Former international players with Ipswich club links shared in the unveiling of Ipswich’s honour board at the Ipswich Knights clubhouse last weekend. Picture: David Lems
Former international players with Ipswich club links shared in the unveiling of Ipswich’s honour board at the Ipswich Knights clubhouse last weekend. Picture: David Lems

See why 55 of Ipswich’s best recognised on honour board

FOOTBALL: They have captained their state and country. But self-funding was required on occasions to represent Australia.

They have shared strange traits but also inspired with their deeds.

The 55 international footballers with links to Ipswich clubs possess a multitude of attributes with fascinating stories on their journey to the top.

Thanks to Ipswich football fanatics John Roderick and Ross Hallett, those achievements have been preserved through an International Honour Board displayed at the Ipswich Knights clubhouse.

Fifty-four elite footballers were named one-by-one at the recent historic function at Bundamba. It was soon after discovered that former Coalstars goalkeeper Kim Wishart was a reserve in three matches in 1983 so his name will be also be added to the honour board.

Wishart was a St. Helens junior and played his senior football with Saints, Brisbane City (formerly Azzurri) in the old National Soccer League when he was selected for Queensland several and Australia in 1983.

He played for Coalstars after that and was the goalkeeper when the Ipswich team won the Ampol Cup in 1987. His dad Des was also a prominent goalkeeper in the 50's, who played for Ipswich and Queensland.

Eleven living players attended the February 15 celebration, along with strong family support for other former internationals who have sadly passed on.

Roderick named his favourite player Cliff Sander, who received Australian cap 130 after making his national debut in 1950.

The former St Helen's halfback represented Australia in 20 games and lined up at the 1956 Olympics during his impressive decade at international level

But when asked on the night how he felt about his place in football history, Sander modestly answered: "I'm not about accolades. I just want to enjoy the night''.

The Hall of Fame inductee typified how many of Ipswich's past footballing greats appreciated their successes but remained humble all these years later.

 

An Australian cap recognising Ipswich international footballers like Alex Gibb. Photo: Rob Williams
An Australian cap recognising Ipswich international footballers like Alex Gibb. Photo: Rob Williams

 

Alex kicked if off

Ipswich's wonderful international football journey was kicked off by Alex Gibb in 1922.

He was appointed Australia's first test team captain, leading his country six times during his 14-game service. The former Bundamba Athletics and Bundamba Rangers halfback was later admitted to Australia's Hall of Fame.

During his entertaining presentation, Roderick highlighted an endless array of achievements from the international brigade.

Some of the players, like 1922 fullback Clarrie Shenton, have managed to dodge much of the spotlight in past decades.

However, they had fine Ipswich links through club football and schools like Ipswich Grammar. Shenton (cap 9) was one of the most talented sportsmen also more than capable in rugby and Aussie rules. He later turned to tennis, where he assumed important leadership roles at the Ipswich Junior Tennis Association courts at Chermside Road.

Mosie Burton (cap 14) was another allrounder. The Bundamba Rangers inside right and qualified referee represented Australia in 1923, also have strong ties to cricket and the former Jacaranda club.

Jack "Toddy'' Edwards (cap 27) also had strong ties to cricket. The Blackstone Rovers outside right was a life member of the Queensland Primary School Association.

A common theme in the early years was clubs like the Rangers and Dinmore Bushrats continued to produce elite footballers in the Ipswich area.

They were tough and multi-talented, like Eric Nunn (cap 31) who represented Australia in 1924.

The left half was known for his gum leaf solos as much as his on-field talents.

Les Halls (1927) was the first of eight goalkeepers from Ipswich clubs to earn Aussie honours. He played for the Blackstone Rovers.

Centre forward Cec Brittain (cap 76), from Oxley, had a reputation for practising his aerial work by heading bricks into the railway wagons. He played for Australia in 1938 against India, scoring a goal.

Lex "The Duke'' Gibb continued the famous family football heritage from 1938-51.

