Sunshine George Cross

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The club is always grateful to receive any items relating to Sunshine George Cross be they player/team photos, club memorabilia, or other club matters to continue enhancing our rich history. With the passing of time many of our older supporters would have collected various items about the club, and it is a shame if these items are thrown away when time catches up with us. Even if you do not want to part with these collections, the club would gladly hand back these treasured momentos once copies are obtained. You can donate or loan these items to Victor Brincat C/O SUNSHINE GEORGE CROSS P.O. BOX 324 SUNSHINE VICTORIA 3020.





1947 – 1957


Whenever there was a gathering of Maltese migrants in Melbourne in the 1940’s, the reoccurring topic that kept surfacing was about forming a Maltese sponsored football team in Victoria. The idea remained on hold for quite some time as it seemed no one was prepared top take the initial step. It wasn’t until after the Second World War ended that the possibility came closer to fruition when a number of talks were brought about forming such a club. The three main instigators were Danny Gatt, Bill Sandham and Angelo Puli, all of whom had been in Australia since the 1920’s. The trio launched the George Cross Football Club on the 12th of March 1947 at a meeting held in the hall of St. Mary’s church in West Melbourne. After barely finding enough player to form a team the club played a number of trial matches to get a feel to see what is needed for the real thing. They acquitted themselves pretty good in practice matches and it was decided to enter the team in the third division of the 1948 season. The club secured their first home ground at Royal Park and played their first match on Saturday May 8 1948 against Woodlands. For the record George Cross won 2-0. The team had a very good season finishing second on the ladder. 1949The following year they went one better when they won the third division championship to win promotion. Following 3 years in division two the club suffered a major set back when George Cross was relegated in 1952. The following season was another good one for the Cross when they won promotion back to the second division. 1954 was another magnificent year for the club with the team winning the championship to go into the first division. Reaching the highest level of competition after only 7 years surprised everyone at the club, and it showed on the field as George Cross came crashing back to earth to be relegated when the team finished last. 1956 was a big year for Melbourne with the Olympic Games coming to town, but for George Cross it was another tough season in a season that saw the team stage a late season rally to avoid relegation back to division 3. The administration of the club led by Lou Debono was determined to get the George Cross club back on track in 1957 and the year proved to be a very good one for the club with the Georgies winning the championship and a spot amongst the big boys of Victorian football. It was a fitting way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the club and the ever growing Maltese community who were now following the George Cross felt real joy and pride at what had been achieved.


Baldasere Calleja, Guy Zammit, George Gatt, Reno Mizzi, Frank Zammit, Joe Doggett, Charles Camilleri, Joe Borg, Walter Buttigieg, Joe Gauci, Stan Stacey, Frank D’Amato, Eddie Zammit, Joe Debono, Danny Catania, Paul Zammit, Mose Cachia, Del Mannering, Vince Muscat.


              The 1949 third division championship winning team



1958 – 1967


1958 saw our club back in top flight and there was great determination by the club's administration to ensure the team remains with the best teams in this state by keeping all the players who won the previous years championship. The club recruited several good players to add depth to the squad. That season the first division became known as the State League and George Cross was proud to be one of the 12 foundation members of this new competition. The club did well to survive, but had some nervous moments before securing their State League status. The worst moment in 1958 came in the 12-0 loss to Hakoah. Enough said! The year ended on a high for the club, when the George Cross sponsored Malta team beat Italy 3-2, in the local version of the World Cup, in front of thousands of supporters at Olympic Park . This was no easy feat, as the Italian team consisted of players from the champion Juventus side who had just won their 6th championship in the last 7 years. 1959The following season saw George Cross Football Club become the glamour team of Victorian football. The team just failed to win the 1959 championship by coming a close second to Wilhelmina, but during the year the team won the triple crown, by winning the Sun Cup, the State League Cup and the Dockerty Cup. It was a great achievement and one that was celebrated big time by the thousands who were now following the club. In 1960 and 61 cups continued to come George Cross’ way, but in the race for the championship the team came second for the third season in succession. 1961 saw the club introduce Juniors for the first time. In 1962 the standard dropped a little with the team slipping down the ladder to finish in fifth place. There was however more rejoicing in cup competitions, when the club's name was inscribed on the Dockerty Cup for the second time. 1963 was a lean year by George Cross standards with no silverware coming the way of the club, but the team had a reasonable good year by finishing third in the league. 1964 it was second on the ladder yet again but supporters finished the year with huge smiles on their faces when the team beat A.PI.A from N.S.W. 3-2 to win the Australia Cup in front of 15,000 people at Olympic Park. It was the biggest achievement in the 17 year history of the club. That same season the reserves team won the championship for the second time following the 1961 success. The following year George Cross won the pre – season Ampol Cup beating Hakoah 3-0 in front of 10,000 fans in South Melbourne. In the league however it was to be another huge disap-

