is all about and they did just that.
GS : You were at the 'infamous' match were Australia were beaten 17-0 with Norm Conquest in goals. Was the English side simply that good?
RL : "This game proved to be a real 'feast' for the English with them winning by the massive score of 17-0. I believe it's every sportsman's ambition to represent their country, but this is one time I was pleased to be sitting on the sideline as a reserve and not playing. The only reason for me making that comment is that had I been in goal and had 17 scored against me I think much could have been made about my youth and relative inexperience. I might have been banished to Siberia or some such place and not got another game against them while they were here. Some goalkeepers seeing the goals stack up against them might have faked an injury to get out of the firing line that day but that could never be said of Norman Conquest. This day he stayed there and took the brunt of the English attack, which seemingly could do no wrong. I haven't got any newspaper reports of the game but from memory I can recall that we had had recent rain and the centre square cricket pitch area was like a bog. While no excuses can account for the 17-0 drubbing our players, as I remember could not stay on their feet in this area. The Englishmen on the other hand with their experience of wet and muddy conditions had no problems. Simplistic as it might sound I think it a possibility that the Englishmen, finding out early in the game that our players were slow in running and turning in this area played the ball into the mud. With their superior speed and control they left our midfielders floundering and we would be caught thin in defence. Statistically England scored a goal every five minutes."
GS : Australia played against the Austrian side in 1955 as well as South Africa and struggled against both teams. Was the difference in playing standards between them and us that apparent?
RL : "I think you would have to rate the Austrians as a very clever football team. Their dribbling and positional play and general ball control 'wizardry' was something to see. They were deceptive in that they seemed at times to be playing at a leisurely pace but were very quick to goal when the occasion demanded. I always had the feeling that the goalkeeper had more time to position himself against continental teams compared to the English sides who were very fast and direct in their approach to goal. The South African team played I thought a similar style of game to us but proved superior while they were touring Australia. But something that must be kept in mind, I believe is that a team when touring has a distinct advantage in that they have a squad of perhaps 16 or 18 players. The squad is training together in daylight and developing a combination. Compare this to the Australian team which can have a number of changes made to its composition and is lucky if it gets together a day or two before the match."
GS : When the Federation-Association split happened your representative career was put on hold because you were considered a 'banned' player. How did that feel?
RL : Not too good actually but there was nothing we as players could do about it. The English club team Blackpool with Stanley Mathews in the side toured, as did Hearts of Midlothian. It would have been an experience to play against them but it was not to be.
GS : When the F.I.F.A. ban was finally lifted you were again first choice Australian goalkeeper for the 1964 series against Everton. Although into the later stage of your career that must have been a significant moment in your career.
RL : "It was significant and I did feel quietly proud that I had first represented in 1950 and here it was 13 years later and I was still making the grade. My wife Kath likes to think she had something to do with it, because of the special way she always polished my football boots!"
GS : What was the Socceroo coaching like in the 1950's?
RL : "What coaching? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. To be fair to those who did coach I would have to ask 'what chance would a coach have of success if he had his team together for a day or two only before a match'? I can remember playing in the mid 50's for Metropolis (Sydney) against South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground and I was introduced to a co-team member that I had never previously met before let alone played with. And to cap that one we didn't have a Coach, and the Team Manager's parting words to us just prior to running out on the field were "Go out there and do your best boys". I think it was a fairly significant that the one occasion when we were together for a week in camp we were successful as a team. That was in 1959 and the N.S.W. team had a week together training in Camden with Leo Baumgartner as player coach. We played 3 games against Costa Rica who were returning home after a tour of Europe and we beat them in each game. 4-2 on Saturday and 7-1 on the Wednesday night with both games at the Sydney Sports Ground and the next Sunday we won 4-2 in Newcastle.
GS : Do you remember your final representative match?
RL : "It should have been in the second and final test against Everton at the Sydney Showground but a few days before the math I suffered a pinched nerve in the neck and had to withdraw from the team, much to my dismay. Adauto Iglesias replaced me in goal. So my last representative match was against Everton in the first test in Melbourne where they beat us 8-2. The story goes that Roy Vernon said before the match 'We'll score 8 goals today and show that we can really play the game'. And he was true to his word. The reason he said this was that the Everton players made no secret of the fact that they were not happy with the lack of attention they received in the Australian Rules mad Melbourne. They were one of the best club sides in the world at that time and they were used to being the centre of attention. Although I picked 8 out of the back of the net I got some encouragement from one report that said ' Two of the Australian players to come out of the match with any real credit were goalkeeper Ron Lord and right fullback Trevor Edwards. Lord showed courage and agility to get his team out of trouble with some splendid saves'."
GS : In those big games what was it like to be the goalkeeper?
