Hungaria's most notable playing product was Attila Abonyi, the Socceroo striker who was at one time the national team's all time leading scorer. While the club had one Victorian State League second place finish (1970), and three third place finishes (1960, 1966, 1972), undoubtedly the club's most successful year was 1967. They not only won the league title that season, but went on to win the Australia Cup as well, beating APIA Leichhardt 4-3 in the final.
|Possibly a photo of a young Ernie Tapai playing |
for a Victorian state youth team.
Despite a strong early 1970s period, the club had only a small community to draw upon. After being relegated from the state league in 1975, the club bounced between the Victorian second and third divisions for the next decade. and it appears that the lack of a permanent home ground didn't help matters.
In the late 1950s, they played out of Elwood Reserve/Elwood Park in Elwood, before spending time at Port Melbourne's JL Murphy Reserve, Olympic Park, McDonald Reserve in Gardiner, Elsternwick Park, and even the St Kilda Cricket Ground (aka the Junction Oval, which was also used by Juventus; that venue was rejected as a possible home ground by South in the late 1970s/early 1980s, but that's another story)
The stability issue is perhaps undermined a little by the fact that Hungaria spent the entire period of 1969-80 at Middle Park Stadium, making them the third longest tenant behind Hellas and Hakoah in the ground's post-enclosure era. From 1981 until their final move to Williamstown, they played on one of the adjacent fields to Middle Park, Oval No.7. The last 12 pages of the book, in English, focus mostly on the future that the club's board had in mind.
The board, perhaps surprisingly considering the trends that were already in evidence among ethnic clubs at the time, had some seriously lofty aims. The main find for me is that the club managed to apparently secure some land in Williamstown (near the Rifle Range), and had plans to build both a new ground with a small grandstand (seating 300), as well as a social club. The intention was to supplement their soccer income in order to make a tilt at getting into the national league. Sound familiar?
|Neither Melbourne Hungaria's plans for a boutique suburban ground, nor their aim of reaching the National Soccer League came to pass. As usual, apologies for the poor quality of my photos.|
The grandstand and social club never got built, as a visit to JT Gray Reserve in Williamstown can attest to. The amenities in the shadow of the oil refinery are limited to the portables that used to be at Paisley Park. Why Hungaria's plans never happened I'm not sure, though we can take an easy guess. Diminishing crowds, diminishing interest, diminishing money. After having made it back to the state league in 1986, they got relegated immediately. In 1987, they got relegated again, and that was that. See the link Mark Boric has provided (in the comments) to a 1985 feature article on the club -
Is there a warning there for us? Without getting too melodramatic I think there is. I think we have some advantages in comparison - a good junior wing, stable enough existence at a home ground, enough corporate and pleb support to keep us going nicely for the time being. But Hungaria's plans and subsequent demise demonstrate the absolute necessity of getting this lease deal done. Not for the sake of some possible attempt at a national league return, or even for the money, but for the sake of the club itself. Here's hoping the movers and shakers are getting closer to finalising the deal.
In the 1952 VASFA handbook (which you can download from here, courtesy of Mark Boric), there is a Hungaria listed as due to play in the fourth division. Unlike its successor team, which played for most of its existence in a completely white strip, except for a one red and one green horizontal stripe, the 1952 Hungaria kit is as listed as being a red shirt, white shorts, green socks.
Unlike other clubs however, there is no home ground listed - the only reference I can find to their existence in The Argus on Trove is in the round 1 results for 1952. Their match against the RAAF side is listed as not having been played, with no reason being given, unlike in other games where ground (for example) is listed as the reason for no game being played.
After checking with fellow Victorian soccer historian John Punshon, it appears that they pulled out early on, and teams due to play them got a bye. This was noted in the 'Secretary's Notes' section of the April 26 1952 edition of Soccer News.