1975 Western Australia State Womens team

1975: Western Australia Crowned Women’s National Champions

Western Australia won its first women’s title by going undefeated at the 1975 National Championships in Brisbane. The youthful, sixteen-player Black Swans wrote themselves into the history books by sweeping all before them at the five-day tournament played at the inner-city suburbs of Bowen Hills and Annerley.

Under the tutelage of coach Peter Dimopoulos, the State team chalked up straight wins over the Northern Territory, Northern New South Wales, Queenland, New South Wales and Victoria. It was a remarkable achievement given the first women’s football league in Western Australia had kicked off only three years previous.

1975 Western Australia State Women's team
The 1975 Western Australian State Women’s team

Preparations for the 1975 tournament took place in the grounds of Claremont Teachers College in Nedlands under the watchful eyes of Dimopoulos and assistant Laslo Koraknai. “We would train on Monday and Wednesday night for the State, Tuesday and Thursday were our club training nights and Friday was a night off,” goalkeeper Gina Thiess (nee Lane) recalls.

“Then on Saturday it would be back together with the State team to play the State Under-17 boys, and on Sunday it was our club game. There wasn’t much downtime but we were all happy as all we wanted to do was play football.” The squad also found time to play a curtain raiser for the men’s State team friendly against visiting English side Middlesbrough.

The State team learned shortly before departing for Brisbane of the Northern Territory’s late entry into the tournament, which caused a re-scheduling of each days program to include an extra game. The nationsls kicked off late in the afternoon of Friday 29 August when Western Australia handed out a 10-0 hiding to a luckless Northern Territory side that must have wondered what had hit them.

Gina Lane's boarding pass
Gina Thiess’ (nee Lane) boarding pass for the flight to Brisbane

The following afternoon Western Australia out-classed Northern News South Wales 3-1 to remain as the only unbeaten team after two rounds. Next up for the Black Swans was a highly-fancied Queensland outfit which was trailing 1-0 when a severe thunderstorm struck, reducing visibility only a few metres and leaving tournament officials with no option but to call the game off.

“It was a really rainy day, there was about an inch of water covering the pitch and you couldn’t kick the ball far,” sweeper Teresa White (nee Kozak) remembers. “They called the game off maybe 15 minutes from the end.” The Disputes Committee controversially awarded the game as a 1-0 win to the west, finding the host state was to blame for not scheduling the game for a time which would have seen it completed before the storm struck.

New South Wales, winners of the inaugural women’s National Championships the previous year, handed the trophy over to Western Australia by surrendering 3-0 on day four of competition. Western Australia rounded out their campaign on Tuesday 2nd September by casting aside Victoria 3-1 to finish three points clear of Queensland, who claimed the runners-up spot by goal difference ahead of New South Wales.

Teresa, who was voted Western Australia’s best player of the tournament, believes the key to the teams’ success was the special bond between the players. “When a team clicks it clicks, you can have the best of players and if they don’t click then it doesn’t work,” she said. “The sportsmanship and the friendliness was fantastic… it was probably the best time of my life.”

1975 State Womens Team Playing Shirt
Gina Thiess’ 1975 State team shirt

West Australian trio Teresa Kozak, Sharon Mateljan and Linda Mateljan were honoured with selection in the tournament ‘All-Stars’ team alongside Maria Radenovic, Lyn Smith (Queensland), Robin Rothwell, Maureen Taylor (New South Wales), Robin Leary, Karen Talbot (Northern New South Wales), Andrea Martin and Janette Melvin (Victoria).

Western Australia’s success in Brisbane lead to an invitation to tour Malaysia. However, it was decided by the WA Women’s Soccer Association that the expense would be too high and the invitation was declined. It would not be until 1977 that the State team would make their historic first venture overseas with a seven-game goodwill visit to Malaysia and Singapore.

The 1975 Western Australia Women’s State team featured Carol Blunt, Linda Blunt, Marilyn Crow, Heather Dunbar, Kathy Evans, Barbara Kozak, Teresa Kozak, Gina Lane, Sharon Loveless, Vicky Major, Linda Mateljan, Sonja Mateljan, Donna Pendreigh, Martha Ryan, Jenny Senjuschenko and Maxine Sullivan. The team officials were Peter Dimopoulos (coach), Laslo Koraknai (assistant coach) and Alex Senjuschenko (manager).

View the tournament programme for the 1975 Australian Womens Soccer Association National Championships (pdf, 2mb)

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