Whisper it quietly around a code that has lurched from crisis to crisis in recent years, but there’s suddenly an air of optimism as the new A-League season dawns.
Brisbane Roar’s 36-match unbeaten run this year may be an Australian football record but it doesn’t come within a bull’s roar of the benchmark for elite team sports.
Brisbane’s staggering A-League sequence prompted squash officials to check the record books and verify that the NSW men’s team won more than twice as many matches in succession – 78 – at Australian carnivals between 1958 and 1973.
The mainstays of the dream run were multiple Australian champion Ken Hiscoe, 1973 world amateur champion Cam Nancarrow and Dick Carter.
The NSW teams also featured Ted Hamilton, perhaps better known as the actor who starred in TV series such as Division Four, The Love Boat and In Melbourne Tonight.
Other team members across the 15-year streak included Owen Parmenter, Ken Binns, Bob Pratt, Rainer Ratinac, Greg and Lionel Robberds and Bill Reedman, as well as the four players who got the ball rolling in 1958 – John Cheadle, Vin Toohey, Kevin Stuart and Neville Head.
The streak ended with a loss to Queensland in 1974.
It was no cakewalk, either. NSW No.1 Hiscoe for many years had to take on Victoria’s top player Geoff Hunt, then emerging on his path to world domination.
Neither could play after the 1971 series as they turned pro.
“The rivalry with Victoria was mammoth,” said Hiscoe, who won seven out of eight Australian individual titles between 1960 and 1967 and never played in a losing NSW or Australian team from 1960 to 1978.
Australian and NSW cricket opener Bob Simpson once told Hiscoe that beating Victoria in the Sheffield Shield was just as good as beating the Poms in a Test.
“It was the same in squash,” said Hiscoe, now aged 73 and living in Queensland.
Despite producing an assembly line of world champions, Australian squash has been coy about its achievements.
“We are low key,” said Hiscoe.
“We just don’t like to push ourselves out there.
“Brisbane Roar’s record is fantastic – we congratulate them – but when I heard it being called an Australian record in elite sport I thought, `What’s going on here?’
“So I thought I would check.”
Oliver Lind, President of NSW Squash and vice-president of Squash Australia, said the streak reflected Australia’s pre-eminence in squash.
“We have a proud history and we should be grateful for the heritage handed to us in this great sport,” he said.