Gary Cole inducted into Football Victoria Hall of Fame

Football Victoria (FV) is proud to announce that the first of our 2021 inductees into the FV Hall of Fame is renowned Socceroo, NSL great and championship winning coach Gary Cole.

 

Gary Cole has had an immense impact on Australian football for over half a century, with a playing, coaching, mentoring and administrative career that has seen him occupy roles at all levels of the game.

Cole’s passion for football, driving it forward with a pure agenda of what is in the best interests of the game and those who play, coach, administer and support it, is second to none. Aided by an inclusive mindset and an ability to adapt to any level, situation or individual, Cole has developed a reputation as the consummate professional, equally admired by peers and opponents alike.

Arriving from England with his family in 1971, Cole began his playing career with South Yarra in the Metropolitan Fourth Division, playing alongside his father and gaining promotion to the Third Division in his first senior season as a 15-year-old. After selection in the Victorian Under 16s squad, he was ultimately signed by Ringwood City Wilhelmina and played three seasons at Jubilee Park in the Victorian State League. A move to a bigger club soon beckoned and Cole was signed by Fitzroy United Alexander (now Heidelberg United) in 1976 and after another season in the State League with the reigning champions, he would play in the inaugural season of the National Soccer League.

Gary Cole, scoring one of many goals for Heidelberg United in the National Soccer League
Gary Cole, scoring one of many goals for Heidelberg United in the National Soccer League

That started a decade-long career at Australia’s highest level, firstly with Heidelberg United and then Preston Makedonia (now Preston Lions), with Cole amassing 247 appearances and 109 goals – his goal-scoring tally second only to John Kosmina at the time of his retirement. He won the NSL Golden Boot in back-to-back seasons with Heidelberg United in 1980 and 1981, claiming the club’s only national league trophy with a stunning hat-trick in the 1980 NSL Grand Final.

Cole’s domestic league exploits were equally matched by an impressive representative career. He made his debut for Victoria in a 2-3 loss as a substitute against Hungarian club Ferencvaros in 1974. In all, he made 18 appearances for Victoria against a variety of international opposition, including Benfica, Partizan Belgrade, New York Cosmos, AC Milan and AEK Athens, where Cole scored another hat-trick in a 4-0 drubbing of the Greek champions.

Gary Cole, representing Victoria against the touring New York Cosmos in 1979
Gary Cole, representing Victoria against the touring New York Cosmos in 1979

Over almost a decade, Cole was an ever-present for the Socceroos, making 40 appearances and scoring 21 goals for his adopted homeland, 19 of which were A internationals, including 17 goals. He held the world record for goals scored in a World Cup qualifier when he nabbed 7 against Fiji in 1981 (later broken by both Archie Thompson (13) and David Zdrilic (8) in 2001 against American Samoa).

Gary Cole, scoring one of his 21 goals for Australia against Italian powerhouse AC Milan
Gary Cole, scoring one of his 21 goals for Australia against Italian powerhouse AC Milan

Upon retirement from his playing career, he progressed into coaching, firstly with the Australian Institute of Sport, where he played a role in nurturing Australia’s best young talent alongside Ron Smith. He returned to Victoria where he spent time at the helm of Heidelberg United in the National Soccer League, before returning to the Victorian Premier League with Altona Magic (two separate stints), Bulleen Inter Kings and Bentleigh Greens. Overall, he coached 193 matches in Victoria’s top-flight competition, with 89 wins, 49 draws and 55 losses. He won two championships - with Altona Magic (1996) and Bulleen Inter Kings (1998).

Cole enjoyed great success as a football administrator at the top level of professional football in Australia during a period of immense change, occupying the role of Director of Football for both Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC. He was the inaugural Director of Football at Melbourne Victory when the club was formed in 2004, overseeing the strategic direction and policy implementation of the high-performance football department, and the management and leadership of Football Operations to support the achievement of Melbourne Victory’s objectives.

