At the Merrimac Football Club we have a vision to develop well-balanced, successful individuals who desire and are capable of making a real contribution in a team environment, throughout their lives, regardless of gender, physical abilities or background, through instruction of the technical, tactical, physical and psychological aspects of soccer. It is our hope that a large proportion of these individuals will pursue the sport through their teen age years and on into adult life.
The origins of the Italo-Australian club and its formation was to become the catalyst for the beginnings of Merrimac International Soccer Club. One of the first and possibly the most influential pioneers of the beginnings of the Italo-Australian club was a young and enthusiastic Italian immigrant called Tony Cecco. Arriving in Australia in 1962 aboard the ship Flaminia, Tony quickly settled in the North of Queensland where other ex-patriots were cutting cane. Tony also cut cane before moving on to help build bridges on the roads of North Queensland in 1964. In 1973 Tony joined the Broadbeach soccer club, which at the time had several Italian players, or players of Italian extraction. Tony quickly showed his love and passion for the game by coaching the juniors. His under 9 team, the first he coached, included a kid named Steve Ball who was later to play for the Merrimac soccer club in 1983, winning and being an important member of championship year, a year the club created history in taking all four trophies on offer. In 1975 Tony decided to leave Broadbeach and start his crusade to establish an Italian club with eventually its own soccer team. Tony was President of the Italo-Australian club from 1976 to 1981 and was also President of Gold Coast Soccer for many years. His involvement with the game was profound.
The first meeting was held at 3651 Main Beach Parade, Main Beach on the 7 th June 1976 for the purpose of forming the Gold Coast Italo-Australian club. In this first meeting a steering committee was formed, with the President Tony Cecco, secretary Gino Favretto, treasurer Ernie Moro, legal advisor Gino Moro, the son of Ernie. Other members were Tony Montagna, Sammy La Rocca, Joe Battaglia, Peter Zecca, LivioSoligo, Angelo Cavasin, Elio Susan and Tony Miano. 27 people attended the meeting and initial capital of $270 was already raised. The first general meeting was held on the 10 th June 1976 with Gino Moro appointed honorary solicitor and drafted the articles of the new club. With a constitution drafted and outlined, the committee approached both Albert and Gold Coast Councils regarding leasehold land for the purpose of building a clubhouse, initially without much success.
A number of agents were approached to obtain land for the purpose of establishing a clubhouse and the committee had narrowed their choices down to a few sites. An unofficial offer was finally made for one such site, however it too broke down. Eventually when a suitable site was found a sketch of the clubhouse would be made and the committee would call for a General Meeting and a fundraising night for all the members. One of the first official fundraising days was on the 5 th September 1976 (Fatherâ€™s Day) at OverellPark , Brighton Parade Southport (behind Sundale) at 10.00am. The first dinner dance was on the 8 th August at the Pacific Hotel with 300 people attending, with other dances being held at El Rancho and the Southport Golf Club. Dinner dances and fundraising barbeques not only got the Italian community on the Gold Coast together and united, it also served to raise money to secure funds by debentures and foundation members buying the new land.
In 1977 on Sunday 4 th September the newly formed Italo-Australian club officially held its first general meeting. A committee was formed under chairman Tony Cecco and secretary Gino Favretto, with the aims and objectives of the club being to promote social, recreational, sporting and cultural activities for its members. Membership was invited to all persons wishing to participate in the aims and activities of the club, for an entrance fee of $10. The first official committee of the Italo-Australian club was President Antonio Cecco, Vice-President Tony Montagna, Treasurer Ernie Moro, Secretary Gino Favretto, other committee people were Salvatore La Rocca, Mario Torti, Antonio Miano, Gianni Capelli, Joseph Battaglia and LivioSoligo. The committee then resolved to buy a suitable site for the club, which was intrusted with president Tony Cecco and treasurer Ernie Moro. A contract was entered for six acres of land for $50,000 on the corner of Currumburra Road and NerangStreet , however with much dismay to the committee the negotiations broke down. However by the end of the year the present site was found and after numerous meetings with the vendors the club entered into a contract for 18 acres of land for $70,000. Under the contract terms the vendors had to raise approximately 2 Â¾ acres above flood level and 8 acres 60cm above the original level and rights to extract 15,000m of sand from adjoining property. The first open meeting of the club turned into a fundraising get-together with $7,200 being raised through foundation members and $19,900 in debentures, a very positive outcome. After long delays due to the vendor company going into receivership plus rezoning and sub-division, the club entered into a new contract for the purchase of 18 Â½ acres of land (the present site) for $30,000, including the right to extract 75,000cm of sand from the adjoining property. The contract was finalised on the 8 th March 1978. The present site at that time was fronting Margret Street , which was a newly built section of the Nerang-Broadbeach Road with entry off an easement directly opposite the Surfers Paradise Gold Club in Fairways Drive . Plans were submitted to the Albert Shire and a loan of $80,000 was negotiated with the bank. By the end of 1978 a loan for $80,000 was finalised with the Commonwealth Bank and all projects started. These projects took longer to complete due to the lack of voluntary work, however by the end of the 1978-9 financial year the road was completed, electricity and water connected, works of bocce, tennis, barbeque, sewerage and amenity block including temporary bar were progressing satisfactorily.
