NZ National Team (part 1).

NZ National Team (part 1).

On returning to Gisborne from an end of season excursion to Napier, several of the team stopped off at the small picturesque town of Wairoa in order to have lunch.   Alan Vest went to buy a Sunday newspaper; returning to the small Café, where the rest of us were tucking in to bacon and eggs, Alan held his hand out to me and said, “Congratulations, you’ve been chosen to represent New Zealand on an overseas tour to Asia.”   I was totally taken aback by this news, as I had no inkling that the NZ Soccer team was going on tour, or that I was a candidate for selection.   Alan had been selected to captain the team, and probably had prior knowledge that we were both in the squad, but for me it was a while before the news finally began to sink in.

The tour entailed games in Perth and Singapore, plus a ‘round robin’ tournament in Jakarta against Indonesia and Australia, before playing a return game in New Caledonia, en route to New Zealand.  Prior to the South East Asian tour commencing, we were scheduled to play New Caledonia, at the Basin Reserve, in Wellington and again at Newmarket Park in Auckland a few days later.

I can remember making a shaky start to my International debut at the Basin Reserve, but once things had all settled down we combined reasonably well as a unit, and finished comfortable winners by  4 -1.   Ian Ormond netted a hat-trick and Alan Vest also added to the score-line.   The team was made up purely of players from clubs in the NZ National League (in stark contrast to the present ‘All Whites’) which included, John Morris, Tony Sibley, Ian Hastie, Mal Ferguson, Dennis Tindall, Brian Turner, Dave Taylor, Alan Marley, Ian Ormond, Alan Vest and me.   Paul Cameron and Geoff Brand both came on as substitutes.   The return match in Auckland has almost faded from my memory but the record books tell me that we recorded a 2 – 1 victory, with Denis Tindall and Ian Ormond the scorers.

The tour got off to a flying start with a 2-3 victory over West Australia in Perth; Brand, Ormond and Vest helping themselves to a goal each.   I was to get to know Ian Ormond very well in future years but even at this early stage it was easy to see that he was a natural talent.   He had the ability to ghost past opponents, and was totally composed in front of goal.   With the responsibilities of his domestic duties as a player/coach off his shoulders, Alan Vest also showed his class as a finisher, and was to contribute some vital goals for New Zealand over the next year or so.

After the game in Perth we moved on to Singapore, playing a low key match against one of their Representative teams, which we won by 2 – 0.   We then continued by travelling on to Jakarta for a triangular tournament against Indonesia and Australia.   The teams were housed in a large Hotel, located in central Jakarta, and we were transported to the massive Senayan Stadium for training sessions and games.   En route to the stadium we travelled down a broad highway interspersed with massive monuments, contrasting sharply to the poverty that could be witnessed only a few hundred metres away from those extravegances.

NZ Football Team at the Senayan Stadium, Jakarta.

The first game was against an Australian team whom we were to become very familiar with over the next few months.   The Aussie squad contained the majority of the players who would line up for Australia in the 1974 World Cup Finals in West Germany.   They were further down the track in their preparations than us and we were defeated by 3 – 1, with the dependable Alan Vest notching our goal.   The match was played in stifling humidity causing me to lose litres of fluid, which needed to be replaced before we faced Indonesia two days later.   In contrast to the powerful Australians, Indonesia were nimble and quick, causing us different problems under the same stifling conditions but we finished up with a creditable draw; 1 – 1 with Dave Taylor scoring the goal.   I was quite impressed with Dave, both as a footballer and a person, he was a strong direct player who could pass and shoot effectively with both feet also possessing a quick turn of speed.   He had a ‘down to earth’ disposition in which not much could upset, or faze him out; he was definitely the type of player you would want on your team.

Opposing Dave Taylor in a National League match.

After leaving Indonesia we were diverted to Noumea to play a return fixture against New Caledonia at their Stade de Magenta.   We had comfortably disposed of them in Wellington and Auckland but on their own turf they were a different proposition and we came off the losers by 3 – 1.   Part of our problem could be put down to a certain amount of fatigue due to the amount of travelling we had done in a short space of time; however, it was disappointing to finish the tour with a loss.   I could take some consolation from the game as I managed to score our solitary goal, before being substituted through injury.

Having featured in every game on the tour, I felt to have justified my selection for the squad, and felt that I had contributed well to the overall team effort.  I was very  confident that with my dedicated approach to my game that I could feature in future National Team selections.

National Coach; Barrie Truman, was in charge of the squad and I found him a personable, intelligent man who thought deeply about the game.   He would spend much time planning his training sessions in order to make them interesting and purposeful.   As this tour concluded, the next major project for Barrie was to select and prepare a squad to contest the inaugural Oceania Nations Football Tournament.   This was scheduled to take place in Auckland during February 1973, and following this, by a World Cup Qualifying Tournament to be played in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, during March.

Barrie Truman had a massive influence on my football career in NZ.

Barrie Truman supplied a strict training schedule for all National Team candidates to follow over the summer months; this would help prepare them for what was to become an intense period of competition.   I began working on this schedule on Labour week-end, which entailed a methodical build- up of cardio vascular endurance over a three month period, combined with speed work and individual ball technique.   Living in Gisborne gave me access to the wonderful sunny climate and marvellous sandy beaches on which I could run for miles, either on my own, or sometimes accompanied by Colin Milne and Kevin Fallon, who were also fitness fanatics.   I would practice individual ball skills for hours in our back section, or sometimes play football tennis with Colin, at the school gymnasium, where he taught.   Occasionally I would team up with Alan Vest for the sprinting and general speed work.

Gisborne’s sandy beaches were excellent for training.

After three months of this intense and concentrated individual training I felt fitter than at any time in my football career (including the years that I spent as a full time professional), and I was determined to cement my position in the New Zealand National Football Squad for the exciting few months ahead….