pointment with George Cross coming second for the 6th time in 8 season. The team was branded' ALWAYS THE BRIDES-

1959 TREBLE WINNERS.  MAID, NEVER THE BRIDE’. 1966 and 1967 were very poor seasons for the club with the team slipping down the ladder and fighting to avoid relegation. It was only late season rallies that saw the Georgies hang on to their State League position. In 1967 George Cross moved to a new home ground in Selwyn Park in Sunshine. It was to be only a short stay as within two season the club was on the move again. The first twenty years in football had brought tremendous success for the club, but the opportunity to establish the club with a permanent home ground remained a problem. The other unfulfilled dream was the failure to win the championship after coming so close so often.


Tony Vella, Lolly Vella, Edddie Sacco, Vince Muscat, Eddie Azzopardi, Steve Yuncovich, Alfred Abela, Joe Falzon, Hugh McVean, Bill Copeland, Pat McKenna, Paul Nelson, Norm Hobson, Don Hodgson, Alfred Falzon, Louis Sacco, Horst Zelienski, Archie Campbell, Marshall Gibb, Tony Cassar, Tom McPherson, John Brown, David Goldie, John McDaid, Bobby Adams, Hans Petersen, Bobby Mayle, Barry Horsfall, Willie Armour, Neil Morson, Tom Robertson, Bill McIvor, John Sanchez.



1968 -1976


After the short stint at Selwyn Park, the Cross was back playing at Olympic Park. It was during this period that George Cross failed to establish them selves with a permanent home ground where the club could secure their future. At the start of most seasons during the 1960’s, it was any ones guess as to where the club would be calling home. During this period grounds like the Showgrounds, Heidelberg’s Olympic Village, Shintler Reserve, Olympic Park’s number one and number two grounds, Elsternwick Park, Maribyrnong, Selwyn Park, St. Kilda Cricket Ground and Optus Oval were just few grounds the George Cross Football Club has used as home grounds. In 1968 fortunes improved for the club with the team always in the top half of the ladder before settling for a mid table placing. This was the end of an era for the club with long serving President Lou Debono retiring for good. He had been President for a total of 14 years and had become known as the ‘FATHER OF GEORGE CROSS”. It was also the beginning of a new era with Alphonse Attard taking the President’s position that was to last for the next 12 years. 1969 was a near disastrous season for the club, with the team finishing in second last place. Fortunately only the bottom place team was relegated that season. 1970 was not much better, but the Cross managed to stay clear enough of relegation to finish in 9th place. By this time supporters were yearning for a return of better times and the committee started a campaign to improve the situation. 1971 saw our team shoot itself in the foot on the eve of the new season, with five of the better players going on swages strike. By the time three of these players returned to the fold the Georgies was out of title contentions. The team improved and staged a great rally to remain unbeaten in the second round and eventually finish in 6th place. The latter half of the season showed enough improvement to suggest the Cross was on the right track and the committee saw fit to recruit better quality players to launch another attempt on the championship. 1972 saw the arrival of Norm Maitland one of the most loyal and dedicated players to ever wear a George Cross shirt. 1972 was a very good year for the team as George Cross became serious challengers for the championship. It was one hell of a fight with South Melbourne with both teams finishing the campaign on 35 points. The title went Hellas' way on goal difference. It was second yet again, and the same was to follow over the next two years, as yet again the Cross finished runners up to J.U.S.T. and Hellas respectively. The 1972, 1973 & 1974 seasons saw George Cross challenging for the league title, but failure to win that elusive championship left many disillusioned. 1974The team did acheive some glory by winning the 1974 Ampol Cup and State League Cup. This eased a little bit of the frustrations, but finishing second so many times disappointed many of the club’s faithful, as during this period George Cross had some of the best players in this country. The likes of John Gardiner, Kevin Walker, Frank McArdle, Norm Maitland, Paul Murphy, Derek Ricks, Dario Epifano, Tommy Clarke, Kevin Kelly and Lothar Kastner graced George Cross at the time, but even these players could not break the ice of winning a league title. 1975 saw a mediocre performance in the league with the team falling out of the championship race very early to finish in 6th place. And there was to be no cup success either that season. The beginning of the 1976 season had George Cross red hot favourites for relegation, with team morale sinking to an all time low after losing the opening 4 games of the season. The team failed to score a goal having conceded 12 and was stone motherless last. The concerned committee had been negotiating with former England international Ken Wagstaff to take charge of the team. Agreement was reached and Wagstaff arrive in Australia in May. His arrival coincided with the arrival of 20 year old Robert Culen from Scotland, as well as the return of Paul Murphy from Hellas. Other newcomers were Peter Ebini and Derek Barron. The doom and gloom changed to excitement and a club on the move, as the Georgies went on to remain undefeated 1973 STATE LEAGUE CUP WINNERS             for the rest of the season. Wagstaff had waved his magic wand and his influence and his presence on the park turned George Cross into a very exciting team to watch. The climb up the ladder was rapid as the Georgies took on all comers and beat them. The arrival of Wagstaff was a little bit late to bring home the championship, but the team did well to finish in 4th place. The reserve team did their bit by winning the Harry Armstrong Cup. It had been 10 seasons of mixed results, with some very poor efforts that nearly resulted in relegation. Some seasons looked very promising but failed to deliver due to internal problems. The three successive seasons of coming second, tested supporters resolve. The final season of this era showed what could be done with proper planning, and the bringing of Ken Wagstaff was a masterstroke that was to have a lasting impact at George Cross.




