STATE LEAGUE : AZZURRI THE DYNAMO
Azzurri once again proved beyond doubt that they are the best team in WA with a convincing Marlboro Shield first division championship win. In 1975, they won the title by seven points, and in 1976 they emulated that performance by a similar margin. What's more they had to do it the hard way and come from behind after they had been given postponements to matches early in the season because of the club's state commitments for the Marah Halim Cup tournament.
Despite dropping to eighth position during the postponement period it didn't take long for them to re-assert their superiority over the competition. By the sixth round, they edged into top spot on the league ladder, a position they never relinquished. When the final game was played Azzurri had collected 30 points, two more than the previous season. It was, however, well short of their record tally of 39 points collected in their great year in 1971. Looking at the goals scored and conceded, it is surprising to see they are almost identical with those recorded in 1975. In 1976, they scored 48 and conceded 26 compared with the 47 and 26 of the previous season.
It was not till their tenth game that they suffered their first defeat when they crashed 3-1 to a fast moving Ascot in a night match played at the Velodrome. They left the final surprise till the last match of the competition when they lost 4-1 to struggling Kwinana United at the Perry Lakes Stadium. However, without a doubt the best performance they gave was against their old rivals East Fremantle-Tricolore, beating them 3-0 at Wauhop Park. It was a display of nonchalant skill as good as any they have ever given. Even Tricolore supporters conceded that Azzurri should have won by a much bigger margin. But whatever the score it was a victory that sealed their eighth championship since the formation of the Federation in 1960.
With three rounds still to play they couldn't be overtaken. Their success was even the greater from the fact that they hadn't attempted expensive signing on operations to strengthen the side. It was a success based on youth and experience. Even the experience was In the main on the young side with players like Gordon McCulloch and George McMillan the only imports two years previous. The old stand-bys of Peter Holt, Alan Cooney and Dave Brady continued to demonstrate the value of loyalty to a club. With little movement in players there's every reason to expect Azzurri to be knocking on the door of the shield again in 1977.
While Azzurri stayed out of the transfer market, other clubs, notably Floreat Athena, Morley-Windmills and Inglewood-Kiev, continued to spend thousands of dollars in the search for success. Windmills brought players like Nick MacCallum, Keith Cockburn, Mike Palmer and Bob Taylor, while Athena opened up the floodgates for Chris Glennon, Ray Crawford, Stephen Martin, Dave Sharpe, Gordon Byron, to say nothing of the financial deals for Tony Jackson and Steve Stacey. Kiev have spent heavily for years in search of an elusive title. In 1976 it was no different and they were no closer. Money went out on John Davidson, Derek McKay to name just two.
Of the three, Windmills saw something for their money. They started the league season well in top spot, then slumped to as low as ninth position for two weeks before dragging themselves up to second place by the tenth game. From then on in they dropped from that position only once to third place before ending the season behind Azzurrl.
Athena were a big disappointment considering their line-up. They started poorly, and it was not till the half-way mark before they were able to stabilise their place in the top four and end up in third place. In their first clash with Azzurri at Perry Lakes Stadium they looked to have the game well in their keeping with a 2-0 by the 20th minute. But they let Azzurri off the hook and lost 3-2 and virtually their chance at the shield.
For Kiev it was a disastrous year. They struggled manfully in the top four for much of the year, dropping in and out as the results dictated. Then when it seemed that a top four position would certainly come their way, they lost points for having played an unregistered player by accident. It took a 4-2 victory over Olympic to keep them in sixth position and a place In the night series.
Probably one of the best performances by any team apart from Azzurri was given by Spearwood Dalmatinac. One of the worst attacking sides as seen by the meagre 21 goals scored, the equal lowest with Tricolore, they proved miserly in defence conceding only 23 goals. Eight of those goals came in the last three games. This defensive record provided Dalmatinac with their first top four place in the club's history.
Another side to perform well was Ascot, who lost a number of vitally important players. Because of the lack of finance they had to rely on whatever talent could be found to fill the gaps from their youth. They almost pulled off a magnificent fourth place, needing only one more goal in their final match to displace Dalmatinac from the top four.
Tricolore has a proud history in WA soccer, but 1976 will have to go down as a year they would prefer to forget. Facing the strong possibility of relegation, Tricolore gained two points from their earlier match with Kiev. Proving that Kiev had inadvertently played an unregistered player placed Tricolore out of danger with only one round of fixtures to go. As it was they drew 1-1 with relegation doomed Croatia North Perth. While they kept a first division berth, Tricolore for the first time missed out on a place in the night series in 1977. Tricolore's defence was the weak link, while the attack failed to function sufficiently to tip the scales in the club's favour.
