Pioneering coach Bert Ormond joined the roll of recipients of Friends of Football’s Medal of Excellence when he was honoured in 2016.
Friends of Football chair John Morris paid tribute to his former coach at an NZ Football-hosted dinner to mark the 125th anniversary of the game in New Zealand.
Main photo (from left): John Morris, Bert Ormond and Iain Ormond. Image courtesy of Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.com.nz
Here is Morris’ tribute:
Bert Ormond emigrated to New Zealand after a successful playing career in Scotland where he played for Falkirk, Airdrie and Dumbarton scoring 34 goals in 83 appearances, playing in those days as an inside forward.
Bert arrived in Gisborne in 1961 and immediately joined Eastern Union, a football powerhouse in those days, and then Gisborne Thistle where he left a rich footballing legacy.
In 1964 the Ormond family moved to West Auckland which is where Bert began a very successful playing and coaching career with Blockhouse Bay, his only other club in New Zealand. Bert first represented his adopted country in 1961, shortly after arriving from Scotland, scoring against New Caledonia, and in 1964 he had the honour of captaining New Zealand on its 15-match World Tour.
In total, he played in 21 internationals for New Zealand, 17 of them while he was a member of Blockhouse Bay. In 1969, Blockhouse Bay, under Bert’s coaching, qualified for the inaugural Rothmans Soccer League, a controversial decision at the time by NZFA but one that turned out to be pure genius.
On qualifying, Bert immediately started to assemble a squad for the start of the season. As a member of that squad I can tell you that we were very well prepared for the rigours of the very first national club sporting competition in New Zealand and consequently we went on to win the first-ever National League title and then climaxed the season with victory in the Chatham Cup Final in a thrilling replay at Newmarket Park against Western Suburbs of Wellington.
Blockhouse Bay in those heady days set the standard. Bert insisted on a professional approach to every game: players had to wear a dress uniform to the game, the team always had lunch together prior to the game, and there was always a huge after-match function for players and supporters regardless of the result. It was a formula that other clubs copied.
After the tremendous success of that first season, Blockhouse Bay remained a power in the National League. Bert was coach for seven seasons — the club’s finishing position, in order, starting from 1970, was 1st, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 3rd, 5th. He was in charge for 122 National league games of which 63 were won, 27 drawn and just 32 lost (52% winning record).
In 1975, Bert took Bay to the Chatham Cup final again, losing this time to Christchurch United in extra time. It was no surprise that after Bert’s retirement Blockhouse Bay never reached the same heights despite having outstanding coaches in Terry Conley and Wally Hughes.
Bert’s influence was lost and so was the magic that made Blockhouse Bay a special club under the Ormond regime. Bert Ormond was more than a great footballer and coach he was also a natural as a weekly columnist who didn’t mind speaking his mind.
Bert was one of the sport’s first high profile “personalities”, writing a weekly column in the Sunday News (then the highest circulation weekend paper) in the 1970s, and helping popularise the sport to a wider audience.
Over that first season and throughout his NL coaching career he became one of the best–known names in New Zealand football as every paper and sports’ magazine in the country sought his comments before and after every game.
It is difficult for the younger generation of footballers to realise how big the RNL was in the 1970s. The double headers attracted massive parochial crowds at Newmarket Park, scintillating football every weekend and publicity that our game today would die for.
Much of the success of football in the 1970s was down to Bert Ormond. He knew the value of publicity for the game he loved and this combined with his passion, his coaching ability, his nous for the game all helped football to regain its place on the New Zealand sporting calendar.
Bert was also a fine storyteller, a superb motivator of men, a keen judge of character, someone who genuinely cared about his players. He had the knack of being able to bond a disparate group of “no name” players into a tightly knit and highly successful football team.
Bert was a real character and a connoisseur of fine Scotch whisky, in truth any Scotch whisky, of which he would partake of a wee nip just prior to his team talk at the Great Northern Hotel in Queen St before every game.
Bert’s other great attribute, along with his devoted wife Esther, was to raise two boys who both went on to play for New Zealand and have successful sporting and business careers; Iain and Duncan were stalwarts of the Bay teams of the 1970s.
A final comment from John Ewan, the respected sports journalist from Wellington, perhaps summed up Bert Ormond and his football philosophy. He said: “1970 may be remembered as the year soccer took its great step forward. It will certainly be remembered in Wellington as the year that Blockhouse Bay proved you don’t win matches on past reputation, personalities or anything other than a down-to-earth 90–minute involvement from eleven well–drilled players”.
As a member of all Bert’s teams in the 1970s, I can confirm that is exactly what Bert expected and got every week. The latest Medal of Excellence goes to a legend out west and the man who helped transform football in New Zealand from a very amateur back street kick–about to incipient professionalism: Bert Ormond.
Bert Ormond Fact File
Falkirk (1954–58), Airdrie (1958–60), Dumbarton (1960–61)
New Zealand clubs
Eastern Union (1961), Gisborne Thistle (1962), Blockhouse Bay (1964)
21 games (1961–1964)
Led Blockhouse Bay to the club’s National League/Chatham Cup double in 1970
Popular football columnist for Sunday News for many years
Brother Willie played for Scotland at the 1954 FIFA World Cup and managed his country at the 1974 World Cup.
Sons Iain and Duncan both played for New Zealand, while granddaughter Vicki was a Football Fern.