1977 – 1986



This decade began with a bang for the Georgie faithful after years of waiting for that elusive championship. Even though he had left the club, the legacy of Ken Wagstaff remained. His appointed successor Billy Wilkinson continued building on what was achieved in 1976. The 1977 season saw the departure of Mooroolbark, J.U.S.T., Heidelberg and Hellas to the National League, and George Cross was determined to win the league no matter what. The Cross was a class above everyone else and deservedly won the league title by 7 points from Slavia. That same year George Cross also won the State League Cup to make it a fine double. The following season saw a very ordinary start to the campaign, but as the season wore on George Cross charged up the ladder. The slow start created to big a gap to make up, but the team made the finals by finishing in third place. Later in the season the Georgies won their 4th Dockerty Cup by beating Wilhelmina 3-2 at Olympic Park. Our team was in red hot form late in the season and was robbed of the State League Cup by a referee’s mistake that proved costly late in the game. 1979 and 1980 saw the team’s performances slip considerably as they finished in 7th and 8th. Both seasons were full of trouble due to finances being at an all time low. Playing at Olympic Park was proving to be disastrous. Hiring this ground was far too costly, with gate takings leaving huge deficits after each home match. The only way the club survived through this period was through the dedication of a group of volunteers, who raised enough funds in various ways to make ends meet. In 1980 George Cross was on the move again with the club moving back to Selwyn Park in Sunshine, a ground vacated by the club in 1967. Moving out west saved the club money with many advocating George Cross secure a long term lease, instead of the game to game ground rental plan. George Cross only played 3 matches at Selwyn Park after agreement was reached with Sunshine City Soccer Club to share Chaplin Reserve. In 1981 the team steadied to finish in fifth place, and hovered in mid table throughout the 1982 season before finishing in 8th place. 1983 During the off season talks between Sunshine City and George Cross led to the possibility of amalgamation. The two clubs grew closer and when both sets of members agreed on the merger, the new club was launched under the name Sunshine George Cross. The new team played their first season in 1983 and it took a very long time for the new combined team to find winning form. The Georgies moved up the ladder in the second round to finish in 5th place. The following season applications were called for positions in the enlarged National League competition, and S.G.C. application was accepted. It was a baptism of fire in the new league in 1984 with the Georgies finishing last with only 5 wins from the 28 matches played. There was no other Victorian club willing to move into the league and George Cross retained their position in the N.S.L. In 1985 the club recruited some very good players to improve the situation and improve they did. The Cross was very competitive and climbed up the ladder to 6th place. The 1986 season will go down as the Georgies best in the N.S.L. with the team always in the hunt for top spot before finishing in

