Fusion: Deakin Exhibits Online

'Soccer Action'

Harry Williams

Harry Williams at Footscray, the first person of Aboriginal heritage to play soccer for Australia, c.1980.  Photo: Les Shorrock.

Peter Ollerton

Peter Ollerton (centre) heads for goal for the Socceroos against Iran at Olympic Park in Melbourne in front of a full house on 14 August 1977.  Photo: Les Shorrock.

In the mid 1970s, Les Shorrock had been involved in producing a weekly soccer newsletter for the Metropolitan and Provisional leagues called 'Goalpost'.  Nevertheless, when he was approached to join 'Soccer Action' at the end of 1975, he was more than pleased to accept.  Les said that 'Soccer Action' was formed when:

"In November 1975, Laurie Schwab, soccer writer for the Melbourne 'Age', approached the paper's management with the suggestion that they launch a national newspaper devoted to soccer.  He argued that the time was ripe as moves were already afoot to form a National Soccer League that would include clubs from not only Melbourne, but Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Newcastle as well.  Good circulation was assured.  Much to Schwab's surprise (he admitted later), his suggestion met with approval and he was told to go ahead and pick a team to produce a sixteen page newspaper in time for the start of the 1976 season."

The first issue of 'Soccer Action' appeared on February 4, 1976 and initially, was produced by just Laurie Schwab and Les.  Les continued to work a variety of jobs in order to pay the bills, despite the huge proportion of time taken up by working for 'Soccer Action'.  Les' recollections of these early days are very vivid:

"... we worked very hard to find our feet.  Laurie was always a demon for work and on Mondays we had to be at the office by 4.30 am.  Thirty years ago, working in the editorial office was very labour intensive and I can still recall making numerous trips to the telex office, collecting match reports from our interstate colleagues and taking them back to my desk to type them into their relevant pages.  Then on Tuesdays I had to go to the printers' to proof-read the whole paper before it hit the presses."

"After our first year our burden was lightened considerably as our staff of two was doubled by the addition of cadet reporter Craig McKenzie and advertising rep. Billy Vojtek.  But the legwork increased as we were moved out of 'The Age' building and around the corner into an office in Little Lonsdale Street.  Produced there, in a rabbit-warren of small rooms were fourteen or more sporting publications covering motor racing, greyhound and trotting racing, and all the other pursuits that 'The Age' considered minor compared with the almighty Aussie Rules." (Shorrock, Life and Death of a Newspaper, c.2006)

Les remained with 'Soccer Action' until 1987.  After the first issue for 1987 (28 January) was printed, 'The Age' decided to close the paper and that was to be the final issue.  Les was determined to continue his involvement with soccer news, and despite advice from friends, decided to publish his own newspaper.  He and three colleagues produced 'Soccer Star', which ran for two years.  Through this time Les had continued to work for 'The Age' and was employed by them as a photographer taking football photos, and producing real estate pictures and copy, until his retirement in 1996.