Kwinana United played in the shadow of relegation for most of the season holding eighth, ninth and tenth places, with but few exceptions. It was only a strong finish, particularly their last 4-1 victory match over Azzurri, that kept them in first division. Had Azzurri won that game, it is almost certain that Kwinana would be in the second division for 1977.
Olympic have spent years rummaging round the lower reaches of the first division and 1976 was no exception. Coming into the last match, Olympic had a chance of qualifying for the night series and the luxury of knowing that no matter what happened they wouldn't be relegated. A team with Len Dundo, Bill Murray, Vince Radcliffe should do better on the league ladder, but once again they lacked the ingredient necessary for success - good team work.
Croatia North Perth found that success in second division doesn't necessarily mean success in first division. They started off like a house on fire filling second position for the first four weeks. It was, however, something of a false position with so many games being postponed for the top teams. But after two quick wins, it was not till former state defender Neil Morson took them over that they started to click. They didn't lose one of the last six matches, winning two and drawing four. But it was too little too late, specially with the Tricolore appeal against Kiev's unregistered player.
Up from second division came Rockingham United for their first tilt in the premier league. They had a long battle with Macedonia United for almost every round of the competition before taking the title by three points. Already Rockingham, under coach Dave Clark, have been active in trying to find the right type of player to keep the club in first division.
The third division went to Canning Corinthians, who were involved in a tough battle with Sorrento. Both will compete in the second division at the expense of Subiaco City and Swan Valley, who ended the season at the foot of the league ladder. Both teams had done the same thing in 1975, but because of a move to make both the second and third division 12 club leagues, Subiaco and Swan Valley retained their division status to stave off the dreaded day for one year.
ASSOCIATION CUP : TRICOLORE COMEBACK
East Fremantle-Tricolore have fallen on bad times in recent years. And 1976 was little different. In fact, it was a year in which they flirted with disaster facing the threat of relegation till the final round of the shield competition. Yet among all this struggle they captured one of the major trophies - The D'Orsogna Cup knockout competition. Their success underlines the value of such a tournament, where a poor man may smile on a king. Tricolore were long odds for the cup when the competition started late in March. What's more, it wasn't till the final that they actually became odds on to take out the title.
The cup in 1976 took an important step forward when the Federation expanded the competition to take in those Sunday amateur clubs who wanted to take part. Such was the response that the competition was altered to seed clubs according to divisions. A preliminary round was introduced with Sunday amateur and third division federation clubs fighting to make the first round. Eight amateur clubs were thrown into the melting pot with the 12 third division sides and there was immediate success for the outsiders with four clubs going through to the first round. They were Balga, Graylands Hostel, Windsor Athletic and Bedford.
One of these, Balga, one of the clubs of the future, dumped Cockburn United in the first round to advance to the second round. There they met their match where cup holders Morley-Windmills eliminated them 9-1, the biggest margin of victory in the competition. For Windmills it was the lucky draw that favoured them to make it three in a row. Windmills beat Graylands 8-3, Balga 9-1, both amateur clubs, and Ascot 2-0, before falling victim to Tricolore in the semi-final.
Apart from the amateur successes there was hardly an upset in the 1976 tournament. In the first round, Azzurri faced Kiev at the Inglewood ground, and though reduced to nine men with two players sent off still managed an impressive 2-1 victory. Unbelievably, Azzurri again fell foul of the referee in the second round to find themselves losing two players. Yet they still struggled to a 1-1 draw at the end of regulation time and faced Spearwood Dalmatinac in a penalty deciders after extra-time had failed to seperate the two. Surprisingly, Azzurri failed at this hurdle after having overcome the odds and Dalmatinac went through to the quarter-final with a 5-4 victory.
Dalmatinac then found themselves in a fantastic penalty decider situation with Olympic Kingsway in the quarter-finals after the game had ended in a 2-2 draw after extra-time. Such was the success at penalty taking that the score shot up into double figures before Dalmatinac won 15-14 with dark almost obliterating the field of play. For Dalmatinac it had been a tough passage through to the semi-finals having been forced into extra time in every round. The semi-finals against third division Sorrento was far from easy, and to many the underdogs were a trifle unlucky not to have caused an upset. But through extra fitness Dalmatinac squeezed out a 2-1 victory to enter their first ever final in any competition.