4th place, 1 point behind the leader. It was back down the lower rungs the following season, as the Georgies trailed every other team for most of the campaign. The never say die attitude saw the team slowly but surely haul back the gap to eventual-

 THE FIRST SUNSHINE GEORGE CROSS TEAM IN 1983.    ly overtake Heidelberg and avoid relegation by 2 points. It was a Harry Houdini escape act the way the Cross survived that season and one that had supporters biting their finger nails down to the skin. Under the guidance of wily coach John Gardiner, the Georgies played to their strength and were always competitive. At times it wasn’t pretty football, but getting points is what the game is all about. Whilst the senior team struggled in most seasons in the National League, the Youth side was doing the club proud by winning the Southern Division championship in 1986 and 1987. The club was constantly producing top talent that few clubs in Victoria could match. Many of these youngsters went on to play for the senior team, others played successfully overseas, as well as representing the Australian National team. It was satisfying to see these youngsters coming through the junior academy under the guidance of many top coaches.




1987 – 1996


The start to the 1987 N.S.L. season was nothing short of disastrous with the team getting only 2 points in the first 11 games of the season. Anchored in last place, the Georgies looked doomed until a hat-trick by Paul Trimboli gave the S.G.C. their first win of the season over South Melbourne Hellas. The fight to avoid last place was against Heidelberg
and with only 3 rounds left the Georgies was still last. A win over Sydney Olympic and a draw at Footscray J.U.S.T. saw George Cross hand bottom spot to Heidelberg. The Georgie boys rose to the challenge away at Preston in the final game to win 2-0 and secure their place in the N.S.L. It was a year for youngsters with Andrew Marth winning thew best & fairest award along with Paul Trimboli being named Under 21 player of the year. The club celebrated the 40th anniversary by winning the third successive Youth League championship. The Cross lifted their game the following season to finish in a respectable mid table position. A youngster who was rocking the football world at the time was John Markovski, who scored many sensational goals. In 1989 it was another battle at the wrong end of the table, but once again the team was able to do enough to avoid the drop. The Cross finished fourth last, only 1 point ahead of the relegated Heidelberg. Many newspaper scribes dubbed George Cross ‘
the great survivors’. youthThe youth team continued to roll along the road of success by winning the fourth Southern Division Youth championship. The youngsters crowned the season by finally winning the big one by defeating Marconi 3-2 in the final of the National Australian Championship. This was Gradiner’s last season in charge with Ernie Merrick taking over for the first summer league that got under way in 1989-90. The first match for the Cross was in Sydney against Melita Eagles and it was to be a winning start. The following week the Georgies played their first home game at their new ground in Skinner Reserve against the Ferenc Puskas led South Melbourne Hellas team. The Georgies continued their good start winning 2-0 in front of over 6,000. Stars for the Cross were Jeff Faulkner and Craig Foster, but things soured soon after with the end of Ossie Latif’s career through a training mishap. The loss of Craig Foster and David Clarkson followed and not long after Paul Lewis and Les Carter left the club to badly deplete the squad. Lorenz Kindtner was another youngster making an impact that season, along with young 15 year old Kevin Muscat who played his first game for S.G.C. The team struggled in the second round, but was good enough to steer clear of the relegation zone. The 1990-91 season promised a lot but failed to deliver. From the first round home loss to Heidelberg which featured high profile new Cross recruit David McFarlane, the season never ignited with the team always near the drop zone.



