HAMILTON OLYMPIC SOCCER CLUB “35 Years On and Forever We’ll Be Strong“

Source: http://www.hamiltonolympic.com.au

Football in Australia, received a major boost in this country with the post war economic boom that saw thousands of migrants from throughout Europe settle in the far away “Southern Land” called Australia.

Hundreds of Greeks chose Newcastle as their new home with BHP and various other industries offering these “New Australians” a chance to make a new life far from their home land. Of course Soccer is a great way to keep ties with your family and community, and that’s how Hamilton Olympic was first established.

During the 60’s and 70’s, the Newcastle Greek Community supported a very strong Football Club called “Pan Hellenic”. Due to a combination of reasons, this proud ethnic based club sadly folded.

This in fact was a catalyst for the creation of a new Soccer Club for the Newcastle Greek community to support, led by Jim Kapalos, the Nicholas brothers, Stavros Ioannou, Chris and Andrew Tagaroulias and yes, still heavily involved with the club at present, Con Gounis. This group of gentlemen were adamant that Newcastle had a Greek based Soccer Club present in this town, and went on to form a new Soccer club. In 1976 they rallied the troops and entered three grades into the Northern NSW Soccer Federation 4th Division competition and were to be known as “Newcastle Olympic Soccer Club”.

The newly formed club played their first competition game against South Wallsend in April 1976 at Walker Field, South Wallsend. Ironically, for the new club their home ground was Darling St Oval, before a move in 1977 the following year to Austral Park – Birmingham Gardens.

Newcastle Olympic began to climb through the divisions and then saw the signing of Australian Hall of Fame recipient and 1956 Australian Soccer team Olympian, Bruce Morrow, whom captain coached Newcastle Olympic. Bruce Morrow’s charges went on to win the club’s first title in 1978, crowned minor and major premiers in the NSW Soccer Federation 4th Division competition with their first Grand Final victory 1-0 over the more fancied Garden Suburb club. Names of that era include Karamaniolos, Chatziconstantinos. Nicolas, Chourtos, Caimakamis, Rendina, Gounis, Thodas, Bachus, Pappas and Papadimitrious just to name a few.

The Clubs success continued in 1980, when they were promoted to 2nd division after finishing as runners up in 3rd division in 1979 and then promoted to 2nd division in 1981. The club competed successfully in 2nd division for a couple of years before the NSW Soccer Federation re-structure of divisions and relegated the club back to 4th division in 1983.

Now came the difficult the years. Between 1983 and 1989, the club was forced to leave Austral Park as their home base when the rent for this venue was quadrupled. The Club found themselves a new home ground being Myer Park, Adamstown, which had little infrastructure, and the club had very few dedicated committee members. Again a band of dedicated people refused to see this proud club lie down, and rallied together to install new life into the club. Tribute must be made to a few of the faithful committee of the time such as Nick Thodas, Jim Papadimitriou, Con Gounis and also to the players who kept the club functioning at this low point in the club’s history, which included the Karamaniolos brothers, Chris, John, Mick and Neil, the Asvestas brothers Harry, Nick and Jim, Mark Simpson, Leo Magnisalis, Con Xenakis and many others. Those days saw the club travel to play matches in multi-cultural deprived areas such as Kearsley, Greta-Branxton, Muswellbrook, Cardiff Railway, Beresfield and Thornton where the action off the park was often just as interesting as it was on the park.

The watershed for the Club was no doubt the acquisition of Terry Robson as player coach from the start of the 1988 season. After just missing automatic promotion in 1988, Terry led the team to the minor premiership in 1989, which saw the club back in 3rd division in 1990, the first time in almost a decade. An astute coach, Terry brought in some inspiring signings to the club, Brett McDonald, Steve
Foteados, Rod Arthur and Bob Mountford, who with the existing squad, were ready to take on the challenge of 3rd division. An added bonus for the 1990 season was the recruitment of ex-KB United and Australian International Player, Joe Senkalski. Newcastle Olympic easily won the Minor & Major Premierships with a 4-1 Grand Final victory over arch rivals, Cooks Hill. The club was on the move with 2nd division beckoning in 1991. The recruitment of 2 youngsters, strikers Lincoln Latunin and goal keeper Craig Tselembis coupled with the conversion of striker Con Safouris to sweeper alongside skilful players like Zervas, Magnisalis, Karamaniolos, Primmer and Simpson saw the club win the 2nd division title by a record 13 points, as well as a dramatic Grand Final win in a penalty shootout against the Lambton Jaffas. Again, tribute must also be given to the hard working committee of that era with Manuel Tserepas as Club President and his band of dedicated committee members Con Gounis, Chris Christo, Jim Papadimitriou, Kerry James, Nick Thodas, Con Pappas, Nick Nicholas and others who kept the club on the path to its ultimate goal.