Tricolore's journey was a modest affair without too much trouble apart from their first match against Osborne Park Galeb, who forced Tricolore into extra time before the first division side won 2-0. They disposed of Swan Athletic 2-0 in the second round, Floreat Athena 1-0 in the quarter-finals and Windmills 2-0 in the semi-finals.
On paper Windmills looked too strong, but on the field Tricolore proved too resolute on the day. The final was something of an anti-climax with a small crowd watching Tricolore achieve a workmanlike 2-1 victory over Dalmatinac. Dalmatinac started trying to blitz Tricolore with surprise tactics. It almost worked as they forced four corners, one of them finding defender Mike McKinlay clearing off the line after goalkeeper Enzo Magro had been beaten. That was one of Magro's few mistakes as he rose to the occasion with a solid display throughout to earn the D'Orsogna Medal for the best player in the final.
Magro was left helpless, however, when Rothmans Gold Medal winner Colin Burton headed Dalmatinac into the lead in the ninth minute. Ten minutes later Dom Ciapinni worked a one-two with winger Alex Genovese to equalise for Tricolore to finally end Dalmatinac's hold on the game. Five minutes later defender Dave Jones rose high to a superb free kick from full-back John Poleyket to give Tricolore the lead with a header that proved to be the winner.
In the Reserve Cup, Croatia North Perth caused an upset when they beat Azzurrl 4-2, which was some consolation for a disastrous year in which the club was relegated to second division. Olympic-Kingsway, rarely on the honours board, too sprang a surprise to beat Tricolore 2-1 and win the under 16 cup-final.
NIGHT SERIES : END OF LONG DROUGHT
It's been a long time between Ampol Cups for Morley-Windmills and their success in 1976 couldn't have come at a better time. They ended 1975 on a high note, winning the D'Orsogna Cup and the quick success in 1976 augured well for the new season and the clutch of new signings at the club.
In 1976 the federation, for the first time allowed ten clubs of the first division to compete in the Ampol Cup. To accommodate them all and not over-run into the cold weather late in March the competition was divided into two sections with the top three teams going forward intc the second round of a six team league. The division for the preliminary rounds were: Group A: Azzurri, Olympic-Kingsway, Kwinana United, Inglewood-Kiev and Croatia North Perth; Group B: East Fremantle- Tricolore, Floreat Athena, Morley-Windmills, Spearwood Dalmatinac and Ascot.
Apart from the awkwardness of the format, many clubs were without their top players who were either injured, away on holidays or just were not available for the night series. Azzurri were without such stars as Gordon McCulloch, George McMillan, Ken Morton, Tony Trinca, Aldo Trinca, just to name a few. Almost every other team was in the same boat. Consequently, as the competition progressed, it was clear that the public was not prepared to put up with second best.
The competition improved after the first round, but by then the damage had been done. The battle for the top four from the top six left little leeway for error, and early reversals led to an impossible contract. This produced some interesting games with both Inglewood-Kiev and Morley-Windmills beating the highly fancied Azzurri, relegating the latter to the first semi-final.
Croatia North Perth, with the tall Charlie Cochran, did well in their first Ampol Cup. They almost made the final four after up-setting Spearwood Dalmatinac in their last second round match 2-0. They had to await the outcome of the match between Morley-Windmills and Ascot with the hope that Ascot could snatch at least a draw. Ascot came close, but Windmills eked out a 3-2 win to enter the second semi-final.
It was Kiev who won the league of six, closely followed by Windmills, then Azzurri and finally Dalmatinac, whose success in this series laid the way for a strong winter shield season. However, Azzurri was too strong for Dalmatinac, with a 3-1 victory, while Windmills went straight through to the grand-final with a 1-0 win over Kiev. Then came a major upset when Kiev beat Azzurri 3-2 in the preliminary final. It was the third time in the series that Kiev had beaten Azzurri having recorded 4-3 and 2-1 wins over them in preliminary rounds.
Kiev were poised to win their first ever title but they proved to be totally inept in the grand-final with unusual tactics. Windmills took a 2-0 lead with two goals within four minutes at the 61 minute mark to sink Kiev. Kiev stayed with their defensive style even though facing defeat. It was a match that fell far short of what a grand-final should be and only served to mirror the low standard served up throughout the series. Azzurri gained some consolation then their junior side beat Morley-Windmills 5-1 in the junior grand-flnal.
TOP FOUR PLAY-OFFS : PENALTIES DECIDE TOP FOUR
Opponents of soccer argue that there are not enough goals to make it an interesting game. If goals are the criteria by which soccer is judged, great or weak, then the Marlboro Top Four Cup of 1976 must be judged the greatest soccer competition of all time. Both the preliminary final and the grand-final were resolved by the use of penalty kicks. However, to almost everyone, such a method of finding a result, at least the first time round, is totally unsatisfactory. The Federation will investigate ways in which to overcome the problem in time for the Top Four Cup in 1977.
