Some Times when Women’s Football Evolving

Queensland Era 1965-1979

Time Sometime Forgets

With the Women’s Game of Football in Queensland reaching its Centenary I/We my wife Margaret Nee Crook and myself have reflected our little bit of experience while the game was developing /evolving from about 1964 through to 1979.

From the beginning I started my interest at under 11 at that time was the youngest team in the Annerley club in 1960, playing in grey tee shirts and card board numbers safety pinned on our backs. Later my Dad and his mate Tom Blackall started a under 9 competition where my brother Gary played.

Gary was a natural, I struggled but really never excelled until I found my notch in goal after giving my coaches Alf and Stan Shields years of lament yet a couple of sessions with out first team keeper Fred Moss I got the gist.

I progressed till I was stymied by a club politics of the elite or clicks of which me or my parents were not invited.

Fair enough I thought so I was approached by Niel Wall a Brisbane Junior Referee official and me and a few mates became the first and youngest referees appointed to junior games across Brisbane.

The junior game was growing and the club had decided to start a Under 7 side and I was asked to coach, and that I continued til they were Under 15, winning just about everything in our way.

This Under 7 side started my relationship as I approached this young girl I had been watching playing in the women’s team to be my manager, about 1964-65 I recall., and she is still my manager today in 2021.

Margaret was a real pioneer of the ladies football as my fellow players had girlfriends that played firstly as just fun but soon developed into a serious exercise by those who really wanted to play and play well.

They sorted out the kick and giggle and set to playing with women who in todays time not as skilful but certainly ruthless at times, particularly when their boyfriends were egging them on, whose skills were limited to say the least.

Coaches were scarce and the women’s game was not accepted as “REAL” in those times by officials at all levels.

Margarets coach Bob Geogahan was a ex rugby league player who’s daughter Helen wanted to play and got the job because he was there.

He went on to be an outstanding representative of the Women’s Game in Queensland.

Margarets weekend were full time with me coaching the kids then me playing and Sundays her playing. Football was our winter life and summer was Tennis/ Squash/ Ten Pin Bowles with the Ladies team, I’d play cricket and she’d was club scorer.

Margarets game slowly developed with the game and as it expanded she and her teammates were selected in Brisbane rep squads, not before doing promotions on Don Secombs “Ive Got A Secret |” TV show on Channel 9 where they were trying to raise funds to go to Singapore to play a women’s team there. Far in advance of any mens football club ambitions or vision and even though it the trip never er eventuated they went to Sydney to play a representative shire side.

Brisbane sides we the majority until along came Kieth Barclay from that town they call Ipswich and then shook the cages of the evolving hierarchy and with the support of Elaine Watson evolved from the Annerley parents like Bob and was The Warhorse of Women’s Football in Queensland and Australia later on.

History records the fierce rivalry of Brisbane and Ipswich in not just sport by oxygen in reality and Football men and women’s was inflammable at any time since the 1890’s but Brisbane had its own power games being played out by mainly people struggling for self importance using their clubs as wedges and those power games spilled over to the players and animosity often affected players relationships with each other.

That culture is toxic and held back the game both men and women and probably still exists in places and was my first hurdle when I was appointed as State Coach in 1976 for the 1977 Perth Tour.

Firstly it would be totally unfair not to recognise the former Brisbane and Queensland Representatives in the era before I became involved officially with Women’s Football. Those players including my wife funded their own kit, trips, accomodation and did it for love of the sport, not ego, not fame just a passion for their selected code and Elaine and Bob were the powerhouses for that many a fundraiser, horn and prawn, bingo night, raffle circulated our clubs home grounds to support our representatives.

History in that era has been captured but the commitment of some players endangered their jobs and family relationships for some when a women’s status was looked on as being subservient to males. Another issue I was alerted to when coaching women. A Issue I was probably guilty of without really thinking it as being abnormal in earlier times.

Sadly in my opinion this time in the hazier years before blooming times in the 80’s but should not be forgotten.

My involvement started as stated 1976 when i was approached by Bob and Elaine to take over from Bob coaching the State Squad.

At that time I had left Annerley, a short stint at Salsbury, and was appointed as Colts coach for Saint George Souths, a club that was solely owned privately owned.

My departure from Annerley was less that accidental after over 20 years but I had to get out of the bubble of nepotism that existed and test my own ability and after a very successful stints as reserve grade, junior coaching was too local to get the top gig, so when I left and started working with the Greek club, the 1st division premiers for years previous as their second team and talent coach, made my first game against Annerley very interesting but not surprising reactions from supporters and what I thought friends. Family relationships were strained to say the least but they were paying, and my family come first, especially when I left my trade and started with Telecom as a baggy arsed Lineman at the bottom of the ladder.

After putting my case to the AGM at the Women’s Association I was appointed as State Coach and entered the fray of Women’s Football this time though on the other side of the desk. YEP this made my relationship with my wife a little strange to say the least as she was still a state player.

That situation and my decision not to select her in the state squad is still a subject of contention as we speak but my reasoning was after some time learning the existing culture and what had to change would have put her exposed as a lightning rod of comparison if any disciplinary issues arose.

