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From the Archives, 1922: Australia’s first international soccer match

As the Socceroos prepare to play their final world cup qualifier against Peru, we revisit Australia’s first ever international match, 100 years ago this week.

By Chris Berry and Staff writers

June 11, 2022 — 11.24am

The Age’s match report was a blink and you’d miss it affair: “Wellington. In a soccer match New Zealand scored 3 goals and Australia 1.”

The Australian soccer team which toured New Zealand in 1922. Wollongong player Dave Ward front left, rest of team unidentified.

The Australian soccer team which toured New Zealand in 1922. Wollongong player Dave Ward front left, rest of team unidentified.Credit:Courtesy of Wollongong City Library

The match was actually played on a heavy pitch in Dunedin, but the score was correct. It was a difficult start for Australia’s fledgling national soccer team losing the first of a three match series in New Zealand.

The New South Wales and Queensland papers gave greater coverage of the occasion, a reflection of the Australian team exclusively consisting of players from those two states.

Australia was out played in the match but its fighting spirit, a trait that 100 years later remains a prized asset of the Socceroos, was on full display. Despite trailing on the scoreboard, The Sunday Times reported that the “Australians outlasted their opponents in the closing stages, but could not score”.

In the dying seconds Australia continued to press for a goal with The Herald reporting that “when the final whistle went Maunder almost got through for Australia in their opponents’ territory”.

On the Monday following the match, The Sydney Morning Herald published its match report:


The test match was played at Dunedin in the presence of 7000 people. The ground was in good order, though heavy from rain overnight.

Both sides pressed attacks in the first spell, but defences were sound till 20 minutes had gone, when Cook, as the result of fine work by Corbett, shot the first goal for New Zealand.

More even play followed, till just on half-time, when Maunder got in a splendid shot, equalising the scores. Both teams played up in the second spell, and as a result of a long kick by Ballard, Knotts tipped the ball into the goal for New Zealand.

The match report.

The match report.Credit:SMH Archives

Ward headed an Australian rally to the New Zealand goal, but Braithwaite fended it off.

Then Cook landed one with a long kick, and the scores read: New Zealand 3 goals, Australia 1.

Thompson, Dane, and Maunder were prominent in the visitors’ subsequent attempt to score, which were fruitless, though Maunder almost got through for Australia in their opponents’ territory, when the final whistle went.

The Australian manager says that the New Zealanders were the better team on the day.”

The Teams:
AUSTRALIA: G. Cartwright (N.S.W.). D. Cumberford (Q.). A. Gibb (Q.), C. Shenton (Q.), P. Doyle (N.S.W.), W. Dane (N.S.W.), J. Cumberford (Q.). W. Maunder (N.S.W.). D. Ward (N.S.W.). and T. Thompson (N.S.W.). A. Fisher (N.S.W.).

NEW ZEALAND: Claxton (Auckland). Braithwaite (South Auckland), McAuley (Otago), Brownlee (Wellington), Corbett (Auckland), Jones (Wellington), Brundell (Otago), Knott (Auckland), Cook (Southland), Campbell (Wellington), Ballard (Wellington).


Postscript: A week later Australia managed a 1-1 draw in Wellington but finished with another 3-1 loss in Auckland. New Zealand visited Australia the following year with Australia winning the first match in Brisbane 2-1 but losing the next two, and the series. It was another 10 years before the two nations met again on the soccer field, but the 1930s saw the start of Australia’s dominance in fixtures between the Trans-Tasman rivals. Australian would wait until 1974 for their first appearance at the World Cup.