Almanac Soccer: South Melbourne plays an old foe on a neutral battleground

South Melbourne opened their season playing away against Heidelberg United. Known to some as the Hellenic Derby in Victoria, this fixture serves as one of the main football attractions to the Greek community who flock in by the thousands at either venue. Heidelberg were provided government funding to renovate and upgrade their stadium and facilities at the Olympic Village which went underway last year. Unfortunately, the venue that was once used as a warm-up and training venue during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, was still deemed as a construction site so the trip up into the northern suburbs was nixed. Plan B was to rent out Oakleigh Cannon’s ground to host the fixture.

 

Heidelberg, the defending champions, started off strongly, peppering shots at Pierce Clark throughout the first half. The closest they came was from their Japanese import, Takeru Okada, bursting through the midfield, outpacing the South defenders to have a shot at goal towards the near post whilst under pressure by the keeper and the third defender. The ball was spilled out wide only for Okada to recover the ball and pass across goal for an awaiting Heidelberg forward, Sean Ellis, to tap it in. It was a heart-in-mouth moment for South fans as Clark looked on helplessly, only for club captain Brad Norton to close off the threatening pass and make a goal line clearance.

 

The second half quickly came into life. A failed tame attack into Heidelberg’s box was retreated and recycled by a Josh Wallen cross into the box. At first it looked unthreatening and a routine intervention by United’s keeper to catch the ball, but Harrison Sawyer thought otherwise and stood up for the aerial challenge as the ball sailed awkwardly high and deep towards goal. Sawyer managed to out muscle and get a head onto the ball and watch it bundle over the line. It was a sloppy goal. A second of uncertainty followed about whether the ball crossed the line after a last-ditch clearance attempt by the defence, but the linesman made the correct call.

 

South Melbourne held majority of the possession to run down the time. They came very close to scoring a second through Bradley Norton, who watched on as two players collided, which in turn handed the loose ball to his feet. Norton spearheaded towards the edge of the box to launch a shot deflecting off the crossbar. Heidelberg made one final chance in stoppage time through a corner set piece to no avail as South Melbourne claimed the three points.

 

Action in front of a full terrace

 

Okada attempts to pass across goal as Pierce Clarke looks on helplessly

 

It’s In!

 

Clarendon Corner in full voice

 

Club Spotlight: Heidelberg United

The club was founded in 1958. Originally known as ‘Alexander the Great Melbourne Soccer Club’, they initially played their home games in Fitzroy until the birth of the National Soccer League in 1977. From there, they were able to negotiate a lease by the local council to use the historic Olympic Village, which has been their home ever since.

 

Their only success in the now defunct NSL was winning the NSL Cup on two occasions in the 92/93 season and curiously in the 96/97 season where they briefly competed as the Collingwood Warriors [in partnership with AFL’s club Collingwood FC] for only one season until their venture collapsed. In turn, they were then excluded from the national competition due to new prejudiced policies barring clubs with niche ethnic community support to play in the national competition, and struggled with third-party financial support to carry out a rebranding of their club.

 

The highest achievement overall within the National League is coming runners up on two occasions in 1979 and 1980. In this spotlight we will oversee how they fared in 1979. After digging through the depths of the archives on melbournesoccer.blogspot.com, I was able to pick out two significant match programmes that were preserved and scanned for the public to see.

 

The first match day programme was Heidelberg hosting South Melbourne Hellas in round three of the Hellenic derby. A capacity crowd of 12,000 spectators crammed into Olympic Park to witness a 2-2 draw. Curiously it ended under controversial circumstances as Heidelberg were rewarded a 3-0 win by forfeit because South Melbourne fielded an ineligible player in Tony Turner. This gave me vicious flashbacks to the time I enjoyed watching Legia Warsaw belting Celtic in two legs of the Europa League knockout stage, only to have the second leg forfeited as a 3-0 loss to Celtic, and Celtic progressing by away goal advantage. Such is life.

 

 

Matchday Programme Rd 3 1979

 

Player Bio – Matchday Programme Rd 3 1979

 

Heidelberg Squad – Matchday Programme Rd 3 1979

 

The second matchday programme is a Round 13 game of Marconi-Fairfield (the eventual league winners) up against Heidelberg. The Italian club from New South Wales took a 0-4 beating in front of a crowd figure of 4,362 at Marconi Oval and could not redeem themselves in the return leg in the last game of the season against Heidelberg, where they lost in a thrilling game finishing 3-2. By then only 5,000 spectators turned up at Olympic Village knowing Marconi had already sealed the league title.

 

On a side note, according to ozfootball.net, there was a play-off series (as we usually do in the most Australian manner) where they decided the top four teams must play in a round robin series.  Further to this, the top two finishers met in a grand final which was played over two legs. Heidelberg and Marconi crashed out and it was played between Brisbane City and Sydney City, where Sydney were the eventual winners. The next twist to this story can only be quoted:  

 

“In theory the winner of this series would be the champion of the season but in an interesting compromise between the Australian tradition of a finals series and the worldwide footballing tradition of crowning the table toppers champions, a series was held but not for the title.”

 

So essentially, they went through the effort to play a round robin series with a two-legged grand final all for the sake of bragging rights, but no championship was awarded. My only conclusion would be that the Australian football authorities were on some serious crack that year.

 

Matchday Programme Rd 13 Marconi v Heidelberg

 

League Table – Matchday Programme Rd 13 Marconi

 

Action Shots From Previous Game -Matchday Programme Rd 13 Marconi

 

 

To access my photo album of the action that took place from this game, click HERE

To watch highlights of the game between South and Heidelberg from last Sunday, click HERE

For NSL matchday programme archives, click HERE

For match day results from 1979, click HERE

 

 

To read more from Luke, click HERE

 

To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

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