ONE OF Western Australia’s goalkeeping greats, Tony Witschge, has died. He was reported to have suffered a massive heart attack on Saturday, June 20. He was 64 years of age.
Born in WA of Dutch heritage, Tony was a junior with Caledonian, but began his senior career with Melville Alemannia (1972-74) and then played with Ascot in 1975.
However, he played most of his senior career with Spearwood Dalmatinac, later having a season with Kwinana United and then in 1985 joining East Fremantle Tricolore.
His first of over 30 State team appearances began with selection in the 1975 Indonesian Marah Halim tournament, which WA won. He was also in the squad when the State side successfully defended their Marah Halim crown in 1976.
But 1975 was the year in which he really stood out and earned him a spot in the annals of great WA keepers.
Following the Marah Halim success, Tony was chosen again by coach Alan Vest for the major games which followed that year – against Middlesbrough, Glasgow Rangers and Manchester United.
The Middlesbrough contest ended in a 1-1 draw, WA narrowly lost 2-1 to United. but the big result was a 2-1 victory over Scottish giants Rangers.
Ray Ilott and George McMillan got the goals, but it was Tony’s performance between the posts which enabled the State side to record one of their most famous triumphs. Reports at the time said: “Rangers bombarded the WA defence only to be frustrated time and again by the in-form Tony Witschge in goal.”
The WA squad that day was:
Tony Witschge; David Jones, Denis Barstow, Steve Stacey, Bob Taylor, Sauro Iozzelli, Gary Marocchi, Dave Brooks, Steve Sceats, John O’Connell, David O’Callaghan, Ray Ilott, George McMillan, Ken Morton, Aldo Trinca, John Davidson, Bert Kirkpatrick, Frank Bibby, Sav Madaschi (rgk).
Tony ended his outstanding international career on a winning note in 1982 in the 3-0 victory over the University College of Dublin at Lake Monger Velodrome.
In the intervening years he had also played against such high-profile clubs as Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland, Red Star Belgrade and Norwich.
In his 12 First Division seasons he appeared in sides that won three First Division championships, one D’Orsogna Cup, two Night Series and one Top Four Cup.
Tony was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame’s Hall of Champions in 2002, joining an elite glittering list of keepers who had stood out in the 100 year-plus history of the sport in WA.
After his playing days, Tony, who was greatly admired around Perth’s football scene, began to watch his son Scott, who at 17 made the national schoolboy team in 2011.
A winger, Scott followed his father as a State team representative when he turned out for WA in representative games against Perth Glory in 2017 and 2018.
Tony’s older brother Robin was also a player of note, having captained Spearwood Dalmatinac to a league title in 1979. Robin, a tall defender, played alongside Tony when WA took on Norwich in 1979.
PIC ONE: Tony Witschge at his Hall of Fame induction in 2002. PIC TWO: Tony in action againsts Middlesbrough. PIC THREE: Tony with WA captain Steve Stacey in the 1975 Marah Halim event.