One more Sunday at the Park
It may be 36 years since a match was played at Auckland’s Newmarket Park but dozens of games and incidents were replayed in a matter of hours when Friends of Football staged a reunion at the ground.
The independent supporter group provided guided tours for former players, coaches and supporters who wanted to see the park again, and remember the internationals, national league games and cup finals that once took place there.
Over a Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of football lovers took time out to stroll around the park devastated by a landslide in 1979 but which has since enjoyed a $6.7 million rehabilitation into a family-friendly park by Auckland Council.
Many former internationals and national league players joined fans, referees and administrators to recount some of the stories of Newmarket Park.
Former All White Sam Malcolmson was reunited with referee Les Coffman on the very spot Malcolmson was sent off during a local derby between Eastern Suburbs and Mt Wellington.
International full back and former national league coach Maurice Tillotson was able to acknowledge the memory of his father whose ashes were spread in the eastern corner of the park when it was still a football ground.
And players were able to embellish the memories of goals scored from impossible positions, against some of the world’s greatest players, and all on a ground that was built by workers in the 1930s depression.
It became football’s home in 1964 and regularly hosted crowds of more than 10,000, most of whom were packed shoulder-to-shoulder on 42 rows of concrete terrace.
Players such as 1966 World Cup winners Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, Gordon Banks and Martin Peters all played there, while former England manager Glenn Hoddle played his first full 90 minutes for Tottenham Hotspur as an 18-year-old on tour in New Zealand.
Referee Les Coffman returned for another look at the park where he refereed the first game played there (Auckland v German club Munster in 1964) and the last match there in which New Zealand beat Australia 1-0 in a full international.
Coffman also refereed the only international game abandoned in New Zealand, a match in the 1970s when New Caledonian players refused to accept a sending off when trailing 4-0 to New Zealand in the first half.
Former All Whites to revisit the park included Brian Turner, John Morris, Earle Thomas, John Houghton, Sam Malcolmson, Ray Mears, Adrian Elrick, Maurice Tillotson and Dave Taylor.
FIFA U-20 World Cup mascot Woolliam turned up to meet the fans and to encourage kids who enjoyed an endless kickabout at the end of the ground where legendary striker, the late John Wrathall, scored his 1,000th goal in 1971.
As with many a Sunday afternoon in the 1970s, the balls were bagged at 5pm and the crowd quietly left Newmarket Park once more…
Pictured: A few internationals grace Newmarket Park once again – Brian Turner (left), Sandra Twiname, Barbara Cox, Wolliam (the FIFA U-20 World Cup mascot), Sam Malcolmson, John Morris and Earle Thomas, and the next generation of top footballers at Newmarket Park.