In October 1979 after applying for three consecutive years for subsidies to the State
Government, the grant of $58,172 was approved for the firs stage of the sporting complex as well as receiving $1,239 from the Italian Government. In the beginning Of 1980 the tennis courts were finished and the tennis committee was prompt in appointing a coach, entering two junior teams in the local competition as well as organising a tournament, ladies days and social nights for members. The bar opened three nights a week using voluntary staff. The bocce sub-committee organised two tournaments, establishing the boccefila and sent two teams to Brisbane to compete in the Queensland titles. By May 1980 the machinery shed, pergola, paths, sewerage, some turf, pump for irrigation and the lake in the North-East corner of the property were completed. The club purchased two tractors, necessary furniture, crockery and cutlery. The works sub-committee finished two change rooms with showers, toilets and benches. A new bar, kitchen, storeroom and purchasing and installation of the cold room, benches, roller shutters and all necessary equipment for the bar and kitchen. Inside and outside of the amenity block and machinery shed was painted. The Greens sub-committee finished the turf on the area between the bocce and amenities block, upgraded the road, purchased a new 1800mm roller mower, built fences and kept the grass on the property in good order. Work on the soccer field was finished and the hard working sub-committee didnâ€™t waste any time erecting goal posts, marking fields and entering a number of junior soccer teams (7) in the local Gold Coast Junior Soccer Federation under the name of I.A.Merrimac. In 1981 with the introduction of the juniors the club also lured Gold Coast City , the coasts state league side to play its home games at Fairway Drive . So the ball was rolling and soccer started to flow in the veins of the newly built Italo-Australian club. Many other people who were included with the early history of the club were Frances and Leo Aggugia, Peter Zecca, Peter Ulliana, R. Simeone, L. Caterino, R. Ruck, S. Denaro, F. Arturi, E. Zago, G. Schavetti, G. Ulliana, Frank and Teresa Mennella, P. Moretti, R. Huth, M. Palich, T. Velardo, A. Vallitutti, F. Covino, A. Covino, R. Higgs, M. Moretti, T. Robertson, R. Bos, D. Dus, L. Grovine, F. Trabucco, the Ceccato family, the Tortiâ€™s, the Pollettoâ€™s, G. Fain, S. Grasso and Jimmy Pontil. Apologies are forwarded to any other pioneers that have been unintentionally forgotten.
The beginnings of Australian soccer is rich in multi-culturalism. Many ethnic nationalities have encased their own traditions and embodied them in their club as has the Italo-Australian club with Merrimac. Many people argue that ethnic soccer clubs have served their purpose in Australian soccer and that their days are quickly diminishing. However they continue to open their doors to all walks of life and are feverously marketing their clubs as Australian soccer clubs. Their ethnic background and traditions will always be honoured and remembered, never to be forgotten, because it is history. A.C.Milan for example is an Italian club with arguably the richest tradition in the world. The Milan soccer club was started in 1899 by a group of English immigrants, in fact it was a cricket club before it became the famous club it is now. Over 100 years later, that involvement by its founding fathers is still recognised as an important part of the clubs history. Merrimac International have been unique as a club due to its founding members being a mix of nationalities, with that tradition Merrimac has always opened its arms and united nationalities from all walks of life, making them feel part of one family. Joe Benigno, Frank Boff, Gianni Ceccatto, John Polletto, Tony Cecco, Dennis Morson, Tony Martin, Frank Trabucco, John Benigno and Tom Robertson have all been great ambassadors in creating a big happy family.