With the Bundamba Rangers and St Helens clubs, cap 77 played in 19 matches, following in the footsteps of his dad Alex two decades earlier.

Lex was even regarded as one of the best footballers Ipswich has produced, dubbed Duke maybe because he was the "prince of halfbacks''.

Redvis "Fat'' Kitching had similar significance. The keen boxer was the first of four Kitchings to be chosen for Australia.

Fat (Cap 78) played three international matches in 1938 and 1939, having strong ties to Bundamba Rangers, Blackstone and St Helens.

Another colourful character was Eric "Itcho'' Petie who received cap 80 after his 1938 game in India.

The St Helens junior and Bushrats fullback earned the nickname apparently due to his excessive scratching from being around a dog with fleas.

But he too was fearless. He played four matches in six days at one stage - for Ipswich, Queensland twice and then Australia.

Famous families

Of the well-known Ipswich footballers, Robert "Bob'' Lawrie was up with the Gibbs and Kitchings.

The former Silkstone State School teacher (cap 106) who served in the RAAF captained Australia 27 times during his career from 1939-53.

The right half, inducted into the FFA Hall of Fame in 1999, was inaugural coach of Coalstars in 1964.

John Roderick's dad Dan earnt one Australian honour in 1939. He was a premiership-winning captain at Rangers and Saints.

Gordon "Bunny'' Nunn (cap 110) scored 56 goals during his 52 games for Australia from 1948-58.

The Hall of Famer had St Helens origins and said to have scored 700 goals in his outstanding career. That included a record 89 in 1950.

One player who was often mixed up was William "Spots'' Mitchell, from Bundamba Rangers.

The goalkeeper played seven games from 1947-51 but was often referred to as Wal "Blue'' Mitchell. He later to become Coalstars' first life membership.

Col Kitching (cap 133) was another Ipswich-bred footballer to play at the 1956 Olympics.

The former Bundamba Rangers player represented his country in seven games between 1955 and 1959.

Unfortunately his cousin Spencer was overlooked for a national cap despite 21 appearances over the same period.

Spencer scored seven goals on national duty yet missed the cut for the 1956 Olympic team.

Alwyn "Al'' Warren was another 1956 Melbourne Olympian. The former Blackstone Rovers defender received cap 152 for his 10 Australian games between 1955-58.

Olympic teammate Brian "Chooky'' Vogler is another of the better known Ipswich footballing greats.

The former Blackstone Rovers, Bushrats and St Helens footballer represented Australia 13 times from 1956-59. He received cap 158 after scoring nine goals for his country.

Heading toward the 1960s, Ipswich footballers Graham Kathage, Graham Kruger, Duncan McKenna, Norm Rules, Brian Topfer and Les McCrea maintained proud records with their local clubs.

But when Brisbane clubs Azzurri and Hellenic offered better dollars and semi-professional status, Ipswich's golden era came to an end.

However, Ipswich continued to produce quality players like Ian Johnston (cap 181) and Gary Wilkins (cap 201).

They were highly respected state footballers who earnt Australian honours, having links to clubs like Coalstars and the Bundamba Seekers.

Ian "Lodger'' Lawrie was another fine footballer, who played two games in 1975. Ian and his dad Bob became the second father/son combination from Ipswich selected to represent their country.

 

Former Coalstars and Australian footballer Michelle Sawyers. Picture: QT file
Former Coalstars and Australian footballer Michelle Sawyers. Picture: QT file

 

Coalstars women set standard

In the mid 1990s, it was the turn of regional women's players to start making an international impact.

Michelle Sawyers (cap 46) led the way, lining up in 29 games for Australia between 1983 and 1991.

She was the first of Coalstars "Magnificent Seven'' after the Matildas (female Socceroos) were born in 1995.

Sawyers recalled having to self-fund in her early national trips with raffles, car washes and lamington drives.

"We did everything,'' she said, having helped build an important foundation for Australian Matildas teams that would capture world attention in years to follow.

