Fifty Years in the Making: Goalkeeping through the eyes of former Socceroos custodians Jim Fraser and Ron Corry

On November 13, a milestone in Australian football history will be achieved when the 50-year anniversary of Australia’s first World Cup qualification is celebrated.

It was the night Jimmy Mackay struck that 30 yard piledriver in downtown Hong Kong which earned the Socceroos a 1-0 victory in a playoff game against South Korea, concluding an eleven match campaign.

Socceroos Tickets banner v Bangladesh or Maldives

Although Mackay was the hero of the night, the two squad goalkeepers, Jim Fraser and Ron Corry, were the quiet achievers who were instrumental in galvanising the Socceroos triumph.

Significantly, Jim Fraser is still coaching youth team keepers at Western Sydney Wanderers and Ron Corry only retired from coaching last season.

As they reflect on the events of 1973, the pair will be reuniting with their team-mates in coming weeks.

“It will be moving to be in the company of our teammates, even though a number have passed, including coach, Rale Rasic," said Jim Fraser.

Ron Corry added, “It may be the last chance we have to get together.”

In the long campaign the memories come flooding back for the two stalwarts.

“My most vivid memory was playing in Tehran amidst a cauldron of 110,000 hostile opposition supporters," said Fraser.

“We were 2-0 down after twenty minutes and somehow held out for the rest of the game to win the two legged tie, 3-2.

“On that day, John Watkiss and Max Tolson played out of their skins to thwart the Iranian onslaught.

“However, nothing matched the victory in Hong Kong as it was a once in a lifetime experience."

Corry followed up by stating: “I didn’t play in the latter matches but as a goalkeeper you always have to be physically and mentally prepared if you’re called on.

“It was truly a remarkable achievement because nobody expected us to survive eleven matches to qualify for West Germany.

“Jimmy Mackay’s goal was a great individual shot on goal, not from a defender’s mistake."

Inevitably, after such a high was reached in the 1973 campaign, it was difficult to return to normality.

For Jim Fraser the decision not to participate in the 1974 World Cup Finals due to business reasons was a very tough choice at the time and one under the current full time playing environment which would never have occurred.

Unfortunately, Fraser suffered a rotator cuff injury and was forced to retire from playing twelve months after the World Cup qualification.

“I could hardly lift my arm above my head so I started coaching almost immediately," recalled Fraser.

“It was my aim to be a better coach than a player, although  goalkeeper coaching was shunned at the time.

“Initially, I worked with Football NSW but eventually started my own coaching business  with the intention of setting up my own academy which ironically happened thirty years later."

Jim Fraser
Jim Fraser inducted into the Football Australia Hall of Fame in 2013. Getty Images.

In contrast, Ron Corry continued to play at State League level and made his final professional appearances for Marconi in the NSL during 1981.

“I was blessed to have a relatively injury free career and was fortunate to pick up some goalkeeping jobs with Marconi under Les Scheinflug and Raul Blanco and coached at Blacktown and Wollongong Wolves in the NSL," Corry said.

“However, I was always happier being assistant coach where I had more time to devote to the goalkeeping department.

“I was privileged to be the first goalkeeping coach with Western Sydney Wanderers when they entered the A-League."

There has been an evolution in goalkeeping which Jim Fraser and Ron Corry have been a constant.

“The introduction of the back pass rule required keepers to be more complete players including elevated communication with field players, improved feet skills and a better understanding of the tactical elements of the game,” said Fraser.

“Goalkeepers became more than shot stoppers and they had to be fitter, faster and stronger because they’re more involved, while decision making had to be quicker."

Corry was in agreement, sharing a similar viewpoint.

“Goalkeeping is more of an art form now and keepers must be accomplished in all facets of the game with an understanding there is a technique required for every situation," he said.

“The key factor is, the game is much quicker, especially playing out from the back but goalkeepers still need the ability to stop shots."

One of the factors Fraser and Corry have observed is that the feet are overriding traditional hand technique.

“The ability of goalkeepers to integrate into game play is becoming more important than technique and the game is coached with too much intensity,” Fraser noticed.

Meanwhile, Corry believed: “Many goalkeeping coaches haven’t been in the right shoes to coach effectively and never experienced big games and a high standard of football.

“It has to be recognised a lot of coaches can put keepers through a hard session but can’t identify problems like correcting body shape, placing hands in the correct position and foot position.

When analysing the strength of the current goalkeeping stocks, Fraser and Corry reflected on previous eras.

“Alan Maher, Greg Woodhouse, Robbie Zabica, Jeff Olver, Todd Clarke , Martin Crook, Martin Coe, Yakka Banovic, John Filan and the Petkovic brothers were the standard bearers of the high standard of Socceroo keepers of the past”, says Fraser.

"In recent times, I coached Clint Bolton at Sydney F.C and he exhibited great consistency.

“Currently there is only one good keeper per club who is not pushed by a number two .They are fit, tall and strong, can play a bit with their feet but lack consistency over the full season.

“Also if young keepers don’t play well, they aren’t given a second chance because the coaches apply the win at all costs mentality."

Corry felt more young shot-stoppers need opportunities for them to develop.

“The head coach and goalkeeping coaches need to show faith in young players," Corry stressed.

“In my early days in the 1960’s there were 18 clubs in  the NSW State Federation competition with three grades so 54 keepers were required.

“Today there are less teams and fewer opportunities. 

“However, in Mat Ryan we have one of the best keepers for many years who has good technique, good hands, good decision making and a bonus ability with his feet.

“Ironically, even when I coached Mark Bosnich, he struggled with the back pass but worked on it very hard to raise his game."

Ron Corry
Ron Corry, Western Sydney Wanderers' first goalkeeper coach. Getty Images.

Fraser believed Western Sydney's Lawrence Thomas and Joe Gauci of Adelaide United performed the most consistent in last season's A-League Men's competition. The pair have both been capped by Graham Arnold with Gauci making his maiden appearance in March this year against Ecuador.

“In last season’s A-League, Lawrence Thomas was the pick of the keepers and Joe Gauci also in time will reach a high level," Fraser said.

“It was a good move for Tommy Glover to go to Middlesbrough and hopefully he’ll get game time.”

The combined experience of Jim Fraser and Ron Corry in goalkeeping coaching is unparalleled and it would be appropriate if they were mentoring 10-20 goalkeeping coaches.

Jim Fraser is still coaching youth keepers at the Wanderers but he thinks it is the right time after all these years to take up the "coach the coaches" role.

Ron Corry is in his first year away from the game after all those years of involvement.

“I have to emphasise, I still feel strange not going to training on Tuesday and Thursday night and match day on a Saturday," he said.

Quite clearly, the significant message emanating from the comments of these great servants of the game is; they would still like to pass on the vast knowledge they have accumulated all these years.