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Eastern Suburbs AFC – National League Champions 1971

 

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The photo was taken shortly after the final whistle as fans invaded the pitch to share the joy with their heroes.

John Staines in the foreground and Billy de Graff being chaired by supporters and teams mates.

 

 

As current National Champions, we thought we’d take a look back to 1971 when the Lilywhites last won the coveted trophy.

After the disappointment of finishing second to Blockhouse Bay (now part of Bay Olympic) in 1970 by the narrowest of margins (goal difference), Eastern Suburbs were determined 1971 was going to be their year.

Eastern Suburbs set the early pace with a strong start to the season, but arch-rival Mt Wellington (now University – Mt Wellington) had the Lilywhites under pressure the entire season and were only a few points adrift the entire season.

 

 

The outcome of the 1971 National League culminated in the final game: Eastern Suburbs v Mt Wellington on 12 September 1971. Newmarket Park was packed with over 10,000 spectators who crammed in to the ground to watch the spectacle! The game was a fitting end to the season, it was a ’winner take all’ game: if Mt Wellington won, they would be crowned champions, Suburbs had to win or draw to take the prize!

Mt Wellington lead by 3 goals to 2 going into the final quarter, Suburbs were becoming desperate for the equaliser and pushed the central defender and captain John Staines forward in a bid to help score the vital goal. With time ticking by the ball was passed to John Staines, as a defender, John was used to kicking the ball away from the goal mouth rather than trying to score a goal. He hit the ball with power to see it sail into the top of the Mount net, drawing the game level at 3 goals each. After a nervous final few minutes, the referee's whistle went for full time and Eastern Suburbs National League were crowned national champions!