TRULY, AN ANNIVERSARY TO REMEMBER
WHAT a night! There were hugs, tears, laughter, tension, several touches of sadness - and a kissing policewoman. The 20th Anniversary of the Football Hall of Fame WA had it all.
A record crowd of over 430 turned out to acclaim and applaud the 32 new inductees into what was Australia's first football Hall of Fame (established in 1996) at a glittering function in the Grand Ballroom at Crown Perth on November 26. Hall of Fame Committee chairman Louis Prospero rightly declared it a night to remember.
The political landscape was represented by the WA Government's Minister for the Environment Albert Jacob and the Labour opposition's Shadow Minister for Police Michelle Roberts, while football's hierarchy boasted Football West chairman Liam Twigger and chief executive James Curtis as they took part in a celebration that also saluted the 120th anniversary of the foundation of the game in WA.
It was fitting that Hall of Fame Patron Julian Burt JP was also in attendance as his ancestor Septimus Burt (WA's first Attorney General) and other members of the Burt family were among the founding fathers of the sport in the west in 1896.
Perth Glory chief executive Peter Filopoulos was there, as was former Glory CEO Roger Lefort and former club co-owner Paul Afkos as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of WA's only club in the national league. Glory playing greats Bobby Despotovski, Scott Miller, Tony Franken, Tommy Maras, Robbie Zabica, Craig Naven, Alan Mackenzie and Danny Milosevic also turned up. Plus Glory had seven former players inducted on the night - Tony Carbone, Chris Coyne, Jamie Harnwell, Paul McVittie, Jason Petkovic, Andy Petterson and Paul Strudwick.
And adding to the special night was the guest-speaking appearances of former Glory coach Bernd Stange, who came from Germany for the event, and former SBS football broadcasting icon Les Murray, who flew in from Sydney.
Both added humour, football wisdom and much praise for the initiative of Western Australia in setting up a system that honours the great players, coaches, referees, administrators and others.
There were other visitors from far and wide. Former State team player Alex Cummings, who was inducted into the Hall of Merit for Players, flew in from his home in Hanoi, Vietnam, the day before. He quickly bought a new suit for the occasion - "I usually only wear shorts and sandals in Hanoi," he said - and then flew back to Vietnam 24 hours later. But it was a proud occasion for Alex, who was cheered on by his father and his sisters.
Ian Cox, the former CEO of the Soccer Administration of WA, came from Melbourne, while ex-Socceroo Dave Todd (a member of the 1965 World Cup squad) travelled from England and English international John Sydenham ventured from his home in Melbourne. Another Socceroo, 85-year-old Doug Stewart, flew in from Queensland, while Colin Burton, the 1976 Gold Medal winner when playing with Spearwood Dalmatinac, also came from Queensland for the event.
It was Colin's first visit to WA in over 30 years. "I had a wonderful time and caught up with a lot of my old teammates," said Colin. "It was great to see the likes of Hughie Miller, my old Dalies fellow defender, and Len Dundo, who was the great striker and a wonderful teammate when we were both with the Kingsway Olympic Green Machine team."
Colin was sitting at a star-studded table, which he shared with Dave Todd, Hall of Legends greats Ron Adair and John McInroy, five-time Gold Medal winner Theo Paap and Ashfield club president Bill Busby.
WA's famous Marocchi brothers also put in an appearance - Hall of Legends member Gary and his siblings Eric and Leo being on hand to applaud older brother Bruno, who was inducted into the Hall of Merit for Players.
There was a sad note when new Legend Alan Vest mentioned the recent deaths of Dave Brooks and John Davies, two members of the State teams that Vest led to ground-breaking triumphs in Asia in 1975 and 1976. John Davies was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Recognition. The award was accepted by his son Owen.
And, while tinged with much sadness, the posthumous induction of budding superstar Dylan Tombides into the Hall of Merit for Players brought a standing ovation when his father Jim went up to receive the award.
There was a standing ovation of a different sort when Bernd Stange, who famously kissed policewoman Angela O'Hehir after one of Perth Glory's stunning victories at the WACA Ground in 1999, had the tables turned on him.
Stange was just about to make a speech when, to the background music of the well-known The Bill signature tune, Senior Constable O'Hehir appeared in full police uniform to this time plant a kiss on the German's cheek.
Stange took it all in with great humour, saying: "I think this incident from many years ago will follow me forever. It was just a spur of the moment thing. We had won, I was happy and I saw this attractive policewoman as I made my way to the dressing room and I couldn't resist a little kiss."
PIC ONE: Albert Jacob, Les Murray, Louis Prospero, Bernd Stange. PIC TWO: Angela O'Hehir turns the tables on Bernd Stange. PIC THREE: A starry line-up - Dave Todd, Theo Paap, Colin Burton, Bill Busby, Margaret Adair, Ron Adair, John McInroy. PIC FOUR: The Marocchi brothers - Leo, Gary, Bruno and Eric. Pictures by Vince Caratozzolo.