The seeds of the Merrimac International soccer club were laid by the founding members of the Italo-Australian club and other members who relished the thought of starting a new club and new tradition. Tony Cecco, Tony Montagna, Peter Zecca, Joe Benigno, Peter Ulliana, Carlo March, Joe Battaglia, John Benigno, Sammy La Rocca, John Polletto, Ernie Moro, Jimmy Pontil, Mario Torti, and Roman Brewleski all played important roles as the founding members and pioneers of the new football club. Discussions about starting a soccer club were regularly bandied about in the public bar at the Anglers Arms Hotel in Queen Street Southport. As the discussions became more serious and intense they moved to new headquarters, at the long bar in the Chevron Hotel in Surfers Paradise. With the Italo-Australian club on its feet and a soccer pitch ready for use it was only a matter of time before a soccer sub-committee was formed and a team entered in the Gold Coast Soccer League. A logo designed by Tony Cecca was approved as the new symbol of the new Australian-Italian partnership. This symbol was also used on the shirts of the soccer team. In fact the current Gold Coast State League logo is based on similar lines with a soccer ball inside a curling or breaking wave. The introduction of the Merrimac soccer club was a big boost for Gold Coast football, the addition of the Italian backed club helped raise the interest and standard of football on the Gold Coast. Merrimac,s complete domination in 1982 and 1983 pushed other clubs to a higher level and followed Merrimac,s high standards on and off the pitch. By 1998 the Gold Coast had won the Prestigious State Wide Ampol Cup, leading on from Merrimacâ€™s 1996 Quantas Cup, a state wide amateur competition. The Gold Coast representative teams have produced outstanding juniors, the product of an outstanding junior development net on the coast, Shane Steffanutto, David Pilic, Danny Milosevic, Andy Brayshaw, Richard Collier, Tizzy Morrisini, QuentonTalor, Eddy Lees, Matty Hilton, Matty Crawford, Lee Vernon, Luke and Brad Adair, Adam Hayward, Neil Ferguson, Shane Smeltz and many others are proof of the quality that the Gold Coast is producing.
At present there is a very healthy situation in the junior set up on the Gold Coast, however Merrimacâ€™s highest age group in the year 2002 is the 13â€²s. Merrimac senior soccer is at a big disadvantage, it cannot call upon strong young players who can ease into senior football. So it should be Merrimacâ€™s highest priority to continue developing its juniors to ensure it has a solid base for years to come. With the new magic facilities and clubhouse in place and a director of coaching in place, the club is striving hard to ensure a bright future. Hopefully if Merrimac can maintain their strong position and move forward. It may push other Gold Coast clubs to follow suit and hopefully with local councils helping soccer to build better facilities and a chance to expand and provide a better institution for our children. A healthy playground future generations can enjoy. We must not forget to mention womens soccer on the Gold Coast which continues to grow at a rapid rate. Womens soccer is the fastest growing team sport in the world, especially in the USA . Gold Coast players that have made a name for themselves at high levels are Belinda Diwney, Alison Williams, Kate Smith, Nicole Mathews, Kerne Rowe, AiuiLuik and Prue Cormie to mention just a few. Gold Coast soccer really does foster the womens game as well as the code in general and it is a credit to them, because they are continually looking at keeping up with the changing techniques and training methods. Physical conditioning, good diets and a healthy balanced lifestyle are also important priorities that the representative and academy coaches teach its pupils. The fact that Gold Coast soccer is relatively young in comparison to many other states and areas but still produces quality youth is fact to their soccer education. So we as individual clubs and people must be proud of the fact that all of us in different ways, large or small have been a part of a rich tradition. Maybe in a few more years to come, hopefully sooner rather than later we can all unite for one major objective. To have a national league club that we can all really patronise support and follow as our own, whether that be Gold Coast City or any other venture.