RL : "When you were playing against those visiting sides the goalkeeper was on a hiding to nothing. One of the things that made it more difficult was they (the visitors) were professionals and they trained during the day and they could kick a ball a yard faster than the local players that you were so used to playing against. If you had six weeks training against those players before you actually played in a match against them you'd have a much better chance of judging the speed of the ball. I found at times that this was a problem. When they made good contact with the ball it was so much faster through the air.
GS : When you represented your country in soccer, did you get any financial reimbursement?
RL : "It wasn't like it is today that's for sure. In 1950 when the Australian side went to South Africa they were paid three pounds and five shillings a week and that had to cover them for the whole tour. A lot of them came back dead stony broke no money or owing money. When I went to Melbourne for the (Olympic) games I didn't get paid from work and so I didn't have any income for those six weeks I was away. Any money people raised were from chook raffles."
GS : Back to your club career, your transfer from the Auburn association club to Prague was big news at the time. It also caused a little controversy due to your high profile. Can I ask you to explain how it all came about?
RL : "No that's fine. At that time there was only one Australian born player playing with Prague that was Geoff Geddes and I had trepidation's about going but I spoke to Karol Rodny who was club president at the time and he spoke of a number of factors which I had to take into account. So I decided that I would go ahead and join them but firstly I wanted to get in touch with the Auburn club and let them know what my position was because Prague wanted me to play with them on the Saturday and this was Friday night. Unfortunately I couldn't get in touch with Harry Greentree the Auburn Secretary and I finished up signing on the Saturday morning at Oscar Picks' delicatessen in the Haymarket. Anyway I played on the Saturday for Prague and we lost 2-1 to Auburn would you believe. It was a very strange feeling to have left Auburn whom I'd been with for seven years"
GS : What were the player payments like back then?
RL : "I can recall not long after joining Prague we played a double header. We played Auburn on the Saturday and it was Hakoah on the Sunday. I got five pound on the Saturday and six-pound on the Sunday. I thought eleven pounds this is unbelievable because when I played with Drummoyne one season we got two pound for the whole 1950 season. So getting eleven pounds it was fantastic. As we were coming out of the ground Kath (my wife) had Bryan our eldest son who would have been about eighteen months old in her arms and Stan Slavic who was our patron pulled out five pounds out of his pocket and he tucked it in between Bryans body and Kaths coat. He said here is a present for your son, so it was eleven pounds plus five pounds. In those times tradesmen got twelve pounds a week. But you never got paid for travelling time and training so if you take what you got from playing as against what it cost you to go training it more than cuts it out. But to be paid for playing football was fantastic.
(Ron pulls out his unsigned 1965 contract.)
GS : Its a twelve month contract saying you will receive five pounds for a loss ten pound a draw fifteen pounds a win. Ten pounds salary monthly payable for each competition game. Five pound for each cup game in first grade played and three pounds for each trial game, first or second grade. It's unsigned.
RL : I didn't sign it because I didn't take it up. I told them I didn't want to carry on."
GS : Did you get a slice of the transfer fee for signing with Prague?
(Ron pulls out his contract signed with Prague in 1957.)
"Mr R.Lord has signed as a contracted player to play with the above club (Prague) under the following conditions - a signing on fee of two hundred pounds will be paid by the treasurer to Mr Lord upon signing the registration card. A weekly retainer of six pounds will be paid by Prague to Mr Lord throughout the season. Mr Lord will receive the some premiums as any other player of Prague and is under insurance scheme providing a weekly compensation of fifteen pounds and medical expenses. A special bonus of one hundred pounds will be paid to Mr Lord by the Prague cub upon the concussion of the season 1957. For his part Mr Lord promising faithfully to do his best for the Prague club both on the field and off the field and will obey all lawful directions which might be given to him by the responsible Prague club officers. Both Mr Lord and the responsible offices of Prague will not divulge the contents of this contract to anyone - till me forty years later.
RL : "I don't think any of them will worry about you seeing that (laughing).
GS : So that is the original contract you signed back then?
RL : "Yes. When Karol Rodny (Pragues president) spoke to me at work about joining his club I mentioned my loyalty to Auburn and he said who would you be more loyal to. You've got a small son and a wife. Who should you be more loyal to, your wife and your son or Auburn soccer club? He hit the nail on the head because two hundred pound could do a lot for them."
GS : Towards the end of your career you were give a testimonial by the Prague club to acknowledge your service to the club and the game. It must have been a very satisfying point in your career.
