Northcote City Soccer Club has been on an upward rise for several years now and has surprised many with their achievements since entering the Victorian Premier League on their modest budget.
Taking a look inside this tight knit loyal club, I found some common basic traditional values that are serving them very well. Humility, loyalty, friendship and integrity are words bandied around very easily in the world of football and business but these are the ingredients that fuel Northcote City SC into the competitive unit they are today.
Northcote City SC was formed in 1960 by a group of Greek migrants new to Australia with a passion for sport and a need to form friendships in a new country, with soccer being the major connection. Northcote City SC is the third oldest Greek club in Victoria behind South Melbourne FC and Heidelberg United FC, in its formative years the club fielded teams not only in soccer but also in volleyball, basketball and table tennis.
The club has always been one that has fought out of its weight division, regularly competing in higher divisions against clubs with far greater playing budgets yet the competitive spirit was always strong and the camaraderie and friendships in the dressing room forged an unbelievable bond among the players that wore the Hercules Shirt. Northcote City SC had a stretch from 1980 until 1991 where it competed in the Victorian Premier league; indeed it was considered the glamour club of the Greek community at local level at this time when South Melbourne Hellas and Heidelberg United Alexander were giant clubs in the now defunct National Soccer League.
The current situation sees Northcote City SC playing in the Victorian Premier League yet this ambition was far from foreseen as recently as 2007 when the club was wallowing in the lower reaches of Victorian State League Division 2. The turning point surely came when the committee at the time replaced Takis Sviggos as coach and appointed South Melbourne FC legend Peter Tsolakis as coach. Despite a disappointing 2007 State 2 campaign, the club kept complete and absolute faith in Tsolakis with the new committee quickly re-appointing him to his head coach position along with appointing Alex Gymnopoulos, a legend of the club as his assistant. In reflection it was a history defining moment for the club.
The success came immediately with the Blue and Whites from John Cain Memorial Park winning the State 2 Title by a margin of 7 points and thus ensuring a return to Division 1. Amazingly, the fairytale continued with the club winning the Division 1 title in its first year by 4 points, turning the upcoming 50th year celebrations in 2010 into a huge event with a return to the highest competition in the State, the Victorian Premier League.
The continuity of the committee led by Jim Makrozahopulos as President and Chris Nicolaidis as his deputy, combined with the astute business acumen of treasurer at the time Jerry Lazaris saw the club stick to its principles and core values and not over spend and get involved in crazy transfer activities. Instead it kept faith with the majority of the senior squad that helped it gain promotion and added some young players with the mantra of being a competitive outfit. Northcote City SC also encourages players taking the next step to professional football.
Bradley Norton of Adelaide United is one example who benefited greatly developing in the Northcote environment. Current Club Captain and talisman Trent Rixon, a prolific goal scorer for the past four years, amazingly, has been overlooked by many A-League clubs yet continues to perform consistently and brilliantly for the club he loves. Remarkably Rixon has been offered numerous offers from other VPL clubs significantly higher than his current salary yet he has resisted all attempts to prise him away. Rixon champions the core values that make this club very special in modern times where money and business dominate football. What is the secret to creating this blind loyalty?
Club Stalwart and Secretary Peter Kotsiris explains. “It is very simple, the camaraderie that exists here is unfounded, I believe anywhere in the world. When this club was on its knees in the mid ’90s, players like George Papadopoulos, Harry Kinigopoulos, Jerry Lazaris and John Theofilopoulos stuck fat playing over 15 years at senior level, thus creating a sense of loyalty, respect and love for this club which all others have embraced from the moment they arrive.
The other thing is as a committee we never lie to the boys. We are honest with and keep them updated on all things going on at the club, even some things that have no relevance to them as players, what this creates however is a sense of belonging, a sense of respect for the club and subsequently the players then get the feeling that they are playing not for Northcote City SC but for their club.”
So far this year, once again, Northcote City SC has surprised the big guns of the VPL, securing the services of brothers Glen and Jason Trifiro from Sydney, both former Australia Youth Internationals who have already taken the VPL by storm.
President Jim Makrozahopoulos says, “through the good name of our coach Peter Tsolakis we have been able to open many doors in terms of recruiting and indeed increasing the profile of the club, to the point were we get approached by many people who want to come to the club, the boys from Sydney are just another example of this, it is really exciting times for us at the moment because we are finally seeing the fruits of some genuine hard labour from our junior department as well. I
‘m hoping that in the foreseeable future we will be able to field a team made up predominantly of kids that have come through the Northcote City system.” When asked what that system is, his answer was “now that would be giving away to many secrets now wouldn’t it!”
I had the pleasure of spending Thursday night with the players, coaches and committee and enjoying their wonderful hospitality and now have become a converted ‘Hercules’ fan.