The 1960’s

The 1960’s arguably brought Polonia its best results. It commenced as soon as 1960 with the influx of Polish first division stars to the ranks. They included, Józef Gałeczka, who would later represent Poland in many international fixtures, Jerzy Czubała, Stanisław Szklarek and crowd pleasing winger Wilhelm Pilot, all of whom were regular first division players in their native homeland.

That year, the 1st Grade team finished the regular season in second position, and then went on to win the Grand Final, defeating Pan Hellenic 2-1 in the decider at Lambert Park. Goal scorers on that day were Pilot and Gałeczka.

The squad in 1960 comprised: Ilinsky, Szklarek, Kwaśniak, Mider, Dudek, Piwonka, Rosik, Gasperski, Lopatka, Gałeczka, Pilot, Czubała, Swoboda, Kaliński, Jambrik, Rozenblat, Sawicki, Dobrzyński, Orsz and Paskunowski.

In 1961, Polonia merged with North Side to form Polonia North Side and in their first year in Division One after promotion, finished a creditable fifth. The following year saw them slump to last place, thus demoting them into Division Two. This task was carried out without two of their most credible players in Joe Gałeczka, who returned to Poland and Stan Szklarek, who moved south to Melbourne.

In 1963, Polonia experienced further player losses, with Adrian Ringland and Johnny Wong departing and the Varglien brothers retiring. However, boosted with the addition of four new imports in Zdziśław Nowacki, Bruno Hajduk, Kaz Witczak and Henryk Cebula, Polonia managed to snare second spot in 1963, and repeat their feat of 1960 by claiming the Championship courtesy of a win over the Corinthians in the Grand Final.

Although Polonia missed out on promotion, it didn’t detract high quality players from playing with the club in 1964. Three further imports arrived in Jerzy Drewniak, Tony Komoder and Ginter Gawlik. Their superiority was clearly defined when they swept aside all challenges to finish the regular season in the top spot for the first time, in the process earning promotion into Division One.

Their dominance didn’t end there, with the side winning all four semi-final matches and ultimately the Grand Final in a 2-1 win over Wollongong Olympic at Marks Field, to clinch the Premiership/ Championship double. In the Grand Final, Kaisch and Gawnik got on the score sheet. In 2nd Grade, Adamson scored for Polonia in their 1-1 Grand Final draw with Granville AEK.

Once more elevated into the top division for the 1965 season proved a major stumbling block, with Polonia finishing last, forcing relegation back into Division Two. In a lopsided line up, which produced a top class defensive line, but a mediocre attack. Even the injection of fresh faces including Eugene Dzialach, Frank Filok, Andre Gaik and Richard Krawiarz, together with Australian international Mike Jurecki could rescue the fortunes of the ailing team.

Bolstered by two new signings in Poland’s Bogdan Adamczyk and Australian goal-keeper Bill Henderson, Polonia again proved to be in a league of their own when they won the Premiership/Championship double in 1966, doing so undefeated for the entire year.

In a heart-stopping Grand Final, Polonia edged out a determined Canterbury side 4-3 in extra time, after the scores were locked at 1-1 at the conclusion of normal time. Nowacki scored twice, while Gaik and Krawiarz netted for the victors.

Their success again gained them promotion into Division One for the 1967 season, and this time they managed to avoid relegation and maintain their position at the elite level until their last place in 1969, which saw them begin the new decade back in Division Two.

Members of the teams which played in Division One between 1967 and 1969 included: Minol, Komoder, Filok, Adamson, Krawiarz, Calphy, Działach, Rosik, Nowacki, Cebuła, Gaik, Skiba, Drewniak, Gawlik, Kulak, Fraser, Oliver and Winiarski. Many of these players were imports from Poland.

The 1969 season began taking its toll on numerous Polonia players, who were well into the twilight of their careers. This period however, exposed some youth, namely goal-keeper Jim Fraser, who in turn would go on to bigger and better things, with the pinnacle being picked to represent Australia.

During this decade, Polonia were also regular starters in the Ascot ‘1000’ Cup. Although unable to break through to win the Cup, they did feature in some classic encounters, one of which was the 1960 quarter-final against Canterbury, which matched up two of the most entertaining strikers in the game in Leo Baumgartner, who would later coach at Polonia, and Gałeczka.