The bottom bottom dropped out for the Cross in the second half of the season following the sacking of Merrick and the departure of team manager Garry Hasler. There was no recovery and at the end of a very troubled season the Georgies finished second last and had to re-apply for a position in the N.S.L. This was rejected and Sunshine George Cross was demoted back to the Victorian Premier League for the 1992 season. With most of the players leaving, it was always going to be difficult returning to the V.P.L. The Georgies did well to finish 6th in the 14 team league. 1993 saw the Georgies make the finals after a poor start, following the appointment of John Waddell as coach and John Markovski returning as a guest player. Wins over St. Albans and North Geelong in the finals set up a preliminary final clash with Fawkner. The game played at the Veneto Club saw John Waddell carried of very early in the game, and the Cross exiting the finals through a last minute goal that gave Fawkner victory. The highlight of the season was the 5-1 win over Green Gully at Green Gully and the 18 goals scored by John Markovski. 1994 was the year the Victorian Soccer Federation renamed our club ‘SUNSHINE GEORGIES’. A late season surge saw the team finish 5th to make the finals again. After beating Altona Magic 1-0 in the semi–final, the Cross’ season ended on a disappointing note following a 1-0 loss to Port Melbourne. That season saw our reserve side win the Harry Armstrong cup for the first time in 16 years. Craig Lewis stood out scoring 16 goals. 1995 saw the Georgies have another top season under the guidance of Willie Vassallo. The team started badly but once Vassallo took over, the team never looked back. They went through the last 15 matches undefeated to finish in 3rd place. In the finals it was an early exit losing 2-0 to Altona Magic and Bulleen 5-1. In 1996 Vassallo remained in charge of a revamped and younger team that surprised everyone by winning 12 and drew 2 of the first 14 matches. The Cross eventually finished the season in third place. In the finals it was to be another disappointment losing 2-0 to Green Gully. The return to the V.P.L. saw the club acquit itself well and was much more competitive than playing in the N.S.L. Most supporters stuck with S.G.C. in a decade that saw the club disappointly lose their National League status, but proud of the fact that this period produced so many home grown youngsters.




1997 – 2006


Big things were expected for the 50th anniversary season, but unfortunately the team assembled in 1997 was mediocre at best. The club made their biggest signing ever when Sunshine George Cross bought Chaplin Reserve from the State Government. Club officials made it official by signing the deal at the club's 50th Anniversary Dinner Ball held at the Lakeside Banquet & Convention Centre on Saturday June 28 1997. Two coaching changes during the season did not help with Vassallo being replaced by Robert Ferla and not long after he was replaced by Gus McLeod. The best win in 1997 was a 6-0 drubbing of Preston, while Bentleigh Greens inflicted an embarrassing 9-1 thrashing over the Georgies. Saso Markovski scored a club record 25 goals that season. The following season saw another similar performance by the Georgies, who had adopted a very tight financial budget for the team. The youngsters introduced that season performed well with the team close to the top 5 all season, before finishing in 7th place. At the end of the season Gus McLeod sensed further tightening in player spending and resigned. Anthony Cassar took over as the new coach. He only lasted three rounds into the season and was replaced by John Kanesoulis. The team was far too young for the Premier league and struggled throughout, winning only 4 matches and was relegated to the first division. This was the first time George Cross had been relegated from the Premier League since 1958. The start of the new millennium saw the Georgies struggle once again in the first division. For many weeks the team looked destined to drop another division before coming good over the final rounds to climb to safety. At the end of the season the club made a decision to go Amateur. Most of the players from the 2000 season left and the club faced the impossible task of playing the 2001 season with virtually the same team that had just completed their under 16 season. Interest in the team by supporters disappeared with most matches attracting only a handful of loyal fans. The club was at its lowest web since being founded and it was feared Sunshine George Cross played its last match ever at the end of that season. There was no money and no support and things looked very bleak. Relegation was a certainty with the team going all season without a win. All unwanted records were created in 2001 including a 14-1 hiding at Frankston Pines. 2002 was to be the last season for Mr. Alfred Zahra as President after he inflamed many with an article predicting the club’s demise that appeared in the Herald –Sun. In a way the article was just what Sunshine George Cross needed, as many returned to the club and worked like never before to get the club on its feet once again. Mr Charles Borg took over as the new President, who along with his new committee faced the huge task of getting the team out of the second division. Things began rather poorly on the field with Sunshine George Cross without a win and in last place at the end of the first round. The first win for the club came courtesy of a protest being upheld after East Richmond fielded an ineligible player. The first on field win came in round 13 when the Georgies won 2-1 at Croxton Park to end a run of 40 games without a win. Second division status was achieved and confidence was returning back to the club. The 2003 season saw the Georgies continue to build a team capable of challenging for promotion. After being engaged in a tough battle with Pascoe Vale, the Cross finally edged out the Vale to win the second division championship. The season was further enhanced with the team winning the State League Cup on penalty kicks. The final was against Cranbourne Comets and after a scoreless draw, the Georgies had to rely on Steve Wardle’s penalty saves to take the cup. It was the first cup win for the club in 25 years. 2006The following season the team was yet again involved in another championship challenge. This time it was Heidelberg United who went neck and neck with the Georgies all season long. Heidelberg came out on top to win the championship by 2 points, but for George Cross the task of reaching the Premier League once again was completed. It was a remarkable turn around under the new administration to revive a club that was virtually dead and almost buried. It was always going to be difficult being back with the big boys in 2005, and tough it was, with the Cross falling away after a bright start. The team struggled in the second round and it was not until the final game of the season that ensured another season of Premier League football for the Georgies. The point gained in the 0-0 draw away at Melbourne Knights was enough to ensure safety. It was much the same for the club in 2006, but this time it was survival on a technicality after the team finished in the relegation zone. A protest against Essendon Royals over the Royals fielding a suspended player was upheld and the Cross was reprieved for another season in the V.P.L.

