‘We are still here! We are ready!’ So declared Andrew Fisher in Knights News, the official Melbourne Knights match-day programme, ahead of their FFA Cup Round of 16 clash with Green Gully. A not too surprising sentiment from a club that was once the leading team in the national competition but now finds itself on the outside looking in.
Playing five national league Grand Finals in six seasons, producing players of the ilk of Viduka, Tiatto, Horvat, Cullina and Šimunić was not enough to stop it being consigned almost to history. The desire of the A-League for clubs without ‘ethnic’ roots meaning the FFA Cup offers the Knights its only chance to grace the national stage.
Whilst the club’s ethnic origins are the reason for it, and others like South Melbourne, being deemed undesirable by the A-League, it is this sense of community that is responsible for the clubs existence.
A sense of community that is palpable when you enter Knights Stadium, and something closely felt by my host for the night Elvis.
Melbourne Knights are in Elvis’ blood. His father Jerko, after emigrating from Croatia, was a tireless fund-raiser for the club. Every Friday saw Jerko at the club for dinner and drinks with friends, an oasis for people a long way from home, trying to make a better life in a far-away land.
Knights Stadium is a monument to Jerko and other like-minded Knights fans’ efforts. Elvis happily remembers, as a young child, being driven around on a tractor by volunteers tirelessly developing the abandoned Drive-In Cinema into a 15,000 capacity football stadium. Only through the efforts of these dedicated members through fund-raising and volunteer labour was it possible for the Knights to become one of the very few teams in the NSL to own their very own stadium
Elvis welcomes me to Somers Street with a taste of Croatia, a fresh cold Karlovačko, the self-proclaimed signature lager of the Mediterranean nation. He’s a good man Elvis, as we enjoy our amber refreshment, he regales me with tales of the Knights and their North Sunshine home.
As a man now accustomed to the comforts of Etihad Stadium, the home of the Knights is a bit like a time machine back to the days of suburban competition. Making your way through a cigarette smoke haze, senses tantalised by the smells of kransky, cevaps and ražnjići, you can’t help but imagine heaving full-houses cheering on Mark Viduka and co as they rose to the top of the NSL.
On this night it is a true western suburb derby, the Knights being visited by Green Gully whose home ground is a whole 7km away. A derby at its hottest with the Knights finishing runner up to Green Gully three seasons in a row 1981-83. The following season the rivalry was taken to the national stage as both were admitted to the NSL. While the Knights used this platform to become one of the strongest clubs in the 90’s, it was a short stay for Green Gully relegated to the State Leagues in 1986. Coincidently their last game in the NSL was against their closest rivals.
In some ways this is the beauty of the FFA Cup. Local community clubs chasing a prize on a level footing with elite clubs. Clubs with proud histories writing new chapters in their storied rivalries, winner stays on, loser goes home.
On this night Knights took an early lead but surrendered bragging rights and a quarter final berth to their neighbours. Green Gully continue in their quest, the Knights have to throw their hat in the ring with 700 other clubs again next year. Having been the best club in Australia they’ll again welcome the opportunity to strut their stuff on the national stage. It’s where they believe they belong.
Other games saw Tim Cahill return to Australian Football in Melbourne City’s 2-1 victory over Brisbane Strikers. Canberra Olympic’s keeper Angelo Konstantinou scored from the penalty spot in his team’s 2-0 win over Redlands United. Besart Berisha spared Melbourne Victory any embarrassment helping them squeak past Hume City 1-0. The Wanderers had little trouble eliminating Edgeworth FC 5-1, Bentleigh Greens needed extra time to get past Devonport City as did Sydney FC in their all A-League Clash with Perth Glory.
Round of 16 Results:
Match Day 5: 24th August
Brisbane Strikers def by Melbourne City 1-2 – Perry Park, Brisbane. Crowd 3,571
Canberra Olympic def Redlands United 2-0 – Deakin Stadium, Canberra. Crowd 1,089
Blacktown City def Bonnyrigg White Eagles 3-0 – Lily Homes Stadium, Sydney. Crowd 630
Hume City def by Melbourne Victory 0-1 – ABD Stadium, Melbourne. Crowd 2,866
Match Day 6: 30th August
Edgeworth FC def by Western Sydney Wanderers 1-5 – Magic Park, Newcastle. Crowd 2,616
Devonport City def by Bentleigh Greens 0-1 (AET) – Valley Road, Devonport. Crowd 3,168
Melbourne Knights def by Green Gully 1-3 – Knights Stadium, Melbourne. Crowd 2,472
Perth Glory def by Sydney FC 0-2 (AET) – Dorrien Gardens, Perth. Crowd 2,661
Round of 32 Results:
Match Day 1: 27th July
Hume City def Marconi Stallions 1-1 (4-2 on Penalties) – ABD Stadium, Melbourne. Crowd 913
Blacktown City def Sydney Utd 6-2 (AET) – Lily Homes Stadium, Sydney. Crowd 877
F.N. Qld def by Edgeworth FC 0-3 – Barlow Park, Cairns. Crowd 1,379
Shamrock Rovers def by Brisbane Strikers 0-6 – Darwin Football Stadium, Darwin. Crowd 1,358
Match Day 2: 2nd August
Green Gully def Central Coast 2-1 – Green Gully Reserve, Melbourne. Crowd 876
W.S. Wanderers def Wellington Phoenix 3-2 – Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney. Crowd 3,212
Metro Stars def by Bentleigh Greens 3-3 (3-4 on Penalties) Elite Sys. Centre, Adelaide. Crowd 958
Floreat Athena def by Melbourne City 1-2 Dorrien Gardens, Perth. Crowd 1,408
Match Day 3: 3rd August
Redlands Utd def Adelaide Utd 2-1 (AET) – Perry Park, Brisbane. Crowd 1,564
Newcastle Jets def by Melbourne Victory 1-3 – Magic Park, Newcastle. Crowd 1,956
Canberra Olympic def Surfers Paradise Apollo 1-0 – Deakin Stadium, Canberra. Crowd 1,253
Bonnyrigg White Eagles def Manly Utd 3-0 – Bonnyrigg Sports Ground, Sydney. Crowd 327
Match Day 4: 10th August
Wollongong Wolves def by Sydney FC 0-3 – WIN Stadium, Wollongong. Crowd 8,029
Brisbane Roar def by Perth Glory 0-2 – Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane. Crowd 3,028
Devonport City def Lambton Jaffas 1-0 – Valley Road, Devonport. Crowd 2,418
Melbourne Knights def Cockburn City 2-1 – Knights Stadium, Melbourne. Crowd 1,864
Photo Credits: Getty Images
- Knights News – 2016 Westfield FFA Cup Round of 16 – Knights v Green Gully – Official Knights Match Day Programme
- Wikidpedia – Knights Stadium Page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_Stadium_(Melbourne)