Western Australia has a proud footballing history.
Fifty years ago this year the State became the first Australian representative team to compete in an Asian tournament, the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia. The Socceroos had been invited but had to decline, and that was when the then President of of the Soccer Federation of WA, Julius Re lobbied the Australian Soccer Federation to let the team from the West take their place. Despite much opposition he won out and history was made.
WA did not let Australia down and they were invited to take part again in 1968. This time they came close to making the final of the Merdeka Cup. The State team lost 4-3 to Malaysia in the semi-finals before beating Indonesia 3-1 in the third place play-off.
In 1902 Western Australia played what was arguably its first international fixture at Fremantle Oval. A Western Australian representative team played against an eleven from the touring England cricket team. A match that was commemorated in 2002 when the local football media played against the travelling England cricket media at NIB Stadium. The fixture has been played on every Ashes tour since and this year will be played on 12th of December at Dorrien Gardens.
In 1909 Western Australia embarked on a football tour of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.
There is a great deal of history associated to donning the gold and black of Western Australia, and for that reason the honour needs to be carefully preserved.
We have already seen the qualification criteria to play for the State team watered down to allow non- Australian residents who are playing in the NPL being selected, and within a year they have gone back to where they came from.
Sadly the honour of representing Western Australia has been completely dissolved at a junior level.
At the national NTC challenge earlier this year for children in the under 15’s and under 16’s age groups Western Australia was the only state that was not represented as a state team. Instead the state was represented by two teams from Perth Glory who also wore the colours of the privately owned A-League club. The reasoning for this may well have been that those picked were only players who played for Perth Glory. No Trials were held to pick the best squad to represent the state. It is sad that a number of players good enough missed out on that honour.
There were trials for the under 13’s and under 14’s who were successful in their ‘challenge.’ However what has been construed by many as a huge conflict of interest the teams were coached by coaches involved with Perth Glory. The fear amongst many being that the seven or eight players selected from outside of Perth Glory’s junior program would be pressured into joining the club’s junior side, which down the track would benefit the A-League club if they went on to sign a professional contract and would cut out the local club.
What was equally surprising to many was the fact that The Perth Glory had so many players in the Under 13 squad when the team made up of these players finished in 6th place on the PS4 NPLWA Under 14 – Orange league ladder. There are two competitions one named “Orange” and the other “Green.” The team failed to make the top four and play in the finals played out between the top four teams from each league, yet still those players were selected to represent Western Australia.
If this is the future of Junior State competitions it is a very, very sad day. The senior state team now gets to play very few matches as Perth Glory plays all touring professional sides, so it would be terrible to see the honour of representing Western Australia at junior level be taken away and all these teams playing in the colours of, and as Perth Glory.
As has been raised before does this prove that there is no scouting system in place by the Perth Glory or Football West to identify the best talent in the state at all ages? We have seen the State team coach simply send an email to the NPL clubs asking the coaches of these clubs to put forward their best players for State representation, even though better players have been playing outside the NPL. This is again a lack of identifying the talent and de-valuing the honour of wearing the colours of Western Australia.
Perth Glory may be the State’s only A-League club, the only full time professional club, but many will argue that the club does not represent the State as long as it is privately owned.
To have a game with no history is to have a tree without roots. If we honour our history we have something strong to build on. If we ignore it, just like the tree with no roots with the first major gust of wind, everything will come crashing down.
To some having players represent Western Australia matters, clearly to others it is no major issue, which is sad.