2006 SQUAD




2007 - 2011


The 2007 season was the club's 60th anniversary season and plans to make this a memorable year quickly disappeared with the team
struggling throughout the campaign. The F.F.V. informed clubs, four teams would be relegated at the end of that season and the Georgies occupied third last place in the 16 team competition at the end of 26 rounds of football. The committee wasted no time in appointing Andy O’Dell coach for the 2008 season. The English coach introduced a number of English players into the team that resulted in Sunshine George Cross winning the championship by 3 points from Dandenong Thunder. The return to the V.P.L. in 2009 saw a very competitive team that accumulated 32 points to finish in 8th place. The defence was very sound conceding only 18 goals, but the attack was equally poor scoring a measly 18 goals. Off the field President Charles Borg called it a day with Darren Farrugia taking over the role as President. The 2010 season began brightly enough with the team sitting just outside the top 4 half way through the season. Things began to sour when players began to leave the club that culminated with coach Andy O’Dell also quitting his post after the huge 6-0 loss to Altona Magic. Sunshine George Cross slipped from 5th to last place, following 9 successive defeats. Former assistant coach Theo Constantinou was given the task of motivating the players in the remaining games, but just failed, with the team finishing in last place. It was close with the relegation issue was not being settled until the final day when the Georgies lost 4-0 to South Melbourne and Bentleigh Greens upset the league leaders Richmond to avoid the drop. It was a very difficult season for Sunshine George Cross with the Football Federation of Victoria forcing the club to play the home matches at the Knights Stadium. 2010The high expense of playing at this venue and the issue of having to play matches on a Monday night, ate into the club’s finances, but the committee was still able to improve the club’s financial position from 12 month’s prior to coming into office. The big acheivement during the course of the year was the club being granting its rightful name, after many years of being ignored by the Federation on this very important matter. The F.F.V. notified the club on the 11th of May 2010, the club's official name from this day onwards will be, Sunshine George Cross Football Club. The days of being referred to as Sunshine Georgies was over for good. This brought to an end the long battle against the F.F.V. that began in 1995. Dogged perseverance finally paid dividends on a matter so important to all who follow this club. There is no doubt the team will continue to have its ups and downs, but the future of Sunshine George Cross is very bright considering the articulate planning now taking place as to where the club is heading. A long term plan has been put in place that will ensure Sunshine George Cross will be around for a long time. The process of selling the land is close to fruition and prospects for the club have never looked better. From here on the SUN will surely SHINE on the GEORGE CROSS FOOTBALL CLUB




Compiled by club historian Victor Brincat


Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2011 19:08