Almanac Soccer: Klompen across the Riverina

The great postwar migrant boom saw more than 2 million arrivals from Europe through the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  In the 1950s alone, 100,000 Dutch migrants arrived here.  Like other migrant groups, it wasn’t long before they were establishing soccer clubs across Australia.  Here’s the tale of one of those Dutch teams formed in the 1950s, the Clogs, playing in Wagga Wagga.   

 

 

The Clogs, 1954

 

 

Research can be a hard slog, sometimes monotonous, even boring at times.  But then you hit that rich vein, those dead set nuggets that make it all worthwhile.  And I have a big fat nugget in the cardboard box on the desk in front of me inside the perfunctory 1970s interior of the Charles Sturt University regional archive.  I am truly astonished and thrilled at what is in the box, giving a silent ‘Thank You!’ to Fred van Delft, donator of the material.

 

Archival Box RW 1343 contains scores of items relating to the Clogs, Wagga Wagga’s very own Dutch team, from its enthusiastic founding in 1954 to its demise the next year.  Membership forms and lists, game day team sheets, accounts and various receipts for player registrations, trophies, blazer monograms and ‘alcoholic refreshments’ are all here.  Most significantly, the box contains a small exercise book like the ones used by school children, its yellowed pages filled with the steady handwriting of Clogs Secretary, Roloef Turel.  Over thirty-eight tightly written pages Turel sets down the unfolding story of de Klompen.  Turel was a hairdresser.  He wrote only in Dutch.

 

Hopes and expectations were clearly high judging by the minutes of the foundation meeting held on 24 April 1954.  Plenty of discussion, many decisions, an ambitious statement that says much about how some Dutch in Wagga Wagga thought and viewed themselves at the time.

 

Turel dutifully noted the purpose of the meeting – to start up a ‘mainly’ Dutch football club – the establishment of a committee and office bearers, the setting of membership fees, the choice of uniform – orange shirts, white shorts, red-white-blue socks – the choosing of the captain and ‘team leader’ (John Vrolyks), the preferred style of play to be followed, how player selections were to occur and where the home ground would be.  And the choosing of a club name.  A Mr. van de Kley proposed it be named after a ‘mode of transport’ favoured by the Dutch, namely the ‘clog’.  This was ‘accepted by the meeting with great hilarity.’

 

Turel documented every official club meeting and provided match reports throughout 1954. He rarely stuck to just the results and the bare facts, instead offering all sorts of observations on players, some quirky, many droll.  Take this, from a home game against Turvey Park:

 

‘B. de Klein will one day be a great footballer as he has scored two goals in consecutive matches by placing a header in our own goal!’  And this: ‘Ten minutes before the end of the game, M.de Klein left the field as he would not accept a decision.  For this failing, our Mac was scratched for one game.  Next time a bit longer Mac if you cannot remain between the line.’  Mmmm, mixed talents from those de Klein boys.

 

Turel considered Clog’s player, H. Mathot’s actions in playing on after injury against Turvey Park, ‘not really smart’ while he turned pithy with the match report for a home game against the Teachers College:  ‘Due to holidays, the guests did not turn up.’

 

He also let his appreciation for the game, and the Clogs, ring out.  This from a home game against Kapooka, the Army side; despite the Clogs going down 0-3, he writes: ‘It was a great and beautiful game with both teams working very hard.’  A ‘Bravo!’ concludes a late season Clogs draw with eventual premiers, Wagga Wagga United.

 

Turel’s nuanced minutes also vividly capture stresses that had been bubbling away at the club since its inception.  While established as a ‘mainly Dutch’ club, and with a sprinkling of non-Dutch amongst its playing ranks almost from the start of matches, certain members wanted to exclude non-Dutch from joining the club.  The 3rd June meeting saw a major debate on the issue, with J. Opdam stating that having non-Dutch join ‘…could have dire consequences for the club such as conducting the meeting in the English language which would jeopardise the gezelligheid (coziness) and the possibility that strangers would take up positions on the committee.’   The Chairman (G. van Delft) pointed out that if non-Dutch were excluded, ‘…Aussies would take offence as we as Dutchies were always welcome in their clubs.’  A vote was eventually taken on the issue, ten voting in favour of allowing non-Dutch to join and seven against.  This outcome led to ‘pro-Dutch’ Opdam family members resigning from all official positions with the club.

 

John Vrolyks, the last surviving ‘Clog,’ never liked the idea of an exclusively Dutch club.  He recalls it was Opdam Senior who came up with the idea of forming a soccer club and he was fanatical on the matter of it being all-Dutch.  Initially John went along with Opdam but as the one responsible for organising players, quickly realised it was an absurd position to take.  ‘You can’t say you can’t play non-Dutch.  (There were) maybe only a hundred Dutch here (in Wagga Wagga)’.

 

Presumably to placate those concerned by the loss of ‘Dutchness’, motions were then passed that ‘All future meetings will be conducted in the Dutch language’ and ‘Only Dutch people or people of Dutch origin could be members of the Committee’.  Turel’s understated closing line conveys the tensions that must have swirled around the room that night: ‘This was the end of a rather noisy meeting.’

 

Turel’s minutes for the remainder of 1954 indicate no further problems concerning the nationality of club members, at least officially.  The team finished a creditable 4th (from nine teams), winning nine games, losing six and playing one draw.  The side was good enough to make it to the semi-finals of two knockout competitions that year, the Maples Charity Shield and the Hardys Cup.  The Clogs rounded out the season with two matches against Canberra Dutch side, Hollandia, the first in Canberra, the return a fortnight later in Wagga Wagga.