The 1976 competition was one that underlined Azzurri's right to the premiership and to the title of best team for the year. Many an observer was prepared to bet against Azzurri winning the tournament purely on the law of averages. And in retrospect Azzurri may have been just a little lucky to get away with it.
For Floreat Athena, the Top Four was their last chance to salvage something from a disappointing year, as they had done in 1975. They started well enough putting Spearwood Dalmatinac in their place with an impressive 3-0 victory in the first semi-final. The second semi-final pitted the two classy teams of 1976, Azzurri and Morley-Windmills with the winner going through to the grand-final. Again it was an Azzurri success, but one that saw them grimly hanging on to a 2-1 lead against a Windmills that did everything but score.
Then came the preliminary final that had the makings of a fine game. The big crowd was not disappointed though in the regulation 80 minutes there was a lack of goals to keep the crowd on their toes. When the game ended in a 1-1 draw, the controversial penalty deciders were ordered and the farce began.
It took almost half an hour for 23 penalties to be taken to produce a final score-Iine of 8-7. After the first five had been taken the score was deadlocked at 5-5 with Vince Alcock (Athena) and Dave a'Callaghan (Windmills) missing their shots. Then came the sudden death section with the first side to miss losing. This led to another 13 penalties with goalkeepers moving for shots to be retaken. Finally Gordon Byron missed for Athena, leaving the way clear for Gary Mateljan to win it for Windmills.
After the outcry, it was hard to believe that the same process was used after regulation time to separate the grand-finalists. The match itself was a magnificent way to end the league season. Azzurri established a two-goal lead ten minutes into the second-half after goals by Gary Marocchi (30th minute) and George McMillan. But seemingly easy victory slipped away, with first Keith Cockburn and then Dave O'Callaghan equalising to force penalty deciders.
Had the game been allowed to run into extra time it is likely that a different result would have been achieved with Windmills well on top and causing no end of panic in the Azzurri defence. As it was, Azzurri scored from their first five penalties, while Windmills' fifth penalty-taker, Gary Mateljan, failed to convert his chance even though given a second bite at the apple after Azzurri's goalkeeper Graham Parfitt had moved on the first.
In the second division Top Four grand-final Cracovia made amends for an uneven season by beating Rockingham United 6-5, again on penalties. Canning Corinthians followed their league victory by beating Sorrento 3-1 in the third division grand-final.
Floreat Athena 3 (Glennon, Brooks, Alcock) Spearwood Dalmatlnac 0
Azzurri 2 (Holt, G. Marocchi) Morley-Windmills 1 (Johnston)
Morley-Windmills (1) 8 (Pearce; penalties - Hannigan, McGunnigle, Cockburn, Taylor, Barstow, Galloway, Mateljan) Floreat Athena (1) 7 (Alcock; penalties - Jackson, Sandercock, Bibby, Glennon, Stacey, Brooks)
Azzurrl (2) 7 (G. Marocchi, McMillan; penalties - G. Marocchi, McMillan, E. Marocchi, T. Trinco, McCulloch) Morley-Windmills (2) 5 (Cockburn, O'Callaghan; penalties - McGunnigle, Gudden, O'Callaghan)
GOLD MEDAL : MEDAL GOES TO BURTON
The Rothmans Gold Medal award for the season's fairest and best player has been known for two things. A leaning towards defenders and surprises in the eventual winner. 1976 was no different in either aspect. The winner, Colin Burton, was unexpected, at least at the start of the season, and he was a defender with his club Spearwood Dalmatinac. The argument that Burton was an unexpected winner because he doesn't rate among the top defenders holds water if the best is a criteria. But the award is for the fairest and the best, and in this respect Burton is up there with the best of them.
No one can doubt the value Burton proved to Dalmatinac. Their position in the top four was in no small measure due to Burton's tenacity and competitive spirit. Yet such was his attitude that he never transgressed the spirit of the game. Given the guidelines of the award, Burton was a most worthy winner. From the third week of the competition Burton moved into the lead with nine points, and though the lead see-sawed throughout the season he was never far from the lead.
