Playing a tricky game

Last updated 12:25 14/03/2013
Southland Times photo
SHAUN YEO/Fairfax NZ
Artist's impression: A mock poster for New Zealand's first football international.

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Next week the All Whites play New Caledonia in a World Cup qualifier in Dunedin, returning to the city that hosted New Zealand's first-ever football international. Gavin Bertram reports.

Even before New Zealand's first full international in 1922, football had some history here.

The game was popular with British colonials, and the first clubs emerged in the late 1880s.

In 1891 the New Zealand Football Association was formed, and in July 1904 the national side played its first game at South Dunedin's Caledonian Ground; New Zealand lost 0-1 to New South Wales in front of 3000 spectators.

Dunedin also hosted New Zealand's first full international outing, on June 17 1922.

It was the first of three matches in a Trans-Tasman "test" series, and was also the first time Australia had played internationally.

New Zealand wore a different strip to nowadays.

The black shirt and white shorts combination persevered into the 1960s; it wasn't until the 1982 World Cup qualifying campaign that the "All Whites" moniker stuck.

Australia arrived in New Zealand in May 1922 for a tour including 11 matches against regional teams. Nine were won by the visitors; Wellington and Canterbury registered wins.

An Otago selection lost 1-2 at Carisbrook on June 14 - three days before the international fixture at the same venue.

New Zealand side included players from Southland, Wellington, Auckland, and two Otagonians - forward Walter Brundell from Dunedin's Northern, and defender Robert McAuley from Kaitangata.

The match was big news in Dunedin, with estimates varying between 8000 and 10,000 in attendance that Saturday afternoon. "Overnight rain had made the ground a trifle greasy," NZ Truth reported.

"The Aussies lost the toss and New Zealand immediately set up a hot attack."

Olivier-Scerri suggests Australia's robust style of play proved little trouble for the local side.

"In New Zealand they played the game a little differently in 1922.

"The players were more accomplished . . . the Kiwis were superior to the Australians," he writes.

"The New Zealand forwards were playing a tricky game and combining well," the Auckland Star reported, "and no fault could be found with the backs."

New Zealand first goal came in the middle of the first half, with Jock Corbett passing to Invercargill's Ted Cook, who struck a fiery shot from outside the penalty box.

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Australia equalised through Bill Maunder before half time, but in the second half New Zealand's passing game and attacking mentality saw them dominate. Their second goal came after a majestic left-wing run from Wellington's Charles Ballard.

"Again he outwitted Gibbs and Fisher and centred beautifully to Knott, who sent in a hard shot which found the net amidst much cheering," NZ Truth stated.

Even better was to come, as Cook received the ball from a throw-in on the left. He beat several Australian defenders before unleashing another thunderbolt, which flew into the top corner of the goal.

The visitors rallied, and came close on several occasions, but 3-1 was the score.

"We can only congratulate New Zealand on their win," Australia's manager said.

A week later the teams drew 1-1 in Wellington, with Cook again scoring.

As the Australian tour drew to a close in July, New Zealand again beat them 3-1 in Auckland, to win the inaugural international series.

ALL WHITES IN DUNEDIN: The national football team has played here 10 times – the last a defeat to Australia 25 years ago. v New South Wales, July 1904, Caledonian Ground 0-1; v Australia, June 1922, Carisbrook 3-1; v Chinese Universities, September 1924, Carisbrook 5-3; v Canada, June 1927, Carisbrook 2-2; v Australia, July 1936, Logan Park 1-7; v England Amateurs, June 1937, Carisbrook 0-12; v South Africa, July 1947, Carisbrook 0-6; v League of Ireland, May 1982, Caledonian Ground 1-2; v Otago, September 1985, Caledonian Ground 2-1; v Australia, October 1988, Caledonian Ground 1-2.

Fast facts: All Whites v New Caledonia at Forsyth Barr Stadium, 7.35pm, on March 22.

- D Scene

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