I could not be seen as bias and even though I left Annerley the pundits still saw me as slanted. In fact I was probably guilty of scrutinising Annerley above the normal not to generate criticism.

So away we went and what a ride, all of us on a learning curve, and all eager to raise the Queensland flag in victory, but we come up short just short beaten by a referee who played 7 minutes overtime, but I was so proud of that squad as they all left their club baggage for the major part the campaign but as human nature some reverted after the event and that was a part of my learning curve of second agendas and politics.

It cannot go unmentioned after the comp and before presentations I was visited by a official and as to coach the Australian team as well as asking me who would I pick out of my squad to be maned in a team that was mainly just token as they were not going anywhere or playing anybody.

I informed him that I was not what they regarded as a qualified coach as I never had their piece of paper but I was assured they would look after that if I took the job and handed me a contract with Rothmans.

I declined as I had just started with Telecom in February and uprooting my family and moving to the Sports Academy down south was too much to consume as they wanted a decision before e announcement of the Australian Squad even without consultation with Margaret.

I feel that was part of the plan, as the bloke who handed me the contract went on to coach the national squad. I still stand by my decision and went on to a great career with Telstra.

In regards to that Piece of Paper Coaching certificate went back to when a group of Poms in Brisbane decided they would set up their own coaching federation and gave each other qualifications than set out to make existing coaches mainly non pommy unqualified.

Bitter no, but when a good mate of mine who happened to be a pom was invited to attend a coaching course which I was observing at the time came away with qualifications after about a 1 hour while others had several nights of course I told a quite prominent coach at the time to shove it up his Arse in Australian Terms and the following year I was appointed State Coach and the first State Director Of Coaching caused a uproar amongst the Pommy Coaching Self Appointed Royalty and probably proved detrimental to the code while my appointment was current.

I am for ever grateful and respectful of the quality of character Elaine Watson had as she and her board stood by me in those turbulent times.

Off the record HA HA HA NOW i worked the shipyard and worked a.long with heaps of migrants who loved football lived at Yungabar hostel and I got heaps of books ,literature from all over Europe in the coaching field and introduced the 4/3/3 system into my under 8 side well before the seniors caught on. Don Revie Leeds United brought it to England and I had paper explaining the system hot off the Yungabar network.

The best bit was I had all the people from Europe with their football experiences around a fire drinking tea and arguing football ,so good for a 15-18 year old and each telling you about their country post war and pre war, far better than any body telling you how to trap a ball and get a tram ticket certificate.. A topic of hilarity to the Shipyard Football Fraternity around the fire, as the English game’s opinion on itself was less that respected.

Yes time has moved on but being disrespected in ones own country by people you know you have out coached was not easy to swallow and I always did my own research and attended coaching demonstrations from visiting coaches and demonstrations..

You can teach the basics to anyone , but not everyone can read a game. That’s the skill, and you have it or you don’t, and to this day I see coaches that fail because they cannot influence via strategic changes and think playing personnel are the answer. The game is simple, only people complicate it, and make a lot of money doing so.

Enough of ideology, the Newcastle trip was another step as the Brisbane influence was less as newer players from outside were introduced, and some found it a strange culture / enviourement

In those times same sex relationships was basically not discussed openly but it was the elephant in the room to a smaller extent on that tour.

Categorically it did not effect the football result but it did raise the issue and I was totally out of my depth in handling such an issue at the time, and hoped it could be handled by my female counterparts in the management side of the squad.

After Perth and viewing how the other states were structured I was very concerned how the injuries were treated on and off the park.

Fortunately in the past I had coached Peter Monteith and having his sister Sue in the squad I approached the parents Jan and David who was a Physiotherapist and Doctor to attend the girls.

Yes we were the first state to have the services of a qualified physio on the line, and Jan Monteith was it. The days of just having a strapper or bucket boy was over and it too was totally voluntary and cost the Monteith family extensively in lost income.

We were progressing off the park as well as on in those years building brick by brick, often overlooked.

A middle order result on that tour was disappointing for me but our standard of playing was improving, and one of my gauges was when I started I arranged practice games with boys teams, good teams and we started with Under12 -13 level and each year we grew more competitive in those trials and more importantly more respected by the pundits of the women’s game. My Colts team were impressed.

The Darwin tour saw me out. After breaking my foot in the first training session it was a painful time in more ways than one. We just couldn’t get any breaks, the rub of the green you name it it went wrong and the poor performance was my accountability fully and I might say celebrated in some circles as a opportune time to push ones own agendas, and some totally unprofessional actions disappointed me outside the playing staff.

All a learning curve and in the past, and yes this is a branch and root recollection from a 70 year old but with a memory of still seeing the ball go in the corner bouncing over a sliding right foot a defender after chipping the goalkeeper to loose a state title. That still sticks, but the girls in my squads were the best they could be, earned their shirts which they had to give back without prejudice and I was proud to be associated with each and every one off them and its their history I want reinstated as it was them who set the ground too for a ever evolving women’s game which had finally been recognised nationally in the name of A league Women

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