 

The Clogs welcomed several new members into the side in 1955 including several non-Dutch players.  The season opener saw the team holding on to what the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser described as a ‘surprising draw’ against Forrest Hill RAAF, the 1954 premiers.

 

That match proved to be one of the few highlights of the first half of the season, with the team losing several matches.  And tensions increased off the field.  After the club forfeited a match in mid-June due to a lack of players, an ‘eagerly awaited’ meeting was called on 24 June to resolve the club’s playing future, one way or the other.

 

Once more Turel paints a lively picture of what unfolded.  A fired-up Mr. Opdam Senior said it was a scandal that the club would disappear, invoking the fighting spirit of 17th Century Dutch hero, Johan de Witt, and blasting those present as stelletje lamzakken.  In plain English: they were a bunch of lamb bags!

 

Despite – or perhaps because of – Opdam’s impassioned speech, no one came forward to form a new committee; the decision was made to disband the club.  The finality of this shocked members into action: in the inimitable words of Turel, ‘the Clogs blood started flowing’, and several members then nominated for committee positions.  The minutes finished in upbeat tones: ‘Decisions made were lauded…soon after the group disbanded as a group of non-stelletje lamzakken.

 

That sentence turned out to be the final words Turel wrote in the club’s minutes.  A newspaper report in late July mentions the Clogs at the bottom of the table.  The team received no more coverage for the rest of the season and it is uncertain whether they played out the remaining home and away games.  De Klompen journey was over.

 

Passions could not have been too divisive amongst all the club’s members.  The club’s account book shows several stayed together as a ‘lottery’ club for a few more years, before officially winding up on 30th July 1958.

 

As for Secretary Turel, electoral roll records are all we have to go on to tell us something of his post-Clogs journey.  He and his family moved to Harden about an hour’s drive northwards in the early 1960s where he apparently worked as a hairdresser for several years.

 

And other Klompen?  Many took up playing with other local Wagga Wagga sides in the years that followed.  But that’s another story.

 

Note:  More than 35 teams were formed by Dutch migrants in Australia between 1950 and 1980.  Most have long disappeared but a few remain, not necessarily as ‘Dutch’ teams anymore, but with colours and some names still in place.  These include Fortuna 60 playing in the La Trobe Valley, Ringwood City SC, Morley Windmills in Perth and Gambier Centrals in Mt. Gambier.  Both the Lions FC and the Brisbane Roar trace their roots to Hollandia-Inala, founded in 1957 by Dutch migrants in Brisbane.   

 

Adam Muyt has received a grant from the Australian Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to assist with the writing of a history of Dutch migrants and soccer in Australia.

 

More from Adam Muyt HERE

 

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About Adam Muyt

Born into rugby league, found aussie rules, fell for soccer, flirts a little with union. Author of 'Maroon & Blue - recollections and tales of the Fitzroy Football Club' (Vulgar Press, 2006). Presently working on a history of postwar Dutch migrants and soccer in Australia.

Comments

  1. Really enjoyed this, Adam. A nugget of history alright! So much packed into just two seasons. And what a record keeper on Roloef Turel!

  2. Adam Muyt says

    I so wanted to meet Roloef after going through those minutes, Ian. Maybe in his barber chair, listening to him reflect on life?

  3. Jarrod_L says

    Another great addition to the ongoing story of Dutch-Australian football shared with the Almanac, thanks again Adam.

  4. Peter Clark says

    May all football researchers stumble upon “nuggets” like that Adam. Great read!
    I too discovered a small “nugget” at the CSU Regional Archives recently in my research into a local ‘rules’ footy club.

  5. Shane Reid says

    Really interesting Adam. Thank you

  6. Peter Pal says

    Nice read Adam. When is the book coming out?

  7. Adam Muyt says

    Hopefully released in 18 months, Peter.
    Wagga Wagga has a fascinating sports history, Peter Clark. Right on the Barassi Line and all. What local rules club?

  8. You make the characters sing Adam.

    Tremendous piece. Thanks.

    I’m wondering whether Oakey’s soccer club was included in your list. It was started by the De Ryck family in the late 1970s. Colours: orange.

    All the best with the research and writing of the book.

  9. Adam Muyt says

    I hadn’t come across Oakey’s story, JTH. Fascinating. Have another trip to Queensland planned once restrictions are eased. Looks like I’ll be including a visit to Oakey too!

  10. I can get you the contact details of the son of the bloke who was instrumental in setting it up. He was a school friend of mine and we remain in contact.

    I just did a Google search and could only come up with a junior club in Oakey. I know the grounds that were established still exist. I have driven past them in recent times.

  11. Brilliant stuff Adam. Secretary Turel sounds like a great character. If he’s still alive there could be defamation action from the de Klein family. Have forwarded your piece onto Professor Hans Nossent who is the Avenging Eagle’s immunologist and fellow member of the Lupus WA board. Keen Feyenoord man and we often compare notes.

  12. Adam Muyt says

    Would really appreciate speaking with De Ryck family members, John. Send through the details :)
    Thanks Peter_B. Yes, Turel would be a great dinner party guest – and imagine his diary entry afterwards! Prof.Nossent must be a good man if he goes for Feyenoord. He may appreciate this little tale I wrote a few years ago about my family connection to a rather notorious Feyenoord player.
    https://www.shootfarken.com.au/hondelul-piet-romeijn-feyenoord-dutch-football/

  13. Albion Rover says

    Thanks Adam, a fascinating story. Eventually every club has to make this difficult decision. Do they continue to draw their players solely from the the founding group or do they recruit more widely in search of success or perhaps just survival? It sounds like de Klompen confronted this question sooner than most.

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