During her career, Sawyers said the players eventually had half their costs covered.

"We had all the skills and everything. We just didn't have the opportunity,'' Sawyers said.

"It's good to see that they are doing that now.''

 

The former Coalstars national women's footballers who shared in the unveiling of the international honour board at the Ipswich Knights clubhouse. Picture: David Lems
The former Coalstars national women's footballers who shared in the unveiling of the international honour board at the Ipswich Knights clubhouse. Picture: David Lems

 

The Coalstars ace was later joined by international players Teri McQueen (cap 38), Sonia Gegenhuber (cap 63), Kaylene Janssen (cap 64), Louise McMurtrie (cap 87), Bryony Duus (cap 96) and Belinda Kitching (cap 98).

Jansssen, nicknamed KJ, represented her country 27 times between 1991 and 1995. That included the 1995 World Cup.

Duus played in 54 games around the world between 1994 and 2004, including the 2000 Olympics and 2003 World Cup.

Former South Australian Gegenhuber thoroughly enjoyed her stint with Coalstars. She played in 75 games for Australia, captained her country once between 1989 and 1999.

Kitching was an accomplished goalkeeper, continuing the family's international success during 32 games between 1996 and 1999. That included the 1999 World Cup.

She was the granddaughter of "Fat'' Kitching.

Like her closeknit Coalstars teammates, she loved being involved in so many football highlights.

Other men's players to earn national honours since 1990 were goalkeeper Jason Kearton (signed by Everton), Sean Cranney (cap 412), Kasey Wehrman (cap 438) and Neil Kilkenny (cap 493).

Having this wonderful football journey stitched so professionally together is a credit to project leaders John Roderick and Ross Hallett.

 

Project partners Ross Hallett (left) and John Roderick unveil the international honour board at the Ipswich Knights clubhouse. Picture: David Lems
Project partners Ross Hallett (left) and John Roderick unveil the international honour board at the Ipswich Knights clubhouse. Picture: David Lems

 

The 55 internationals are: 1920s - Alex Gibb (cap 1), Clarrie Shenton (cap 9), Mosie Burton (cap 14), Cliff Gedge (cap 15), Jack "Toddy'' Edwards (cap 27), Eric Nunn (cap 31), Les Halls.

1930s: Russ Buchanan, James "Jim'' Donaldson (cap 50), Richard "Dick'' James, William "Sally'' Oliver, Mervyn Shanks, Cec Brittain (cap 76), Lex "The Duke'' Gibb (cap 77), Redvis "Fat'' Kitching (cap 78), William "Bill" Malcolmson, Eric "Itcho'' Petie (cap 80), Robert "Bob" Lawrie (cap 106), Dan Roderick.

1940s: Alex Duncan (cap 109), Gordon "Bunny'' Nunn (cap 110), William "Spots'' Mitchell.

1950s: Ron Coleman, Ron Hughes, Cliff Sander (cap 130), Merv Newlands, Don Leo, Col Kitching (cap 133), Spencer Kitching, Alan "Oscar'' Pitcairn, Alwyn "Al'' Warren (cap 152), Brian "Chooky'' Vogler (cap 158), Graham Kathage, Graham Kruger, Duncan McKenna, Norm Rule (cap 163), Brian Topfer, Les McCrea.

1960s: Ian Johnston (cap 181), Gary Wilkins (cap 201), Ross Kelly (cap 204).

1970s: Ian "Lodger'' Lawrie.

1980s: Mark Brusasco (cap 299), Michelle Sawyers (cap 46), Teri McQueen (cap 38), Sonia Gegenhuber (cap 63), Kim Wishart.

1990s: Kaylene Janssen (cap 64), Jason Kearton, Bryony Duus (cap 96), Louise McMurtrie (cap 87), Sean Cranney (cap 412), Belinda Kitching (cap 98), Kasey Wehrman (cap 438).

2000s: Neil Kilkenny (cap 493).



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