Glen Wheatly, Gary Cole, Kevin Muscat and Ernie Merrick during the Melbourne Victory FC launch in 2005
Glen Wheatley, Gary Cole, Kevin Muscat and Ernie Merrick during the Melbourne Victory FC launch in 2005

Success followed, with two A-League Premierships and Championships (both in the same seasons). Melbourne Victory won an unprecedented treble (A-League Pre-season Cup, Premiership and Championship) in the 2008-09 season. The club also qualified and competed in the Asian Champions League on three occasions during Cole’s tenure.

Cole was contracted at Football Victoria from January 2018 to January 2019, firstly as Manager Strategy and Special Projects and then as Executive Manager Facilities and Advocacy.

He joined the Football Coaches Australia (FCA) Executive Committee in 2019 and has played an integral role in building FCA to what it is today with MOUs in place with Football Australia (FA) and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) as well as several international coaching associations in addition to hosting the highly successful FCA The Football Coaching Life podcast.

Football Victoria President, Antonella Care celebrated the induction of a pillar of Victorian football.

“Gary Cole’s ongoing dedication and commitment to our game over so many years is absolutely remarkable. 

“Gary’s influence stretches across all facets of football. His natural ability as a player transferred seamlessly into his off-field roles, all of which he has delivered with a single-minded focus on making our game the best it can be.

“Victorian football owes a debt of gratitude to Gary for so many years of service, which shows no signs of slowing down! On behalf of our Victorian football community, congratulations Gary on this well-deserved accolade.”

Football Victoria CEO, Kimon Taliadoros hailed the induction as overdue.

“There are few figures in Victorian football as universally admired as Gary Cole.

“So many of us have fond memories of Gary as a player, as a coach and have admired his groundbreaking work as an administrator. I’m so pleased that Football Victoria can shine the light on such a worthy and important figure in our game.”

Watch Gary Cole's FV Hall of Fame Series episode on YouTube

Visit Gary Cole’s entry at FV’s Hall of Fame microsite


A snapshot of Gary Cole’s playing and coaching career

Playing record: 1

  • 1971-72: South Yarra
  • 1973-75: Ringwood City Wilhelmina 2 (61 appearances 13 goals)
  • 1976-83: Heidelberg United 3 (198 appearances 93 goals)
  • 1984-86: Preston Makedonia (69 appearances 21 goals)
  • 1987: Croydon City (15 appearances 1 goal)

Representative record:

  • Australia 1975-84: 40 appearances 21 goals
  • Victoria 1974-84: 18 appearances 6 goals

Coaching record: 4

  • 1996-97: Altona Magic (Played 33, Won 19, Drawn 6, Lost 8)
  • 1997-99: Bulleen Inter Kings (Played 58, Won 24, Drawn 19, Lost 15)
  • 2000-01: Bentleigh Greens (Played 40, Won 19, Drawn 11, Lost 10)
  • 2002-04: Altona Magic (Played 58, Won 26, Drawn 13, Lost 19)
  • 2003: Victorian State Team (Played 4, Won 3, Drawn 1, Lost 0)
  • 2004: Whittlesea Stallions (Played 4, Won 1, Drawn 0, Lost 3)
  • 2004-11: Melbourne Victory, Director of Football
  • 2012: Sydney FC, Director of Football

Personal honours:

  • National Soccer League Top Scorer (1980, 1981)
  • National Soccer League Top 4 Winners (1980)
  • National Soccer League Runner-Up (1979, 1980)
  • Dockerty Cup Runner-up (1974, 1985, 1986)
  • Victorian Premier League Champion (1995, 1998) 
  • A-League Champion (2007, 2009)
  • A-League Premier (2007, 2009)
  • A-League Pre-Season Cup (2008)

Notes:

  1. All playing records include domestic league appearances only.
  2. Appearance statistics for Ringwood City Wilhelmina are estimates.
  3. Includes three seasons as Fitzroy United and combines VSL and NSL statistics.
  4. All coaching records are as Head Coach unless otherwise noted.
     

Our special thanks to:

The Victorian Government – Multicultural Sports Fund
George Cotsanis, My World Is Round
Mark Boric, Melbourne Soccer Blog
John Punshon, selected photographs
Gary Cole, personal collection
Getty Images