MERRIMACâ€™S HALL OF FAME
Joe Benigno – Rick Mangan – Max Sedano – Frank Boff – Billy Ferguson – John Benigno – Bobby Nisbet – Tony Cecco – Nino DiMartino – Gianni Ceccato – Brian Lampitt
Gianni Polletto – Andy Smith – Steve Bimbi – John Saliba – Tony Martin – Rowan Whiteman – Gavin Hicks – Matty Crawford – Paul Scanlon – Manuel Cadenas – Steve Smith
Karl Herdle – Tony Duncombe – Phil Smith – Darren Polletto – Grant Sheard – Brad Adair – Les Walker
JUNIOR PLAYERS TO HAVE PLAYED SENIOR SOCCER WITH MERRIMAC
Gavin Hicks – Matthew Hiscock – Jason Adair – David Benigno – Darren Polletto – Phil Weedon – Romolo Bos – Darrick Polletto – Francis Bizzo – Scott Bartrim
Vaughan Skelly – Alistair Martin – Brad Adair – David Torretta – Luke Adair – Jason Oberman – Adrian Grazzidi – Phil Smith – Ryan Britten – Julian Casasola – Adrian Benigno
MERRIMAC INTERNATIONAL SOCCER CLUB ROLL OF HONOUR
PRESIDENTS CUP FINALS
1982 Merrimac 2 St Anthonys 1 venue Twintowns
1983 Merrimac 1 Palm Beach 0 venue Palm Beach
This game was a replay after the first game was deadlocked at 0-0
1986 Merrimac 0 St Anthonys 1 venue Carrara Stadium
1 stDiv 1995 Merrimac 1 Musgrave 4 venue Musgrave
1 stDiv 1996 Merrimac 4 Runaway Bay 2 venue Runaway Bay
Merrimac 1 Broadbeach 2 venue Merrimac
1983 Merrimac 2 Broadbeach 1 venue Palm Beach
This game was a replay after a 0-0 scoreline at Merrimac
1984 Merrimac 4 Broadbeach 0 venue St Anthonys
1985 Merrimac 1 Palmbeach 2 venue Carrara Stadium
1986 Merrimac 0 Palmbeach 1 venue Carrara Stadium
1993 Merrimac 1 Robina 2 venue Merrimac
1994 Merrimac 5 Musgrave 1 venue Musgrave
1995 Merrimac 0 Musgrave 1 venue Musgrave
1996 Merrimac 3 Runaway Bay 1 venue Palmbeach
THIRD DIVISION (SUNDAY LEAGUE)
1986 Merrimac 2 Broadbeach 1 venue Carrara Stadium
1990 Merrimac 1 Broadbeach 3 venue Carrara Stadium
1999 Merrimac 2 Griffith Uni 1 venue Merrimac
2000 Merrimac 3 Griffith Uni 1 venue Musgrave
RECORD PLAYED 20 WON 10 DRAWN 2 LOST 8 FOR 33 AGAINST 25
1982 Merrimac 5 Broadbeach 4 on penalties at Musgrave
1983 Merrimac 1 Twin Towns 0 at Twin Towns
1986 Merrimac 2 Broadbeach 0 at Carrara Stadium
1 stDiv 1996 Merrimac 4 Runaway Bay 2 at Runaway Bay
1999 Merrimac 2 Broadbeach 0 at Merrimac
2000 Merrimac 1 Runaway Bay 2 at Merrimac
2010 Merrimac 5 United Eagles 3 at Carrara
1983 Merrimac 0 Twin Towns 1 at Twin Towns
1984 Merrimac 4 Kingscliff 1 at Carrara Stadium
1985 Merrimac 3 St Anthonys 2 at Carrara Stadium
1986 Merrimac 3 Broadbeach 1 at Carrara Stadium
1990 Merrimac 1 Palm Beach 2 at Burleigh
1 stDiv 1993 Merrimac 1 Robina 2 at Merrimac
1994 Merrimac 5 Musgrave 3 at Musgrave
1995 Merrimac 4 Musgrave 0 at Musgrave
1996 Merrimac 0 Runaway Bay 1 at Runaway Bay
2010 Merrimac 2 Burleigh Heads 2 at Carrara
Burleigh win on penalties 6 â€“ 5
DIVISION THREE (SUNDAY LEAGUE)
1986 Merrimac 2 Broadbeach 0 at Carrara Stadium
1990 Merrimac 1 Broadbeach 2 at Palm Beach
1995 Merrimac 2 Murwillumbah 1 at Merrimac
1997 Merrimac 6 Mudgeeraba 1 at Merrimac
1999 Merrimac 3 Griffith University 1 at Mudgeeraba
1993 Merrimac 4 Murwillumbah 1 at Murwillumbah
RECORD PLAYED 23 WON 16 LOST 7 FOR 61 AGAINST 32 TOTAL CLUB SENIOR PREMIERSHIPS 18 PREMIERSHIPS AND 5 RUNNERS UP