Wednesday, 30 April 2008 11:10 AM
By John Kyrou
This week the segment takes us back to the 1966 season, a season that many South Melbourne supporters rate as one of the most successful seasons that the club has ever had. South was only seven years old yet the club had already taken Victorian football by storm. After gaining promotion into the Victorian State League in 1960, the boys from Middle Park became State League champions in 1962, 1964 and 1965.
South entered the 1966 season with the intention of winning its third league championship in a row to further consolidate themselves as the biggest and best club in Victoria. South began the 1966 campaign in good form and made the final of the AMPOL Cup before going down to Footscray JUST 3-2. South began the league season slowly with two losses, before the legendary Greek footballer Con Nestoridis arrived at Middle Park to take over as a captain-coach.
Put simply, Nestoridis was a legend, who is still to this day widely regarded as one of the best forwards Greece has ever produced. He debuted for the Greek national team in 1951 and won 17 caps for his country, scoring 3 goals in the process. Nestoridis was best known for representing AEK Athens, scoring 140 league goals and helping AEK win the Greek championship in 1962/63 and the Greek Cup in 1963/64. At the age of 36, he decided to take a break from the Greek league and ventured to Victoria to help South win top honours.
Nestoridis’ profile, combined with South’s success in 1964 and 1965, helped draw massive crowds to the games. In Nestoridis’ first game for his new club, South attracted nearly 20,000 spectators to Middle Park for the game against Juventus. Nestoridis scored the only goal of the game as South ran out winners.
Things only got better for the club. Whilst crowds were doubling in size to watch Nestoridis lead the champions, huge wins were being recorded. This included a 5-1 hammering of Port Melbourne Slavia and a 1-6 thumping of Melbourne Hungaria in consecutive weeks. Slavia were South’s rivals for the title and the 5-1 result at Middle Park was an extremely crucial win for South because heading into the round 18 return fixture, South led Slavia by a single point on the ladder. In a 22 round season, South could not afford to be defeated and overtaken by Slavia. South had been undefeated since round 5 and wanted to remain that way.
South went into the fixture full of confidence after easily dispatching Fitzroy Alexander 2-0 at Middle Park the week before. However Slavia were in good form themselves, having recorded a 0-2 away win against Hungaria at Elsternwick Park. A crowd of 9,413 turned up to Olympic Park to witness an entertaining and high-scoring match which ended in a 3-3 draw. Nestoridis failed to disappoint the South fans, scoring a double which included a penalty kick. Team mate Ernie Ackerley scored the other goal for South.
The draw left South on 25 points and Slavia on 24 points.* Both clubs lost in round 19 but won their following two matches. Heading into the final round, South lead the ladder with 29 points compared to Slavia’s 28. Due to South’s far superior goal difference, Slavia needed to win at home against Footscray JUST and hope that Ringwood Wilhelmina defeated South at Middle Park in order to claim the title. This did not happen however, as South made sure of a third successive Victorian State League championship with a comfortable 3-1 win, with John Anderson scoring twice and Nestoridis once. JUST held Slavia to a 1-1 draw, which meant that South won the league by 2 points.
Nestoridis left his mark at South with a remarkable 21 goals in the league, as well as 3 goals in the Australian Cup and 2 goals in the Docherty Cup. There is no doubt that he was an absolute hit in his brief time with the club, with supporters recalling stories about him scoring goals from corner kicks just for fun. Whilst Nestoridis was the star, the unsung hero in the 1966 campaign was Ackerley, who scored 11 goals in the league, 4 goals in the AMPOL Cup, 2 goals in the Docherty Cup and 1 goal in the Australian Cup. This included a four goal haul in the 1-6 win against Hungaria. Both players were instrumental in ensuring that South won the title as they were the scorers in the 3-3 draw with Slavia that kept South on top of the table, where the club was not overtaken for the rest of the season.
Round 18, 1966
Sunday, August 7, 1966
Venue: Olympic Park, Melbourne
Referee: Geoff Harrison
PORT MELBOURNE SLAVIA 3-3 SOUTH MELBOURNE
(Reid, Goodwin, Laraman) (Nestorides x 2, Ackerley)
Sam Service, Con Solopotias, Takis Mantarakis, John Anderson, Laki Litopoulos, John Bedford, Jim Pyrgolios, Boulis Kambouropoulos, Con Nestoridis, Ernie Ackerley, Leo Damianakos
Coach: Con Nestoridis
PORT MELBOURNE SLAVIA:
Line-up included: Ray Barotajs, Nigel Shepherd, John Goodwin, Tommy Randles, Billy Cook, Peter Laraman, Ian Reid and Mike Jurecki
* Note: In 1966, a win was worth 2 points and a draw was worth 1 point