Hamilton AFC’s 1972 northern league title
This year is the 50th anniversary of Hamilton AFC winning the northern league first division in 1972 (there was no premier league in those days).
They not only became the first club to take the northern league title out of Auckland, but in the process became the first Waikato club to qualify for the national league playoffs. In some high quality matches Hamilton drew 1-1, both home and away, with Wellington Diamond United, but in a third deciding match at Wembley Park, Wanganui, lost 2-1.
Leading Hamilton was player-coach Bill Hume. The big Scotsman was in the twilight of an illustrious career in which saw him become the only player to score more goals for New Zealand than he made appearances (8 goals in 7 appearances in 1958) before then crossing the Tasman, where he played and also got on the scoresheet for Australia in the early 60s.
By this stage of his career Hume had a prominent beer belly and was playing as a central defender rather than a striker, but was still had wonderful skills and vision, and was unerring from the penalty spot.
Hamilton (who played in gold and black in those days, prior to the switch to blue in 1975) pipped Birkenhead United for the league title on goal average – a mathematical calculation which favoured defensive ability rather than attacking ability.
Hamilton started the season with a bang, nine win son the trot, before two losses and a draw which gave Birkenhead a small league lead. But then Hamilton trounced Birkenhead 3-0 at Muir Park, running them off the park in front of what was at the time, a record Muir Park crowd.
There was a heartbreaking 2-1 loss away to North Shore and Hamilton were back to second, waiting for someone to beat Birkenhead and in the penultimate round Metro did just that. And because of their superior goal average, Hamilton could even afford to lose their final league match – which they duly did, 1-3 against Eden. Up until then Hamilton had conceded just four goals at Muir Park all season.
Hamilton were occasionally criticised for having little attacking plan apart from getting on the end of some crosses from wide men Russ Holmes or Doug Snapes. But other key Hamilton players that year were the unflappable Arthur Parker at centre back, seasoned goalkeeper Kel Munro, irrepressible midfielder Roy Little and the ageing Dave Wallace. Don Bain transferred mid-season from Cambridge to give much-needed striking momentum (11 goals in nine appearances), while Alex Kelly, Ralph (“Wacky”) Noble, feisty young inside forward John Ravenscroft, the nuggetty Billy Ironside, Jeff Coulshed, Mike Bullen and Ernie Gale all played their part.
But like Technical Old Boys a decade earlier, eight of the Hamilton players were 30 or over. Hume did stick around for one more season, though for most of the rest of the 70s – and ultimate national league qualification - Hamilton was built around a string of arriving quality Scotsmen and Englishmen such such as Keith Nelson, John McDermid, Ken Morrison, Jim Barry, Dick Plume, and Ian Dolman (and talent-oozing youngsters like Mike Groom).