The mystery disappearance of the long-lost ANZAC Soccer Ashes has been solved with the discovery of the trophy in the clean-out of a family’s garage during the COVID pandemic.
The trophy was created in 1923 and was to be contested between New Zealand and Australia who had played their first international the year before.
Made from a combination of rewarewa and Australian maple, the elaborate trophy contains ashes of cigars smoked by Australian captain Alex Gibb and New Zealand captain George Campbell following the first meeting between the two nations in Australia in June 1923.
The trophy went missing in 1954, prompting speculation it had been lost, thrown away or hoarded by someone involved in Australian football.
However, it was found by the grandchildren of former Australian Soccer Football Association chairman Sydney Storey who died during the pandemic. It was among footballing artefacts and papers diligently stored in the garage of the Storey family home.
‘We knew it was significant …’
Grandson James Storey, speaking for the Storey family said:
“There was a lot of real history in my father’s garage … a whole heap of stuff, including big things and little things, boxes upon boxes.
“We had to clear all of that, and we found these three boxes of historical soccer papers, photographs and these early annual reports of the soccer association.
“Among the trunks, we found this well-preserved historical soccer trophy. It was quite extraordinary, with little engravings on it, a soccer ball motif on the top and a kangaroo — a really nice little item. We knew it was significant. But we didn’t know how significant.
“We looked with amazement at the history of the Ashes soccer game … (it came with a) scrapbook an inch thick of an analysis, all the newspaper clippings of every game.
“This is not just a trophy, but it’s a symbol of Australia and New Zealand, working together, playing together, and looking after each other. It’s really, really powerful.”
Andrew Pragnell: ‘Brilliant news’
NZ Football CEO Andrew Pragnell said:
“It is brilliant news that the Ashes have been found, so I want to thank Football Australia and the Storey family for everything they have done to recover a significant and storied piece of trans-Tasman sporting history.
“This is a legendary trophy in Australian and New Zealand football history, but also potentially our future.
“We know how much the trans-Tasman rivalry means to football fans in both countries so we would love to bring the Ashes back into circulation at some point.
“With the co-hosted FIFA Women’s World Cup this year, and All Whites and Ford Football Ferns games against Australia last year, there has never been a better time for us to collaborate with Football Australia.
“We are stronger when we work together, football continues to grow at pace on both sides of the ditch and we look forward to the next 100 years of trans-Tasman football.”
Watch: Historians shocked by discovery of ‘lost’ trophy
This video tells the story of the 100-year-old Ashes Trophy — and captures the reaction of football historians when it’s discovery is revealed.
‘This is not just a trophy …’
Built by New Zealand trophy maker Harry Mayer in 1923, the Ashes are held in a silver-plated razor case that was carried by Queensland Football Association Secretary Private William Fisher at the landing of Gallipoli in 1915, a powerful symbol of the ANZAC spirit which underpins the strong trans-Tasman sporting bond and rivalry.
“The fact that the Ashes have been found is a huge win for soccer history, and also for the ANZACs both, so we’re very excited that they’re in good condition,” the Storey family stated.
“This is not just a trophy, it’s a symbol of Australia and New Zealand working together, playing together, and looking after each other — it’s really, really powerful.
“Of course, how it is used again is up to Australia and New Zealand, but at least it’s now available to the football organisations as a first step.
“In any case, this Anzac trophy is important to the history of Australia and New Zealand, as a symbol of our two countries working together, it can play an important part in celebrating the spirit of togetherness of the Anzacs.”
100 years of ANZAC rivalry
The story of the first international between New Zealand and Australia, played in Dunedin in 1922, is told here: