STATE TEAM : THIRD MARAH HALIM CUP ATTEMPT
In the oppressive humidity of Indonesia, the Marah Halim Cup Competition is held each year, and it is a test of both stamina and skill for the sixteen or so State players who participate. Around about March, just before the rainy season, teams from Asian countries congregate in Medan to contest one of the most important tournaments of that sector of the world.
Western Australia representing Australia took part for the first time in 1975, and to the surprise of all, especially those at home, our team came home victors, bringing a magnificent trophy. Back again in 1976, after their superlative efforts in the previous year they were obvious favourites, and the target of all the up-and-coming emerging soccer nations. With courageous play by the whole squad, however, they once again returned to Perth laden with the spoils of their conquest.
So we came to 1977, with the chance to make it three in a row, which would mean that we would become the possessors of the original Marah Halim Cup, a trophy reputed to be worth approximately $32,000, and twice as large as the replicas that rest in a place of honour in the Federation Boardroom. The Indonesians fully expected us to turn out the full Australian team to ensure winning such a magnificent trophy.
The State team went under the new Director of Coaching, Ron Tindall, and was beset by problems from the very start. Gary Marocchi and David Jones, two skilful young players who had been the midfield strength of the previous trip were both in the process of completing transfers to Adelaide to play in National League sides. Both eventually joined the Socceroos under Jimmy Shoulder. Tony Witschge, another young player who had performed so well in the previous tours was injured, and other members of the team seemed reluctant to accept the honour of playing for the State.
So it was a weakened team which Fred Burfitt led through the interior of Indonesia to Medan during March 1977. The team trained in the early hours of the mornings to avoid the most excessive heat in Medan, and on March 19th they played their first game against Thailand, losing by 1-2, with Bill Murray scoring. Four days later they met and defeated an Indonesian State side, Ujang Pandang, 2-0, with George McMillan scoring both goals. On Monday 28th March came the day of reckoning, when the team was beaten by Jakarta, 0-1; Jakarta, incidentally, went on to win the 1977 Marah Halim Cup, but this loss by our team meant that we had not qualified.
Sadly they made their way back to Perth, for the first time in three years, empty handed. It was indeed unfortunate that at such a crucial time, when so much was at stake, the State team was unable to rustle up the strength that had obviously been available in previous years. No doubt the experience was of great benefit to some of our younger players who have gone on now to better things, but the sheer monetary value of the trophy would have possibly ensured that we would be competing again this year, whereas because of the accumulated losses of some $7,000, the Marah Halim Cup Tournament in 1978 will be without one of its proudest winners.
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