Sunday, January 17, 2010

The night George Best played in Devonport

Photos (top to Bottom): White Eagle...State League champions in 1989; Ken Morton with George Best...clipping from The Advocate; The author with George Best; George Best and the author in the dressingroom; Carlo Ambrosino...with Olympia at the time; A Caledonian team of that era, with Glenn Stewart in goal

George Best first came to Tasmania in 1989.

Ken Morton, who was coaching Devonport City that year, arranged the visit.

Best played for Devonport City XI in a friendly against a Tasmanian XI at Valley Road at 8pm on a weeknight in early July before a crowd of 1,800.

He conducted coaching clinics that day from 4.30pm to 5.30pm for selected youngsters and spectators were welcome.

A function for players and sponsors was held at the Valley Road clubrooms from 6pm to 6.45pm.

A couple of friends and I drove to Devonport after work to watch the game and we got home some time after midnight.

It was the first time I’d interviewed Best. I was to do so again a couple of years later when Morton, now at Olympia, brought Best and Denis Law to Hobart for an all-star friendly at South Hobart.

The squads for the game at Devonport were:

Devonport City XI: Smith, Chilcott, Rimmer, K Smith, Hendey, Best, Gleeson, Boyd, Nethery, Morton, Sawdon, Frame, Pizzerani, Oliver, Jones, Mann, Meldrum

Tasmanian XI: Connell, P Davidson, Monagle, M Leszczynski, Foote, Howe, Crosson (capt), Goldmsith, Nichols, Parker, Heys, Stoddart, A Guilbert, T Compagne, Di Pietro [Coach: A McDonald; Trainer: P Goldsmith]

The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

Anthony Rimmer netted the first for Devonport in the 18th minute after Neil Connell could only parry a shot from George Best, but Ian Parker equalised in the 28th minute.

Sawdon restored Devonport’s lead from Ken Morton’s corner a minute before the break.

Craig Nichols grabbed an equaliser for Tasmania midway through the second half.

The thing I will never forget was David Crosson’s challenge on Best, the first time he touched the ball in the opening minutes of the game.

Crosson, a former Newcastle United player, upended Best without a second thought and, for a few seconds, it was feared he had put the star performer out of the match before it had even properly started.

Fortunately, Best was able to resume, and Crosson was told, in no uncertain terms, by Morton and a few other senior players, to calm down and let the ageing genius show some of his stuff.

It was a good era for Tasmanian football at the time, with the Cadbury State League in existence.

Here are some of the squads that played in that league in 1989. They are listed in finishing order, with White Eagle having been crowned the Cadbury State League champions:

White Eagle (52 points): Groenewoud, Nicholson, Banasik, Driessen, M Leszczynski, A Leszczynski, Previdi, Stoddart, R Leszczynski, Harwood, C Pitt, Hildyard, Ketchell

Hobart Juventus (37 points): Neil Connell, Michael McIntyre, Nick Di Martino, John McIntyre, Frank Genovesi, Romeo Fabrizio, Steve Kannegiesser, Kelly, Billy Stanford, Romeo Frediani, Bruce Pears, David Nicholls, Tickner

Olympia (36 points): P Kannegiesser, Thompson, Hey, Berwick, G McNeil, Goldsmith, Ambrosino, Xanthopoulos, Koch, Nichols, Munro, Edwards, Crosson

Launceston Juventus (32 points): Warren Dent, David Craig, Paul Gimpl, Ewert, Liam Monagle, Luigi Gugliotti, Peter Savill, Roger Mies, Heys, Mark Nikolai, John Visentin, Jens Streit, Don Gardner

Devonport City (31 points): Bob Smith, Darren Chicott, Ian Hendey, Anthony Rimmer, Kevin Smith, Stewart Oliver, Wayne Boyd, Peter Sawdon, Tim Jones, Billy Frame, Noel Nethery, Fabio Pizzerani, Ken Morton

Ulverstone (21 points): Rod Andrews, John ‘Snow’ Compagne, Michael Foote, M Bertucci, David Mitchell, Andrew Howe, Tom Compagne, Anthony Guilbert, M Jones, John Sallese, Fred Guilbert, L Jones

Caledonian (20 points): Stewart, Paplos, Grainger, Fenlon, Huigsloot, Connell, Pullen, Calvert, Wesson, Sherman, D Anderton, Salter, Parker

Launceston (18 points): Q Darby, G Pennicott, P Davidson, J Smith, G Reading, P Davis, M Graccogna, D McNeil, B Barac, C Hughes, A Fraser, N Strickland, A Wayne

Burnie United (7 points): Mark Overton, Ricky Joseph, Howard Edwards, L Dyer, Pat Troughton, Russell Troughton, S Foley, Hugo Luttmer, Kevin Considine, Scipio Luttmer, Andrew Starick, D Timms, Steven Eastley, Mike Denton

Croatia (4 points): Z Belanic, I Eyles, M Begovic, Brian, Bessell, C Barrell, T Hussein, B Davidson, R Huigsloot, Zajec, T Dzelalija, C McKenzie, N Thomas


Roberto said...

I saw Best at the South Hobart game. He was clearly crippled by his knee, but he hit 30 and 40 metre passes so sweetly and straight to feet.

He scored an amazing goal, from a corner. Charlton lifted Best on to his shoulders, with Best nodding in the corner.

A great night.

Brian Roberts said...

I was at the Devonport Game , shook hands with G B and presented him with a S H S C badge .

At South Hobart a shadow of his former self.

Unknown said...

Went to that game too with Darren and the late Jim Anderton. Crosson did try to butcher best, pretty daft given the guy wasn't in any condition to cop such a tackle.

Hugo said...

Ah, the good old days, I remember it like it was only yesterday.
Walter do you know how many of the oldies in those teams are still playing?

Walter said...

Hi Hugo

No idea, Mate. I'd say you are one of the few still playing at a reasonable level.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Walter for all you do and have done for football in our great state. Diesel.. Grant Hildyard