RIP Frank Smerilli, a stunning striker
IT IS with much sadness that the Committee of the Football Hall of Fame WA passes on its condolences to the family of former West Australian State team and Spearwood Dalmatinac striker Frank Smerilli, who died on November 24 at the age of 63.
The big centre forward was a key figure in the all-conquering Dalmatinac team that enjoyed much success in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Smerilli figured prominently in the Dalies side that was unbeaten in 22 games in winning the 1982 State League championship.
The Spearwood team won 17 games and drew five. They scored an impressive total of 65 goals in their 22 games and conceded only 16. They took the title by 13 points from second-placed East Fremantle Tricolore.
When Dalmatinac won the D'Orsogna Cup for the first time in 1983 - after being losing finalists in 1976, 1977 and 1979 - it was Smerilli who propelled the side to the stunning breakthrough.
He scored a sensational hat-trick in the 4-1 triumph over Tricolore, snaring the coveted D'Orsogna Cup Medal as man of the match for his impressive effort.
Dalies then went on to achieve a hat-trick of D'Orsogna Cup wins, taking the trophy in 1984 (1-0 over Floreat Athena) and again in 1985 (3-1 over Perth Azzurri).
Smerilli was capped eight times by the WA State team, making his debut against English club side Norwich City in May, 1979 when he was 24. He also played against AC Milan and Northern Ireland (1980) and in the DCM tournament in India (1984).
Soccer Federation of WA secretary Ted Gray wrote in the programme for the game against Norwich: "Big Frank is a striker of the old mould. A bustling player who also has an immense amount of skill. He was just pipped for the highest goalscoring award last year by Len Dundo."
WA lost 2-1 to the English side - but a year later Smerilli had his finest moment at State team level when he scored in an international challenge match against Italian giants AC Milan.
WA Football historian Brett Klucznik recent wrote about the game on the website footballwa.net:
"Italian giants AC Milan ended their tour of Australia on a successful note by defeating the State team 3-2 in an entertaining game at the WACA Ground on the afternoon of 1 June, 1980. But the game almost slipped from their grasp when the host team mounted a late onslaught to score twice in the closing minutes. A disappointing crowd of around 3,000 came to watch the skills of the Italian masters, and they were not let down.
"In the true mould of continental football, Milan looked deceptively lethargic as they accurately moved the ball from end to end and wing to wing. But full credit to the State team, who adopted a similar style and at times were equal to their opponents.
"For long periods of the opening session WA played well and in the 15th minute striker Frank Smerilli went close to putting them ahead when his grass-cutter shaved the outside of the post. It came as a surprise when Guiseppe Galauzzo slid into a cross to score for the Italians just five minutes later.
"If there were any complaints that Milan were coasting in the first half they were quickly silenced after the break as the visitors moved into top gear. The game exploded in the 57th minute when referee Frank Green awarded Milan a free-kick which Gabrello Carrotti drilled brilliantly into the net.
"Six minutes later Roberto Antonelli raced clear after beating the offside trap to place the ball past helpless goalkeeper Willie McNally. WA looked dead and buried, however, they worked their way back into the game with the aid of a few positional and tactical changes. Substitute Dave Fidoe gathered possession in midfield and drove forward, passing to Smerilli who blasted a 20-metre shot past Francesco Navazotti and inside the far post with 84 minutes played. Three minutes later it was Fidoe's turn to score in a frantic goalmouth scramble. And WA might well have snatched a late equaliser through Gordon McCulloch but the midfielder's header was just a little too high.
The WA squad that faced AC Milan: Willie McNally, Keith Jones, Steve Tombides, Peter Baczynski, Paul McKenna, Lee Adam, Stephen Sceats, Gordon McCulloch, Tony Pragnall, Neil Garvey, Frank Smerilli, John Poleykett, Stephen Snell, Johnny Fiamengo, Dave Fidoe, John Alavakis.
Smerilli is pictured fourth from the right in the back row of the team that faced Norwich City.
The pictured line-up is: John Ward (coach), Bill Murray, Robin Witschge, Lee Adam, Stephen Snell, Frank Smerilli, Keith Jones, Saverio Madaschi, Graham Cramphorn. Front row: Ken Sandercock, Phil Cole, Tony Witschge, John Davidson, Ray Ilott, Steve Sceats, Sauro Iozzelli, Vince Alcock.