A century of transtasman football

New Zealand goalkeeper Reg Craxton makes an aerial leap to keep the Australians at bay at...
New Zealand goalkeeper Reg Craxton makes an aerial leap to keep the Australians at bay at Carisbrook in 1922. PHOTOS: OTAGO WITNESS
A hundred years ago today, Dunedin hosted New Zealand’s first football international. Gavin Bertram reflects on that momentous occasion in a week the All Whites nearly delivered the perfect anniversary gift.

Losing the World Cup playoff was an unfortunate way for New Zealand football to celebrate a century on the world stage.

Because it was 100 years ago today that this country played its first international, a 3-1 win over Australia in Dunedin.

That fixture was also Australia’s first international. While the centenary has been virtually ignored in New Zealand, across the Tasman a couple of books have been published to mark the occasion.

There’s the lavish Socceroos: 100 Years of Camaraderie and Courage, as well as Nick Guoth and Trevor Thompson’s Burning Ambition: The Centenary of Australia-New Zealand Football Ashes.

The latter is a thoroughly researched telling of the birth of Antipodean international football. As well as covering the development of the game in both countries, it comprehensively tells the story of Australia’s 1922 tour, and the return visit of New Zealand to Australia the following year.

Guoth said the "burning ambition" in the title referred to the desire of the football associations in this part of the world for an English team to visit.

"There was this desperate need for England to turn up, but a lack of any belief that they would actually make it," he said.

"It was too far away. So there was this belief that if they can’t get the English out, they may as well play a game anyway."

A template for Australia’s visit to New Zealand shores had been created by the visit of a New South Wales team in 1904. A match during that tour at Dunedin’s Caledonian Ground saw the first appearance of a New Zealand side — but it was not a full international.

That honour went to the "First Test", played at Carisbrook on June 17, 1922.

The Australian squad of 16 players and manager Alf Morgan had arrived in Wellington in late May with three internationals and 11 matches against provincial sides planned.

On May 27, the visitors beat Wanganui 3-1, in a match that is recognised as the first by an Australian national team.

After outings against Nelson, Wellington, Westland, and a South Island selection, the side arrived by train to a civic reception in Dunedin on Wednesday, June 13.

The next day, Australia beat Otago 2-1 at Carisbrook, the Otago Daily Times noting that "the Australians’ shooting was a trifle disappointing, but something better is promised against New Zealand ..."

Australian captain Alex Gibb had grown up in Musselburgh, in Scotland, so a visit to Musselburgh School was organised that included a game at Culling Park.

Anticipation for the first test on the Saturday was rising, with crowds watching the teams train at the Oval and much discussion in the local newspapers.

Adverts announced that it was to be "the event of the season", with the First Battalion band playing, and a curtain-raiser to be played between Invercargill and Mornington.

Due to heavy overnight rain, that match was played at the Oval instead, no doubt witnessed by many of the crowd of over 10,000 heading towards Carisbrook for the 2.45pm start.

In mist and drizzle, the Australians had the honour of kicking off the first international. They played in a light blue strip, while New Zealand had black shirts with the silver fern.

While researching Burning Ambition, Guoth and Thompson discovered an interesting fact about the game.

"It was the first international match between two countries where shirt numbers were used," Guoth said.

The New Zealand team that played the historic first international: back, from left, Dan Jones ...
The New Zealand team that played the historic first international: back, from left, Dan Jones (Wellington), Jock Corbett (Auckland), Reg Craxton (Auckland), Robert McAuley (Otago), Charlie Ballard (Wellington), Bill Brownlee (Wellington), Walter Brundell (Otago), Bill Knott (Auckland), Ted Cook (Southland), George Campbell (Wellington, captain), Rewi Braithwaite (South Auckland).
"In England they didn’t start until the late-1920s with shirt numbers in an experimental mode. It’s something that you take for granted."

New Zealand scored first, Southland forward Ted Cook taking a "fine swerving shot ... the ball finding the net amidst tremendous enthusiasm".

It was 1-1 at halftime after a shot from close range from Australian marksman Bill Maunder just before the whistle.

However, the second half belonged to New Zealand, the team finding more cohesion as the game progressed. Auckland winger Bill Knott broke the deadlock, turning the ball in from a cross, before Cook scored a third with another "crisp shot".

While Australian manager Morgan complimented the New Zealanders on the 3-1 result, his deputy’s review was not so appreciative.

Sid Storey, also a player, took issue with the home side’s use of "obstruction" — the barging of players off the ball that was still permitted under Football Association rules. This was an issue that recurred throughout the 1922 tour, and New Zealand’s visit across the Tasman the following year.

Perhaps it was their interpretation of the rule that gave the New Zealanders an advantage across the two international series, as they triumphed in both.

In 1923, they brought home the newly devised Anzac Ashes — an ornate box containing ashes of cigars smoked by both captains.

That trophy has long been lost, and the spirit of the Anzac football relationship has waned, with the teams not having met in over a decade.

But it will be renewed on September 25, when the All Whites and Socceroos meet at Auckland’s Eden Park.

100 years of rivalry by dates

Since the first clash in Dunedin in 1922, there has been fierce rivalry in Anzac football — and some classic fixtures.

1922: A 3-1 victory in front of 15,000 spectators at Auckland’s Carlaw Park to win the inaugural series.

1923: New Zealand captain Campbell scored all four in a 4-1 win at Newcastle to bring home the Anzac Ashes.

1936: A gulf had emerged with New Zealand losing the series heavily, including a 7-1 loss at Logan Park.

1954: A 2-1 win at Melbourne Showground was the only success for the New Zealand side that included Dunedin’s Bill Westerveld.

1967: Brian Turner made his New Zealand debut in a 5-3 loss in Saigon with the Vietnam War as a backdrop.

1973: A 3-3 draw in Sydney in New Zealand’s second World Cup qualification campaign. Australia went on to qualify for its first World Cup.

1975: The New Zealand women win an Asian Cup semifinal 3-2 in Hong Kong, before beating Thailand in the final.

1981: Media in Australia wrote off the All Whites, but Grant Turner’s headed screamer helped secure a 2-0 win in a Sydney World Cup qualifier.

1989: At Mt Smart in Auckland, a 2-0 home win helped to end Australia’s World Cup qualification hopes.

1999: A 1-0 win in Brisbane to qualify for the Confederations Cup in Mexico — where New Zealand faced star-studded Brazilian and German sides.

2010: In front of 55,000 in Melbourne, a 2-1 loss in this ill-tempered pre-World Cup friendly. The countries have only met once since, in 2011.

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