Perth Glory Launch ticket (feature Image)

Setting Out on the Road to Glory: the Perth Glory Story, 1994-1996

It is 25 years since Perth Glory began a great adventure that was to change the face of the game in Western Australia – and ultimately become the driving force to change the look of football all around Australia. Here’s the first part of our tribute to a club that has enriched the history of the game in WA.

After years of having doors emphatically slammed shut on a team from WA gaining entry to the National Soccer League, ruling body Australian Soccer Federation announced on June 6, 1994, that a team from Perth would be admitted to what was then known as the Coca-Cola NSL the following year. A team from Canberra was also granted membership – but it would, in fact, be a year later than first mooted before the big change took place in the 1996-97 season.

Arena Investments, the syndicate which came to the rescue of financially-strapped Perth Kangaroos in the Singapore League earlier in 1994, was granted the NSL licence on October 16, 1994. Representatives of Arena, which consisted of Perth businessmen Nick Tana, Paul Afkos and Anthony Di Francesco, said they were keen to meet with the ASF before undertaking the venture, which was estimated would initially cost $1million to set up and upwards of $500,000 to cover annual costs.

Nick Tana, Richard Court and Paul Afkos
Nick Tana, Western Australian Premier Richard Court and Paul Afkos at the 1995 launch of Perth’s first entry into the National Soccer League

Three months later in January 1995, Arena revealed that it favoured delaying NSL admission to 1996, or even later, so as to have adequate time in which to assemble a squad, coaching staff and support staff, and find a suitable ground to stage high-profile games. Its submission gathered dust in ASF offices following the resignation of national chairman John Constantine.

But new ASF boss David Hill promised swift action when he was appointed in April, 1995 – and he followed through with his commitment. After meeting with Arena representatives in August, 1995, Hill said: “The NSL needs a Perth team in the competition as soon as possible. We envisage that Perth could be the role model for the ’96 season.”

Arena made their first major appointment in October, 1995, when highly-respected WA administrator Roger Lefort was named as the new Perth team’s general manager. Lefort was previously the chief executive of the State’s ruling body, Soccer Administration of WA, and was a former president of the Junior Soccer Association. His business background was in sales management and marketing.

Former Socceroo captain Gary Marocchi was named coach on October 27, winning the job ahead of some strong overseas and interstate candidates, including former Australian team boss Rale Rasic and Matildas coach Tom Sermanni. Former Manchester City player Mickey Brennan was recruited as assistant coach.

Marocchi, who led the Perth Kangaroos to the Singapore League title a year earlier, signed up on a part-time basis. He said his team selection would be mainly part-time locals, but indicated that the syndicate wanted three full-timers. He was given the go-ahead to approach New Zealand international Wynton Rufer, who at the time was on a $1million contract with JEF United in Japan. That sort of money, however, was way above the Perth expectations.

On December 1, 1995, Arena Investments announced that the name of the new NSL team would be Perth Glory, with the unusual mix of purple and sunburst orange as club colours. ASF chairman David Hill, a special guest at the launch at the Burswood Dome, said of the name and colours: “It’s different, it’s new, it’s futuristic, it’s bold and it’s courageous.”

1996 Perth Glory Logo
The original Perth Glory logo

Marocchi put together a squad of locals to take part in a series of trials and practice matches in the ensuing months – and he kicked off the start of the big search with a challenge game against local side Kingsway Olympic on January 14, 1996. The team that beat Olympic 6-2 would bear scant resemblance to the ultimate Glory selection. The club’s first official goal was scored by Alan Armstrong, who in fact scored twice alongside Peter Murphy, Robin Dyers, Steve Bourne and Gareth Naven (the only one of the scorers to end up with the Glory’s NSL team).

A week later, Marocchi added several new trialists to a line-up that beat Bayswater Panthers 4-1, but only goalscorer Paul Strudwick would go on to make the final cut. The Glory made a bold bid to sign former England stiker Cyrille Regis, who showed brief interest until Chester made a more tempting offer. It had been hoped to play Regis against a League selection at Fremantle Oval, but it was Welsh-born Alan Armstrong who again caught the eye with two goals in the 4-0 win.

A flurry of trial games followed, usually with much success, before the Glory faced its toughest test before entry into the NSL – an international challenge against touring Italian giants Sampdoria, scheduled for the WACA Ground in late May. Marocchi gave the clearest indication yet of who might eventually represent the Glory at NSL level with the inclusion of goalkeeper Tommy Maras, Craig and Gareth Naven (who was named captain), Scott Miller (available after an NSL spell with Morwell Falcons), Paul McVittie, Paul Strudwick, Alan MacKenzie, Dale Wingell and Vas Kalogeracos.

There was also room for two guest players from the eastern states – former Socceroos forward Kimon Taliadoros and Olyroos striker Ante Milicic. But the Italians, not surprisingly, proved to be a different class, winning 3-0 with two brilliant goals from the legendary Roberto Mancini and one from Vincenzo Jacopino. There were eye-catching efforts from the Naven twins, MacKenzie and Maras, and Kalogeracos was unlucky not to pull a goal back when he hit the crossbar late on.

So, the signs were encouraging for Marocchi as he sought to put together a competitive squad in the final months before the NSL adventure became a reality…

FOOTNOTE: Glory’s marketing man Jim Davies revealed in 1996 that the club had received over 800 suggestions regarding a name. It was whittled down to five – Flyers; Storm; Predators; Red Backs; Glory. Anxious to be branded as a contemporary club (different from most other NSL outfits), the name Glory, with its connection with sporting achievements, was given the nod. A foresightful choice, indeed, that ultimately mirrored the club’s NSL success – on and off the field.

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