RL : "I was honoured that the Prague committee would think enough of me to stage this testimonial tribute and I think it might have been the first for an active player. It was held at the Sydney Athletic Field Pragues home ground on a Sunday the 16th of February 1964. There was an early game between a Sydney's referee team and a mid 55's Prague team. My eldest son Brian (9 at the time) took part in a march past of junior players. Before the late game my Wife Kath, daughter Jennifer (6) and son John (2) and myself were driven around the ground in our president's open Chevrolet. We then walked onto the field through a guard of honour consisting of Ice Hockey players to be met by representatives of the Referees Association, N.S.W. Federation and Prague club committee members. A presentation was made to me and I responded with a speech that was very emotional for me. The late game was between the 1959 Prague championship winning team and the present Prague 1964 team. The 1959 side won 3-2 (Ron was in goals). I have many photo's and fond memories of that day I'm sure I'll never forget and my thanks go out once again to those who worked and participated to make it a success."
GS : Did you do much junior development or coaching as a senior player?
RL : "Yeah I used to hold goalkeeping clinics. A club would contact me and I'd do a clinic for them. You wouldn't get paid for them, sometimes a club would give you expenses but I never asked for money. Quite often I used to take one of the goalkeepers out that I was coaching at Western Suburbs or Bankstown. Gary Maier was one and so was Greg Woodhouse. I coached Greg from when he was fifteen years of age. He went onto represent Australia. Terry Eaton was at Western Suburbs and I believe Terry was one goalkeeper that should have played for Australia and didn't. He was an excellent goalkeeper and didn't get a rep game. There were a couple of good kids at Western Suburbs who played in the state juniors."
GS : This was after you finished as a player.
RL : "I was the manager of the Prague side in '66 but I gave that away. There was too much interference from the committee. I just made sure players attended training and organise things. The following season I was approached by Bankstown soccer club to see if I would specialise in their goalkeeping coaching. So I was there for a couple of seasons and I was approached by Western Suburbs soccer club to coach their goalkeepers so I went with them. Western Suburbs eventually amalgamated with A.P.I.A. so I stayed on with A.P.I.A. and I stayed coaching their keepers until 1978. I had a two-year break and then I came down to the Illawarra. Its much better coaching goalkeepers as you don't get interference from the committee as long as your goalkeepers are performing and I never had a problem getting them to perform well. Just put them through the basics and make sure they have regular training. Its all hands-on with me I'd say have three or four goalkeepers and I would rotate them through the various movements that I wanted so I was on the go all the time whereas they were rotating and getting a rest between drills. I was fit as a fiddle and felt like I could have been playing."
GS : As goalkeeper you faced all of the great forwards of the 50's. Do any stand out in your mind? Artie Quill for example.
RL : "Artie Quill was a very good player. He had all the skills"
GS : As good as Reg Date?
RL : "No Reg Date was the best without a shadow of a doubt. Tremendous kick and he could head a ball well too. The ball didn't have to be on the ground for him to score. He'd pull it down and knew exactly where the goals were. He was terrific with either foot. I remember playing against Reg Date and I was a fullback (before switching to goalkeeper) and we were playing up on Blick Oval at Canterbury. We two fullbacks were up on the halfway line and the opposition put through a long ball looking for the centre forward. I started running back and next minute I heard these footsteps behind me and he went past me like I was standing still. He was very quick in those days."
GS : Any other names?
RL : "Frank Parsons. Frank was tall and he could head a ball and he had a very strong left foot. Another player who was difficult to play against, not that he had a great technique but Jackie Drinkwater from Cessnock would run through a brick wall to get to the ball. Because I place Reg Date on such a big pedestal I find it hard to recall other players to come up anywhere near him. A player who one of the best kickers of the deadball was Johnny Giacometti who played with Leichhardt-Annandale (and later A.P.I.A.). You could form a wall up against him and he had the ability to run onto a ball and kick it with a lot of top spin. So it would get above the wall and dip quickly and drop. I can remember out at the Marks Field (Sydney Athletic Field) one night a free kick was taken outside the penalty area level with one post. So I set my wall up and put it to cover the far post and I would cover the near post knowing how hard he kicks it. I thought if I force him to go for the inside of the far post there's every chance he'll put it outside the post. Well it was night and balls tend to move in the air a lot at night, but he hit that ball and cleared the wall and it just dropped straight under the cross bar. I just couldn't believe this shot and I'd seen him do that a couple of times since."
Rons outstanding career came to a close in 1966 as a player. After receiving numerous honours as a goalkeeper he became a specialist goalkeeping coach with clubs like Western Suburbs, Bankstown and A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt before finally retiring altogether. Ron these days is happy in his retirement where his sport of choice is golf. With wife Kath they still keep in close touch with some of the many friends that the great game has given them. As we carried away with the brilliance of todays goalkeepers we should think of the many who have gone before them and worn the green and gold number one shirt with pride - none better than our Olympic goalkeeper Ron Lord.