Football great honoured in front of 80,000 at ANZ Stadium

NATIONAL PRIDE: Former Ipswich and Australian footballer Norm Rule savours his national cap.


AMID the emotion-charged atmosphere at ANZ Stadium, football fanatic Ian Carson didn't see Ipswich great Norm Rule receive his national cap.

However, Carson appreciated what it meant for 81-year-old Rule to finally be recognised on such a magnificent stage.

The former Bundamba Rangers, Hollandia, Queensland and Australian player was honoured at halftime before the jubilant Socceroos sealed their spot in next year's World Cup.

Rule was presented with cap number 163 on Tuesday night, acknowledging his place in Australian football history.

Having spent all but the past five years in Ipswich, Rule was unlucky to miss selection for the 1956 Olympic Games.

He represented Australia after the Olympics and on a tour to New Zealand in 1958.

"He was emotional," Norm's son Mike said of the fitting tribute.

Mike and his wife Charmaine accompanied Norm to the World Cup qualifier. Norm now lives on the Sunshine Coast.

"He (Norm) said it would probably be the last sporting event he goes to where there's large crowds," Mike said.

"He did enjoy it. It was a proud moment for him."

The Ipswich football great played centre forward for Queensland and inside right for Australia.

He became captain/coach of Hollandia after leaving Bundamba Rangers.

Norm said during his visit to Sydney that another Ipswich great Alex Gibb was the best footballer he'd seen.

The Gibb family received Alex's number one cap at a similar presentation in Brisbane last year.

While Rule was deservedly honoured on Tuesday night, Carson enjoyed the historic 1-0 victory over Iraq for another family reason.

His father Matt, a former Ipswich United premiership- winning coach, was on the selection committee that chose Australia's 1974 World Cup side.

Carson said being with his sons Jacob and Nicholas at the latest match enhanced the occasion.

"It was just nice to have the boys involved in a bit of a World Cup game as well," Carson said.

As for the rain-affected match, the former Ipswich Knights coach said it didn't rate one of Australia's best performances.

However, being in the sell-out crowd of 80,523 when Josh Kennedy headed home the late winner was worth it.

"It was one of those goosebumps moments," he said.

"I don't think it was a spectacle to watch but it was all the meaning of the game and how they handled the pressure."

Carson, who also watched Australia's game against Japan in Brisbane, said the result was all that mattered.

"I remember in about the 80th minute (thinking) you've got to do something different, you've got to change this game up," Carson said.

"I didn't want it to go to penalties but everyone did.

"It was a great substitution. I think (Tim) Cahill had done his work and run them ragged at the back. He just didn't have enough punch to run on."

Carson and his boys watched the game under cover, sitting behind the goal close to a group of Iraq supporters.

"To see that many people, I'd hate to have been there at a State of Origin playing for Queensland. It's daunting," he said.

"The Iraqis held their nerve so well to see 80-odd thousand people screaming against them."

Carson said the massive crowd went quiet in the last two minutes of injury time as the Iraqis made one last desperate bid to equalise.

However, the post-game celebrations will leave a lasting impression.

"Nothing can match it," Carson said.

"It was deafening.

"When the referee put his hand up and blew the whistle, the place just erupted."