THIS YEAR is the 30th anniversary of a stunning triple achievement by Floreat Athena striker John Hunter, one of Western Australian football’s great goalscorers.
The big left-footed dynamo took out the top scorers award in 1990 with an impressive haul of 31 goals (the highest league total since Len Dundo fired 34 goals in 1972). Hunter’s total included five hat-tricks, three of which were four goals, from 17 games. He missed one of Athena’s games.
Hunter’s sensational feat was further recognised when he was awarded the Federation Gold Medal as the year’s Fairest and Best Player, becoming one of the few centre forwards to be given the accolade.
Even the State’s most celebrated goal-getters Johnny McInroy (seven times leading scorer) and Len Dundo (also a seven-time ace marksman) remarkably never won a Gold Medal.
Hunter’s scoring achievements enabled Athena to finish on top of the home-amd-away league season with an UNBEATEN RECORD of 17 wins and one draw from 18 games, becoming one of only a handful of teams to boast a perfect tally since the introduction of professionalism to WA football in 1960.
But because the new-look Super League, which had replaced the old State League two years before, had introduced a controversial system which meant the overall championship was to be decided by a Top Four play-off, Athena were denied what should have been a worthy title recognition and had to settle for the label of Minor Premiers.
Athena had also finished top in 1988 (when they were crowned league champions) and in 1989, when they took the Minor Premiership by nine points, but lost out in a Top Four decider, which was won by Perth Italia.
Italia, who had finished in second spot nine points behind Athena in 1990, were again proclaimed champions after they beat Stirling Macedonia 4-2 in what was this time a Top Five play-off. Maceys had beaten Athena in the semi-finals.
It was a disappointing end to what had been a stand-out year for Hunter, who had also scored on his State team debut against Moscow Torpedo in an international challenge at the WACA Ground.
The Scottish-born striker left WA to pursue a lucrative career in the Malaysian League with Sarawak and later in Hong Kong with South China. He returned to Perth in 1996 and was a key contributor as Inglewood Falcons won their first, and so far only, league championship. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame WA in 2016.
The unbeaten Athena squad of 1990 boasted many quality players. Apart from Hunter, there were key efforts during the season from the likes of Jeff Curran (who had won the Gold Medal the previous two years), Ross Greer, Paul Wormley, Ronnie Campbell, John Saunders, Mickey Cairns, Jeff Lewis and youngsters Taki Nicolaidis, Dean Nicolaou, Paul Farmer and Michael Roki.
Roki, in fact, was also part of the next Athena team to boast an UNBEATEN RECORD as league champions – this time as coach to the 2007 side.
Like many WA players, Michael had tried his luck in Asian football (in Malaysia and Singapore) before re-joining Athena and finishing as the league’s joint top scorer with 21 goals in 1997, when Athena also won the championship. He became the club’s coach in 2004 and his feat in guiding them to the Premier League title in 2007 with an unbeaten run earned him the Coach of the Year award.
Athena impressively took out the 2007 crown by 15 points from Perth Italia. They won 18 of their 22 games and drew the other four. They scored 70 goals and conceded 28.
Liberian-born Boima Karpeh, 23, was their top scorer and he won the league’s Golden Boot with 25 goals (he signed with Perth Glory soon after the season ended).
Roki took a break from football before coming back as coach to Balcatta, taking them to the title in 2011. He was also named Coach of the Year in that season.
FOOTNOTE: Athena are one of only two teams to have twice gone through a home-and-away league season with an unbeaten record since semi-pro football began in 1960. The other is Perth Azzurri (1967 and 1981).
The others to have boasted single unbeaten records when claiming league crowns are: East Fremantle Tricolore (1964), Spearwood Dalmatinac (1982) and Bayswater City (2015).
PIC ONE: Athena’s 1990 squad. PIC TWO: John Hunter shows off his Gold Medal with team-mate Jeff Curran. PIC THREE: Hunter at his 2016 Hall of Fame induction. PIC FOUR: Michael Roki in action.