The Early Years in First Division

1992

1st Division Soccer for the blue and white was finally reached after 16 years in the lower divisions. Hamilton Olympic were the only team to have won 3 automatic promotion movements from 4th division to 1st division in three years. After drifting around in the lower divisions the Club was building momentum and recruited Merv Duff as their 1st Grade Coach. This looked to be an encouraging season with an influx of experienced players coming to the club such as the Dorman brothers, Steve and Scott, Mark Ryan, Glen Chapman mixed with young blood Costa Caimakamis, Harry James, Con Sakavaras and Con Safouris saw the clubs early years in the NBN State League competition as it has become known.

Phil Ridley was appointed as 1st grade coach in 1993 and was in charge until the 1995 season, a three year reign at the helm.

The club began winning its first titles in the State League Competition, with the Under 18’s in 1994 and second grade in 1995 which were promising signs for the future. By this time the club had moved back to Darling Street Oval as their home base, and finalising the ground development was the clubs priority due to the fact that in order to compete in the NBN State League 1st division competition, the clubs ground facilities had to fall in line with a certain criteria set out by the Federation. With the completion of a 400 seat grandstand in 1993, in 1995 the club installed 4 galvanised steel light poles and 20 new lights, The redevelopment of Darling Street Oval came at a cost to the club of over $100,000.00, much to the delight of the Newcastle City Council. Today sees Darling Street Oval facilities up there with the best in the North and is the envy of other clubs that play in the 1st division competition. At the end of the 1995 season the club parted company with their second, 1st division Coach Phil Ridley, and was on the scout for a new coach for the 1996 season. The Smith era was about to begin.

The Golden Years – The “ Smithy “ Era

1996 – 2005

After interviewing a number of applicants for the ‘Head’ coaching position at Olympic, it was obvious that Greg Smith was the man to lead the club to the upper echelon of the NBN State League competition. A highly successful coach with Belmont/Swansea and Adamstown, Greg had a distinguished playing career for nearly two decades. A resident of Hamilton, Greg agreed to terms with Hamilton Olympic and was appointed head coach, the start of an era, unrivalled within Northern NSW Soccer circles.

A coach whom gained loyalty and 100% commitment from his players, Greg nearly had instant success with the 1st Grade losing a marathon penalty shootout to Highfields Azzurri, 11-10, in the 1996 final. Success was not far away, when on a wet September Sunday, Olympic won the first of their four consecutive Premiership titles with a 2-1 victory over arch rivals Broadmeadow Magic in the 1998 1st division Grand Final. Greg always believed in encouraging youth players from within the club whom came through the ranks from our under 18’s team. Players such as Michael Allan, Aaron Thompson, Mathew Austin, Evis Heath and Trent Austin, all would play a major role in the future success of the club.

1999 was probably the clubs most comprehensive Premiership victory with a 4-0 thrashing of Adamstown Rosebuds, at Breakers Stadium, Birmingham Gardens. Captain Benn Lane alongside talented players such as Mat Austin, Adam Sanderson, Craig Wallwork, Peter McGuiness, Doug West, Corey Filipcevic and Craig Harris saw the side play outstanding football.

The Millennium year 2000, witnessed Hamilton Olympic win another Premiership against arch rivals Edgeworth Eagles. Greg Smith prepared his charges to perfection for the 3-0 Grand Final Victory courtesy of goals from Wallwork, Filipcevic and McAteer.

The Premiership Victory in 2001 against Highfields Azzuri, a comfortable 2-0 win saw Hamilton Olympic equal the record held by Weston, by winning 4 consecutive premierships, only the second time in the Federation’s 100 history has this feat been achieved.

During the ten Golden Years “Smithy” was head coach, the club also won numerous 2nd grade and Youth Grade Titles, Club Championships and pre season competitions. Greg had the ability to bring out the best in his players by sharing his vast knowledge of the game with his players and coaching staff, and has no doubt taken the profile of the club to be known as one of the “Heavy Weights of the NBN State League competitions.”

The Last Five Years

2006 – 2011

Since our 30th Anniversary Ball held in 2006, the club has been successful in gaining two further Premiership Titles, one in 2007 and the other one in 2009. Both were gained with the 1st Grade team coming from fourth spot to be victorious in the Grand Final. In 2007, under Head Coach and club stalwart, Alex Tagaroulias, a Trent Austin goal saw the team defeat Edgeworth Eagles by One goal to Nil to take out the 2007 title. Featuring in that team was former Socceroo Matthew Bingley, as well as Captain Mathew Austin, his brother Trent Austin, Corey Filipcevic, Aaron Thompson and Doug West who had all gained numerous Premierships in the “Smithy Era”. That season the club also took out the Club Championship.

2009 saw the club take out the Premiership decider with a Two Goals to One Victory over Valentine Phoenix. Under Head Coach Bobby Naumov, a double to Murray Fletcher saw Olympic keep up its perfect record of never losing in a Premiership decider, winning all six that the club have featured in, which also allowed First Grade Captain Mathew Austin to keep up his perfect record of playing in five winning Grand Finals.

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