LEGENDSTATUS:Bruce Morrow with his official Football Australia Hall of Fame recognition, and left, Morrow on the ball for Apia
LEGENDSTATUS:Bruce Morrow with his official Football Australia Hall of Fame recognition, and left, Morrow on the ball for Apia

Football pioneer

By STEVE SPINKS sport@northernstar.com.au

WHEN Alstonville's Bruce Morrow was inducted into Football Australia's Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Sydney recently it was a vindication.

Vindication of his soccer ability, vindication of his career and a vindication of his generation.

The early pioneers of soccer in Australia have often been forgotten by a code that is keen to embrace influences from outside this country.

But often it's overlooked that there has always been a vibrant local scene led by some outstanding home-grown players.

Morrow was one such early star.

Blessed with speed and an uncanny goal-scoring ability the winger represented Australia 31 times from 1956 to 1967 including at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Morrow said he could have represented the green and gold on many more occasions but Australia were expelled from FIFA (soccer's international federation) from 1958-1966 because of the defection of the FK Austria club side.

FK Austria toured Australia in 1957 and on their return in 1958 decided to stay. Because the Australian Federation allowed them to play without clearances FIFA kicked them out.

It meant the only Test matches Morrow got to play were against New Zealand, in 1958, and Scotland, which included a young forward called Alex Ferguson, in 1966.

hile representing his country and winning a bronze medal at the Olympics will always be the highlight of his career, the induction into the Hall of Fame along with well-known recent players Robbie Slater and Craig Johnston was not far behind.

"It's the culmination of a 32-year career," said Morrow, who moved to Alstonville from Newcastle three years ago.

Making his induction all the more special, Morrow gave his medallion to his mother in dedication to his sister Janette who died of cancer three years ago to the day. The induction of Morrow and Johnston at the same time was remarkable.

Morrow played with the former Liverpool defender's father Col and played against Johnston when he broke into premier division in Newcastle as a teenager.

Morrow started his career as a 14-year-old and broke into premiers in Newcastle as a 16-year-old with Wallsend in 1953.

That in itself was a great achievement for a teenager, as Newcastle was one of the strongest areas for soccer in Australia as many miners of English heritage had emigrated to the area.

Morrow represented Australia at the Olympics as an amateur and soon after he was called up to the Australian professional team...if you could call it that.

"We used to turn up on the day of the match, meet for half an hour and then go and play," Morrow said.

"Soccer couldn't afford training camps or anything like that."

While the game's administrating body wasn't flush with funds, the same couldn't be said for the local clubs.

Morrow was tempted by some officials to head to England to try his luck, but the 69-year-old said he was making more money in Australia playing for Apia Leichardt in Sydney than he could overseas.

But he still managed to play many English clubs including Manchester United, Chelsea and Blackpool with various local rep sides.

Morrow, who is not directly involved with the game any more, laments that soccer has become so defence-orientated.

As a winger, he used to be up front scoring goals not stuck on the defensive line trying to stifle attacking football.

He wants the Socceroos to play four up front.

He wants them to have a go.

Just like he did as a youngster in Newcastle.

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