'A good base': Ipswich's record Socceroos history
IT'S a rare event these days when members of Ipswich's most successful footballing families reunite.
However, that's what happened at the North Ipswich Corporate Centre on Thursday night.
Former Socceroo Gary Wilkins joined members of other former Australian players from the Gibb, Kitching, Rule and Lawrie families.
The historic occasion was the launch of the Encyclopedia of Socceroos, which featured 21 elite players born or raised in Ipswich.
They include Socceroo number one Alex Gibb, who was Australia's inaugural captain in 1922.
After an enjoyable presentation highlighting Ipswich's achievement, author Andrew Howe was thrilled with the response to his 25 year quest.
"It was amazing support and an amazing feeling for me from the Ipswich community,'' Howe said.
"Ipswich per head (of population) has the highest Socceroos representation of any region in the country, mostly from the early days - those important foundation years.
"But it does show that there is strength in the region.
"With the expansion of the A-League, we know we have the hardcore support here and it's a good base for the future that's growing in population as well.''
Howe, an official statistician for Australian football, has compiled stories on the 592 players who have served Australia in official matches until the end of 2017.
The Encyclopedia of Socceroos showcases the Ipswich internationals who have donned the Australian strip in those sanctioned Football Federation Australia matches.
That includes the earliest representatives like Alex Gibb, Mosie Burton (cap number 14), Cliff Gedge (15) and Jack Edwards (27) to other former Ipswich players like Eric Nunn (31), James Donaldson (50), Lex Gibb (77), George Redvis (78), Eric Petie (80), Bob Lawrie (106), Alec Duncan (109), Gordon Nunn (110), Cliff Sander (130), Col Kitching (133), Alwyn Warren (152), Brian Vogler (158), Norm Rule (163), Ian Johnston (181), Gary Wilkins (201), Ross Kelly (204) and Neil Kilkenny (493).
Howe was delighted to catch up with fine Ipswich family connections he'd written about.
"I haven't met many in the past. Now I'm seeing them and getting a really good feeling from them,'' Howe said.
Alex Gibb's historic Australian cap and blazer was fittingly placed in the middle of the presentation area for everyone to admire.
Howe was honoured to have the Gibb family showcase the valuable item.
Nunn tops the Ipswich list of most games played with 52, followed by Lawrie (43) and Sander (21).
Wilkins is the current Western Pride Football Club patron, fulfilling a valuable role developing Ipswich's state league franchise.
Former Coalstars and Ipswich Knights junior Kilkenny is still playing.
Ipswich's early history, featuring clubs like Blackstone, Bundamba, Dinmore and St Helens, is linked to the rise of home-grown Socceroos.
The encyclopedia also lists other Ipswich-born Australian players who weren't recorded as playing in A-rated internationals.
They include Spencer Kitching, who lined up in 21 matches for his country from 1955-59.
"Spencer Kitching hasn't actually got a numbered cap. However, he does get a very special mention in the book,'' Howe said. "He's treated like every other player.
"In the end, whether it's a numbered cap, or an unofficial cap, it's still good they have played for Australia and Spencer was one of those prominent players.''
Former Coalstars and Everton goalkeeper Jason Kearton was another player featured.
The Ipswich launch of the 400 page book was timely with Australia about to contest its fourth successive World Cup tournament.
Howe said that while websites carried important Socceroos history, those sources weren't as handy as an encyclopedia bringing it all together through wonderful stories.
"There are websites. They come and go,'' he said. "But the book stays and it's something you can have on your shelf.
"I just wanted something that people could hold in their hands.''
Howe confirmed he was planning a book on the Australian Matildas, which will record a precious passage of women's football history featuring Ipswich players like Belinda Kitching, Bryony Duus and Michelle Sawyers.