There was something a little bit different about the UTS Olympic - Wollongong Wolves game at Leichardt Oval. Before a ball was kicked in earnest, Jimmy Little sang, Charles Perkins was awarded life membership (he formerly played with Olympic in their Pan Hellenic days) and Derek Kickett was introduced to the crowd. One a singer, one a leader and one an Australian Rules footballer all sharing a common bond. Their aboriginality. It was a little strange and wonderful that a club synonymous with the Sydney Greek community was celebrating it. In an interview I had taped the previous day with the General Manager, Lydia Dowse, she explained the club's thinking.
LD: "Well, we've got to relate to the people of Sydney. We're the only club that plays in inner metropolitan Sydney so we're calling ourselves the Sydney team and basically what we're about is finding a way to market ourselves to people generally, not just the Greek community because they'll always support us but to broaden out to other members of the community. We want to have people from all backgrounds come to the game".
PC: Hence the Aboriginal theme.
LD: "In February we're going to have a celebration for Chinese New Year and on another occasion we're going to have a Human Rights day which will be a multi-cultural celebration. We've got a match against Marconi which will be an AIDS awareness game, so we'll have a lot of pamphlets and stuff distributed around the ground. So what we're doing is finding ways to make the game more entertaining and more relevant to people, not just the Greek community, but everybody".
"We're getting some of our players to write regular columns in local newspapers. Kimon Taliadores will be writing in the Wentworth Courier, Kris Trajanovski for the Macedonian Herald, Milan Blagojevic for the Serbian newspaper 'Novosti' and so on . We're letting other communities know about us through our players".
"The players over there that you can see" (the interview was being conducted during a Saturday morning training session), "plus our youth team - we've got sixteen different nationalities represented. That's phenomenal, but it also reflects what Sydney's like. If we were to say we're only a Greek club and we only cater for Greeks, then we're only catering for one percent of the population. Very scary stuff. How can you possibly grow?"
PC: Well, this is all very fine of course but there must be some elements within the club who don't wish to embrace the broader community. I asked Lydia whether this reaching out had encountered much opposition from within the club. She answered emphatically.
LD: "None! It's funny you know. The Greeks have always been a community who have been open to other people. They're not what you call a militant racist group of people at all. I was employed by nine Greek men".
It's worth noting here that Lydia Dowse is a female of Anglo-Saxon origin which makes her quite unique amongst the traditional ethnic male culture of most Australian clubs.