Impetus EXCLUSIVE by Ben Gilby
Above: Trixie Tagg pictured in a St. George Budapest shirt – her achievements with the club are historic. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Trixie Tagg.
Trixie Tagg is one of the pioneering legends of Australian women’s football. She was a top player in the late 1960s and 1970s, part of the Australian team that played in the first ever Asian Women’s Cup and one of the Matildas’ first head coaches. Without her and those of her generation, the current Australian national side would not be where it is now.
Tagg grew up in Amsterdam, and it was in the Dutch city that she first got bitten by the football bug, and she reflected fondly on her days “playing street football with my friends – all boys – in the late 1950s until 1962 when we emigrated to Australia. Plus of course, listening to the radio and watching some football on TV with my dad.”
Her footballing baptism in Australia came in 1967 at the Sydney Prague Club, as she takes up the tale. “We were welcomed there and our journey began. Their players including Larry Armytage, David Zeeman, Gary Manuel, Dennis Hoggart, Ray Rootsey, and Joe Venglos their Coach encouraged us.
“Our ladies team always trained hard and played some really good football. Our Coach Joe O’Connor and son Kirk always trained with us and we spent hours playing foot tennis in Pat and Joe’s backyard in Bass Hill.
“I remember we played a curtain raiser at Wentworth Park followed by the men’s match. During the men’s match, a male spectator yelled: “Bring the girls back on!” It put a spring in our step and a smile on my face!”
Tagg went on to have a phenomenal record in club football – not losing a match in 12 years. After three years at Sydney Prague, she become part of the legendary St. George Budapest team in the NSW Metropolitan Ladies Soccer Association. It was a period that she rightly looks back on with great pride.
“We needed more and stronger competition and that’s why our team moved to the St. George District where we trained under streetlights at Penshurst Park. We followed the St. George men’s team and I am privileged to say I remain friends with Rale Rasic (the legendary coach who guided Australia’s men’s team to their first-ever World Cup in 1974), Jim Fraser, George Harris, Harry Williams, John Stoddart and Michael Denton. We ended up having a 12-year unbeaten run (three years as Sydney Prague, seven years as St. George and two years as Marconi).
In addition to those incredible successes in club football, in the same period, Tagg and a number of her teammates were part of the Australia team in 1975 competing at the inaugural AFC Asian Women’s Cup. It was the stuff of dreams for this group who will always be in the history books as the pioneers for modern day Matildas.
“Nine of our players played for New South Wales (NSW) and were the 1974 Australian National Champions,” Tagg reflected. “NSW also won the Nationals in 1976, 77, 79, 80, and 1981 with quite a few of our team members.
“For the 1975 Asian Womens Cup, we needed and received official permission from the men’s ASF (Australian Soccer Federation) at a full soccer meeting in Sydney with representatives from all the States. Sir Arthur George was the President and Brian Le Fevre the Secretary. We could not have participated without that permission. This also included wearing the official green and gold jersey with the embroidered coat of arms. I still treasure mine!”
Australia went through the group stage after beating Singapore 3-0 and losing to Thailand 3-2 before going down 3-2 to New Zealand in the semi-finals. The inaugural Matidlas would defeat Malaysia 5-0 in the third-place play-off in Hong Kong. Tagg scored in the tournament and won an Asian All-Stars badge at the end of the event.
“I have so many fond memories including the pride we felt wearing the Australian uniform, especially at the opening ceremony; playing in front of 12,000 spectators; scoring three goals and being selected in the 1975 Asian All Stars alongside our Captain Pat O’Connor, Christel Abenthum, Connie Byrnes and Julie Dolan. Sadly the promised tours of Europe did not eventuate.”
However, what did eventuate was Tagg being offered the chance to become head coach of the Matildas in the 1980s. “I was in the right place at the right time,” she revealed. “I had enjoyed doing coaching clinics with Rale Rasic, Dennis Hoggart, Raoul Blanco, Kevin Keegan, and Jim Selby. Jim was the National Coach but was unavailable for the 1981 tour of New Zealand. He put in a good word for me and our all-female party did Australia proud. To this day I still love us Aussies beating the Kiwis in any sport!”
Tagg is hugely passionate about those achievements, and spoke about “the camaraderie, resulting in lifelong friendships.” She feels “pride in having helped start women’s football in Australia and contributing as a player, coach, administrator, and referee. Additionally, she has contributed to Zone, Regional, and Combined High Schools boys ‘football for more than 20 years, including as a selector. I am so proud when I see their names on the Joeys and Socceroos lists.”
Despite her historic achievements and status in Australian women’s football, she told me that she was not asked to be involved in the nation’s bid for the World Cup or any of the subsequent events since it was awarded to Australia and New Zealand. Nor has she got any tickets for the event.
“I tried for more than an hour to buy a ticket online but was ‘stuck in the waiting room’. I gave up and will be watching it on TV.”
When it comes to building on hosting a World Cup, for Tagg, her priority for a World Cup legacy in Australia is: “Make participation in football more affordable.”
Trixie Tagg is a pioneering legend of the Australian game. It was an honour to be able to interview her. If anyone deserves to be among the front and centre dignatories at the World Cup Final in Sydney it is her.