Retro Round seems to be inspiring anyone who is old enough and can think back far enough to wax lyrical about their memories of the game when it was worlds apart from what it is now.
I like that idea, but I wasn’t really thinking back to anything in particular until I flicked around on the remote control last night and checked in for the last ten minutes of a round of 32 match in football’s FFA Cup.
Heidelberg United, a club with a great history in the old National Soccer League but which now plays in the National Premier League Victoria, at a level below the A-League, was leading A-League club Perth Glory 1-0.
The ‘Bergers’ went on to win by that score and the victorious scenes in the dressing-room afterwards, as captured on the Fox Sports coverage, were fabulous.
The FFA Cup is priceless in its value to football because of the opportunity it gives non-A-League clubs to grab some precious glory.
Those clubs do, of course, benefit significantly at this time of year from the fact they are well into their season while the A-League clubs are barely halfway through their pre-season, but it is still a great achievement to knock over one of the big boys.
Part-time players, some of whom have to work or study on the day of the game, beating the full-time professionals.
It reminded me of those mighty days of rugby league’s great old midweek competition that ran from 1974 to 1989 and went by the name of the Amco Cup, then the Tooth Cup, KB Cup, National Panasonic Cup and, finally, the Panasonic Cup.
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And, in particular, that very first year of the competition, when the country boys playing for Western Division went all the way to the final and won it, 6-2 over Penrith.
The game doesn’t get any more romantic than that.
Coached by a former St George great of the 1960s in Johnny King and including a bald-headed back-rower who developed cult-hero status through his wholehearted appearances in the televised games, ‘TV Ted’ Ellery.
Also in the side were a former Australian representative in Barry Rushworth and a future one in Terry Fahey.
The Amco Cup was required viewing on Channel Ten on a Wednesday night, with Ray Warren and Keith Barnes commentating. I was still at school when the competition first kicked off and I never missed a game.
It was a fabulous concept, the likes of which the game really misses today, but of course it won’t be back. The midweek knockout competition has gone the same way as contested scrums and mullets.
I’m not saying mullets won’t come back in one day, but it would be a lot easier to grow one of those than it would be to convince the National Rugby League and its clubs to agree to add a midweek knockout competition to the schedule.
They’ve just got rid of the City-Country match, they’re not going to start going back in time to regurgitate something else!
The great league writer Ian Heads tells the wonderful story of the Western Division team in his fabulous book The Night The Music Died, How A Bunch of Bushies Forged Rugby League’s Last Great Fairytale.
It’s the sort of Cinderella story which, if we in this country were more into making movies out of our great sporting yarns, would have ended up getting such treatment.
Or at least a documentary similar in quality to those we regularly see coming out of the US on ESPN.
On August 21 it will be 43 years since that game was played at Leichhardt Oval. It will always be one of rugby league’s great nights.