15 years of Glory


Perth Glory legend Jamie Harnwell takes us through some of the highs and lows from the club’s first 15 years.

In October 1996 the world was a different place. The Twin Towers were still standing, Lionel Messi was a sickly nine-year-old and Mel B was a scary Spice Girl who’d never dream of advertising Australian weight-loss programs.

That month also saw the introduction of Perth Glory to the National Soccer League, kicking off 15 drama-packed years that have seen more than their fair share of highlights, lowlights and characters.

From humble origins, Perth Glory built themselves into an NSL powerhouse, playing in four Grand Finals in five years. But since the advent of the Hyundai A-League, the ride hasn’t been so smooth, as they’ve made just one finals appearance during the 2009-10 season.

On Saturday night, Perth celebrate their 15th anniversary with a clash against Sydney FC at nib Stadium a game that will celebrate the club’s first NSL match on October 13 1996, which was also against a Sydney opposition in UTS Olympic.

Coached by Gary Marocchi, the Glory lost that initial match 4-1, but the crowd still celebrated as Alan Mackenzie nailed the side’s first goal late in the encounter.

“In the changing rooms on that first day, every 10 or 15 minutes, the noise from the crowd got louder and louder and we were thinking this obviously means a lot to the people in Perth,” recalled Mackenzie.

Marocchi’s time was followed by the Bernd Stange period, where Glory developed an attractive, attacking style of football under the former East German coach that won plenty of fans and led to their first NSL Grand Final in 2000.

It proved a classic game that saw Glory lead 3-0 at half-time over Wollongong Wolves. Thinking it was over, Stange substituted key players Bobby Despotovski, Scott Miller and Ivan Ergic. That, combined with several defensive blunders, allowed Wolves to draw level, as Glory eventually lost in a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out.

Games record-holder Jamie Harnwell, who only retired last February after 256 matches, described it as his career’s most disappointing moment.

“I couldn’t even look at any highlights of it for about two or three years afterwards,” Harnwell said.

“I think I ended up on the front page of the West Australian the next day, crying my eyes out, hugging Bernd Stange. It wasn’t a personal highlight for me, but I can look back now and appreciate the game for what it was and appreciate being involved in it.”

Harnwell firmly believes the loss paved the way for the successful period to come, even though the next season saw the club finish fifth, with Stange replaced by Mitch d’Avray.

“I think what that game did more than anything else was just define the club,” Harnwell said.

“Everyone remembers Perth Glory because of that game and it would have been very easy for the club to fall in a hole after that point in time. It’s still, for me, one of the best national league games I’ve ever seen or been involved with, including last year’s A-League Grand Final.”

“It was just one of those games where you couldn’t script and it really made the club and people felt a lot of passion for Perth Glory that they might not have otherwise.”

Under D’Avray, the club may have lost the 2002 Grand Final to Sydney Olympic, but it was third-time lucky as Harnwell and Damian Mori secured a 2-0 result over Olympic the following season in front of a packed house at Subiaco.

“The crowds were fantastic,” Harnwell said. “They’d obviously been at Subi Oval twice before for Grand Finals. We got 40-odd thousand there and then to turn up a third time when we were almost written off again and everyone doesn’t think you’re good enough to do that and to win, was huge. You look at the emotion when you see highlights of it and it still gives me goose bumps about what it meant.”

They Hyundai A-League period, though, has seen Glory play just one final, which was also a dramatic penalty shoot-out loss in Wellington after a 1-1 draw.

Harnwell, though, doesn’t feel the club’s successful period has affected them in the new competition.

“To dominate the league for five years was a huge achievement,” Harnwell said.

“I don’t think it’s something a current side can ever really match in terms of the salary cap. But I hate people describing it as a millstone around the club’s neck, because we should always be aspiring to do that whether you can actually do it or not. That’s always what you’re aiming for and that’s what you’re playing for.”