Monday, March 2, 2009

Aboriginal trailblazer in Hobart

The Mercury's match report (14 April 1963) by Gordon Burnett (top)

The Mercury's preview (11 April 1963) (second from top) by Gordon Burnett

Glen Thompson (third from top) at South Hobart for the Summer Cup

John Moriarty (left)

Interview with John Moriarty, FFA’s Indigenous Ambassador for Football

Walter Pless: You were a trailblazer for Indigenous footballers. Tell me about your background.

John Moriarty: I grew up, in my early soccer days, in Adelaide. I played for Port Adelaide and then played for the Italian club, Juventus, which became Adelaide City.

I was the first Aboriginal to be selected for Australia. I have always been very honoured with that selection. I have very pleasant memories of my first game [for South Australia] playing in Western Australia in an interstate game.

The second game was in Hobart and that was very memorable for me as well.

WP: I remember seeing you when I was a teenager playing in that game on 14 April 1963, which ended in a 0-0 draw, at South Hobart. Tasmania’s goalkeeper, Harry Alexiadis, saved a penalty. What are your recollections of that game?

JM: I have very strong recollections of the game. I found it hard to cope with the ground conditions. I felt the ground was very heavy, but we were still able to play our game and I thoroughly enjoyed that game. It was not like my first game in Western Australia, where I scored a goal. I played a reasonable game, according to my standards, here in Tasmania.

WP: South Australia also played Tasmania the previous year at Sandy Bay and won 6-2. Was your team a different quality team or had Tasmania improved dramatically?

JM: I can only say that Tasmania improved dramatically. We had a very good team and Adelaide had always had three or four representatives in the Australian team at any one time. They played a very good class of football. They were ball players and they utilised skill rather than person-to-person play. It was using your skills and utilising your brain with it, so I found the Adelaide-type of football has always been at about the national level.

WP: You also played with Charlie Perkins at one time.

JM: Charlie Perkins and myself were in the home in Adelaide together and that’s how we were introduced to soccer. Port Thistle, a local club, trained right next door. The boundary of their ground was the front boundary of the home that we were in and we ended up having a kick with the State team. That’s how I got involved. They asked us to give them a practice run and I was a kid of fifteen then and we had no shoes. They asked us to play. I think we beat them about six, or eight or fourteen nil, something like that. But, we just had fun. And, they invited us to play for them. They asked me if I’d play for them, and I said, no thank you, very much. This official said we will buy you boots and we will buy you socks and, very quickly, I said I’d play, thank you very much. So that’s how I got involved. There’s no looking back.

WP: I believe a knee injury ended your career?

JM: Unfortunately, yes. That’s one of those things you endure sometimes in sport. I was unfortunate to have a very bad knee injury.

WP: You were born in Borroloola. There’s a Tasmanian working there by the name of Glen Thompson. He has a dream of bringing a team of kids from there, who he has organised into s soccer team, to play in Tasmania. Is that a possibility?

JM: I come from a little place in the Northern Territory in the Gulf of Carpentaria called Borroloola. I was born on the river banks under the old tribal system, with a tribal Aboriginal woman as a midwife, and I was born that way. At the age of four, I was taken away.

Glen Thompson is up at Borroloola at this time. He just happened to marry an auntie of mine. Glen is a passionate footballer. He is passionate about the game and he has developed football at Borroloola to an extent that no-one else has done in the Northern Territory. He has five Aboriginal teams there. There are three boys’ and two girls’ teams and they have acquitted themselves well at every competition that they’ve had over the last few years. I see Glenn playing a very strong role in the carnival that we’ll be having in July in Townsville. He curates the ground, calls those kids together and he gets them into competitions in the north of Australia, in Darwin, and even into places such as Townsville and the Gold Coast. Apparently he’s taking a girls’ team to Coffs Harbour just prior to the Townsville carnival that we’ll be holding.

Yes, Glen Thompson is a tower of strength up there in the community of Borroloola and he has moved out to places such as Kiana, Nooka and Roper and other places all around Borroloola and has got those communities involved in football.

The teams are on their marks and ready to come to Tasmania, but like a lot of Aboriginal communities, they have problems with funding. If that can be overcome, that team can be down here in a flash. They could have a couple of teams come down. But, it would be good to begin with a team that could come down and play in Hobart.


Brad said...

Nice article Walter. Well done

jerrie kruijver said...

the good old days walter when soccer got some real space in the paper and premierleague games advertised on the back page,i believe you took overfrom mr burnet is that right?

Anonymous said...

No, that's not quite right, Jerrie. Gordon Burnett was followed by Zenon Pasieczny, who was followed by the late Andreas Raftopoulos. I took over following Andreas's untimely passing.