Australian football fans have the tough choice of helping to decide our greatest ever footballer.
At a time when the Australian football family is under-siege with A-League dramas, finally some good, positive debate.
The poll is being run by the Johnny Warren Football Foundation and members of the public can have their say for who should be honoured. Public voting will be combined with the decisions of a judging panel on a 50/50 basis to determine the winners, with voting close on June 22.
The judging panel includes the likes of Les Murray, Andy Harper, Craig Foster, Anthony LaPaglia, George Negus, Moya Dodd, Jack Reilly and Michael Cockerill.
There’s no easy answers among choosing the best Socceroo team ever. It’s very difficult to decide on players when you have never seen them player before, like Marston and Date, and to compare eras. But here’s my two cents, and the reasons for them:
Mark Schwarzer – Bosnich may have been more talented, and Ron Corry and Jim Fraser have had great careers as both players and coaches, but for me it has to be Mark Schwarzer. His longevity, his remarkably consistent career in the top flight in both England and Germany, and his fantastic Australian debut against Canada in the ’94 World Cup cannot be forgotten. And nor can his penalty saves against Uruguay in 2005.
Joe Marston – A pioneer for Australians playing in England, a long-serving career with the Socceroos and ex-NSW State League and national team coach. Joe has done it all, and he is also a true gentleman and legend of our sport.
Alex Tobin – 87 games for the Socceroos, many as captain, says it all. So does his haul of 522 senior games in Australia, three NSL championships with Adelaide City and the high esteem he is held in, evident of the PFA Medal being named after him.
Peter Wilson – An enigma, Wilson was born in England but moved to Australia at 22. He had a long and prolific career in the NSL and with the Socceroos, with the highlight for the dominant sweeper coming as captain for Australia at the 1974 World Cup.
Lucas Neill – A tough choice between Lucas and Craig Moore, but Lucas just gets the nod. What a captain, a phenomenon at the 2006 World Cup and a proud leader.
Johnny Warren – Has anyone ever given more to the beautiful game as a player, coach, ambassador, media pundit or spokesperson in Australia? I don’t think so.
Tim Cahill – This man has carried the Socceroos in recent years. He scores goals for Australia for fun, and has conquered the brutal English Premier League. Such an inspirational figure.
Ned Zelic – Deciding between the immensely talented but injury-prone Paul Okon and the freakish but more temperamental Ned Zelic is near impossible, but Zelic just edges it. What a player, a legend in the Bundesliga and a fantastic Socceroo (though primarily in defence). His goal against Holland in 1991 will live long in the memory.
Mark Viduka – You just can’t go past the V-Bomber. A freakish teenager, he wowed crowds in Australia, Croatia, Scotland and England. His goal-scoring record for the Socceroos may not have matched his club feats, but this ignores the fact that often he was a lone soul up front for Australia. Such skill and impressive technique for a big man who could virtually do it all.
Harry Kewell – Another boy wonder turned English Premier League star. ‘H’ cops a lot of criticism but he has delivered for Australia time and time again – against Iran in 1997, against Croatia in 2006 etc etc. He’s still doing the business for the Socceroos (see the recent Saudi Arabia friendly) and had a good debut A-League season with the Victory.
Reg Date – Some might be saying, Reg who? To those I would say, do your research. Date was a goal-scoring machine, a fearsome striker with a ridiculously powerful shot. My recent deceased grandfather told me a story about once seeing Date play, and with one of his goals the goalkeeper ended up in the back of the net with the ball.
Date has been termed as the ‘Bradman of Australian Soccer’ by some, and to his contemporary Joe Marston he the best Australian player he ever played with or against: ”Great player. Great bloke. But boy he could drink. The selectors, they never liked Reggie. He was too much of a larrikin. They couldn’t handle him.”
Date just makes it front of fellow Novocastrian Ray Baartz, perhaps our most skilful Socceroo ever, whose career was tragically cut short in his prime.
Notable mentions go to players like Baartz, Moore, Okon and Frank Farina for missing the cut. Also somewhat surprising that Craig Johnston was left off the nominees list. I will do my picks on the greatest ever coach, Matilda and overall player another time.
More importantly, who would you choose?
There are 72 nominees to choose from, and they have been chosen from a set criteria. For the greatest ever team, it is between
For the greatest ever coach, it is between:
For the greatest ever female player, it is between:
Lisa De Vanna
Who do you choose, Roarers?