THE ORIGINS OF SOUTH MELBOURNE HELLAS
(Special thanks to Mr Nick Kitsakis and Mr Petros Kosmopoulos for their historical assistance)
The formation of the South Melbourne Hellas Soccer Club was completed over two amalgamations, with the first being in August 1959 and the second in early 1960. South Melbourne Hellas was formed via the merger of three different Victorian soccer clubs in Hellenic, Yarra Park and South Melbourne United.
The two Greek clubs, Hellenic and Yarra Park, had both experienced disappointing 1959 seasons. Yarra Park finished last in the 1959 Victorian State League (the top division) and faced relegation into the Metropolitan League Division 1 North. Hellenic had finished in second-last place in Metropolitan League Division 1 North in 1959 and faced relegation into Division 2 North.
Economic uncertainties at both clubs, combined with poor performances, made both Greek clubs see the benefits of uniting. The Greek community in Melbourne was also at the time expressing the need for a strong and united club in the Victorian State League, in order to glorify Hellenism and the cause of Greeks in Australia.
Attempts at Greek soccer club amalgamation had been made in late 1958 and early 1959 but had proven to be unsuccessful. Rivalry between both clubs was one main factor that prevented an amalgamation, as well as the well-known Greek love of argument.
Throughout the 1959 season, both the Hellenic and Yarra Park clubs met on several occasions to discuss the positive and negative effects of a possible amalgamation. In July or early August, there was a general meeting at the office of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, which at the time was situated in Bourke Street. The two clubs were represented by the following gentlemen:
Hellenic: Theo Marmaras, Dimitrios Divolis, Petros Dimitropoulos and George Lekatsas.
Yarra Park: Costas Andoniadis, Floros Dimitriadis, Evangelos Ladas, Vlassis Brokoulias, Elias Kokotis and Pandelis Andrikopoulos.
The outcome of the first meeting was that an amalgamation would take place, however when details of the amalgamation were discussed at a second meeting, the results were not as encouraging. As a result, a third meeting was called that was chaired by the neutral official John Oliphant from the Slavia Soccer Club.
The amalgamation of Hellenic and Yarra Park finally took place on 6 September 1959.
“The talks went on for quite some time and stumbled at many barriers, the biggest being the name of the new club. George Lekatsas of Hellenic suggested Hellas as being the best name for the new club as it uncompromisingly represented the Greek homeland. Both sides agreed.” – Athletic Voice, 20 August 1959.
Whilst Hellas Soccer Club was now formed, it needed suitable facilities to compete against other teams.
The new President of Hellas, Theo Marmaras and his Vice President, Floros Dimitriadis, decided to come into contact with South Melbourne United Soccer Club, which was an Anglo supported club. South Melbourne United was a club that had been around since the 1930s but was going through a difficult period and was in the Victorian Metropolitan League Division 1 South in 1959. They had little spectator and financial support, however they had Middle Park as a home ground.
Hellas sensibly interested itself in amalgamating with South Melbourne United because of the ideal positioning of the Middle Park ground, which was quite close to the city centre. Ground improvements were still needed for Middle Park in order to accommodate the needs of a club with the ambitions of competing in the top division of Victorian soccer.
Initially, the officials from South Melbourne United were hesitant at an amalgamation with Hellas. After a few weeks however, South Melbourne United administrators Des and Bill Hamilton realised the benefits of an amalgamation with a club that was supported by thousands of Greek migrants. They accordingly decided to go ahead with a historic amalgamation.
The amalgamation between Hellas and South Melbourne United took place at Vice President Floros Dimitriadis’ hotel The Duke of Kent in February 1960, just before the start of the 1960 Victorian soccer season in April.
Under the conditions of the amalgamation, it was decided that the First Executive Committee of the new club be comprised of six officials from either the Hellenic and Yarra Park clubs, with another two officials from South Melbourne United.
The amalgamation also brought about the new name of the club to South Melbourne Hellas Soccer Club. The official colours of the Club when it was formed were blue, white and red. White shirts were worn with a red V, along with blue shorts and white-blue socks.
The Victorian Amateur Soccer Football Association (VASFA), which at the time was the governing body for the sport in Victoria, directed South Melbourne Hellas to play the 1960 season in the Victorian Metropolitan League Division 1 North. This was one division below the Victorian State League.