When the count, which had been published weekly in "The West Australian" went into secrecy for the last four weeks, Burton with 37 votes held a three point lead over Gordon McCulloch (Azzurri) and Lars McNaughton (Kwinana Utd). When the final count was completed on STW Channel Nine on September 24, Burton had increased the lead to seven to win the coveted medal. Geoff Cole of East Fremantle-Tricolore, made up a lot of lee-way from the end of open counting to snatch second place from McCulloch who could manage only a surprising four votes in four matches.
After gaining the award Burton said: "I have been booked only once in my life, and I think my desire to get on with the game gave me the edge in the medal voting." While defenders have always dominated the voting (in 1976 six of the first ten players were defenders), the 1976 year was a season in which defences held sway. But it is clear that there remains a bone of contention as to how votes should be allocated in this prestige award. Clearly players with volatile reputations continue to operate at a disadvantage under the guidelines laid down.
L. Alderson with 28 votes provided Queens Park with their second success in the second division fairest and best award. He won the competition by eight votes from Nigel Kingsley of Cracovia. Former Floreat Athena defender Bill Busby won the third division's fairest and best award playing with the new federation club Northlands. As distinct from the other two divisions his was a close fought contest, Busby winning with 23 points, one more than D. Oxley of Kelmscott.
Leading vote getters were:
Colin Burton (Dalmatinac) 46
Geoff Cole (Tricolore) 39
Gordon McCulloch (Azzurri) 38
Tommy Barber (Kiev) 37
Lars McNaughton (Kwinana) 35
Bill Murray (Olympic) 32
Graham Smith (Ascot), Ernie Hannigan (Windmills) 31
John Beesley (Croatia) 29
Alan Cooney (Azzurri) 27
Ian Russell (Dalmatinac), David Jones (Tricolore) 26
Mike Saunt, Ray Ilott (Ascot) 24
LEADING GOALSCORER : GOALS HARD TO FIND
Never in the history of the federation have so few goals shared in so much money in the top goalscorers award as in 1976. However, on this occasion two players, George McMillan, of Azzurri, and Len Dundo, of Kingsway Olympic, scored 13 goals each and shared the $500 Jeans West award for the top goalscorer in the first division.
WA soccer has always prided itself on being able to produce a top striker capable of notching up something like thirty goals a season. This aspect of the game make for added interest and creates a personality. For some reason WA's strikers failed to find the mark as they have done in previous seasons. The 13 goals scored by McMillan and Dundo were the lowest on record. The previous low was last year when McMlllan scored 19 and in 1973 when Dundo and Bobby Hynd, of Tricolore, scored 19 goals which was the first time the tally had dropped below the 20 goals.
Because of Azzurrl's postponed matches due to the state team's commitment in Indonesia, McMillan started the quest for top goalscorer late. But within a few weeks he had shot to the top and had established ten goals to his credit before the half way mark had been reached. Then McMillan stopped dead and for the rest of the season could only manage three more league goals.
Dundo on the other hand gave almost every other striker a long start before he began finding the back of the net. Four league matches from the end of the season he was only just getting his name onto the list of leading scorers. Then by steady means he edged level with McMillan. But once again, due to a referee's error, Dundo almost lost a goal to his team mate Bill Murray.
It is ironic that Dundo should have been involved in such a dispute because in 1973 a legitimate goal scored by him was given to another player. On that occasion the referee refused to change his mind and Dundo finished in a tie with Bobby Hynd. This time the referee admitted that he was mistaken when he awarded a penalty to Murray instead of Dundo, the official Olympic penalty taker.
The finish of the 1976 competition lacked for goals but was compensated for by the extreme closeness of the battle. In the last match, Ascot's Ray Ilott needed one goal to tie as did Morley Windmill's Dave O'Callaghan. Both had gilt edged chances presented to them, but failed to capitalise. The same went for Paul Hallam (Croatia) and Azzurri's Gary Marocchi both with 11 goals to their credit.
The second division battle was even closer with three players tied on 18 goals each. The value of twin strikers can be easily seen when Jeff Williams and Ken Foots ended up at the top of the scorers list. Breathing right down their neck were A. Godfrey (Swan Athletic) and D. Norton of Macedonia United. The third division provided the best individual goalscoring effort with Colin Abbott, of Canning Corinthians, notching 24 goals. He enjoyed a two-goal advantage over Peter Saunders of Sorrento.
G. McMillan (Azzurri), L. Dundo (Olympic) 13
R. Ilott (A.cot), D. O'Callaghan (Windmills) 12
G. Marocchl (Azzurri), P. Hallam (Croatia) 11
J. Davidson (Kiev), W. Migas (Croatia) 10
V. Alcock (Athana), D. Fideo (Ascot), T. Trinca (Azzurri) 9
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