Formed in 1957 by Hungarian migrants, St George Football Club was named Budapest, and entered the newly created NSW Soccer Federation. Chief proponents of the new club were the Bordacs brothers, Les and Zsigmond, named as secretary and president.
It didn’t take Budapest long to rise to the top division, winning promotion at the end of the 1958 season. The club’s first premiership was won just four years after that, taking the 1962 title by a one point margin from Hakoah and APIA. Both of these clubs would prove to be St George’s major rivals over much of the next thirty years.
In 1963, John Warren joined the club, an association which would last until his retirement twelve years later, in 1974. John was of course, set to become the most recognisable name in the Australian game, both during and after his playing career.
During the mid 1960s, the club, then led by president Alex Pongrass, moved into the St George district, adding St George to its name for the first time in 1965. Coached by Lorinc Hegyes, St George-Budapest won its first Grand Final in 1967, at its fourth attempt, defeating APIA 5-2, but it was in the years ahead, that our greatest period was to blossom.
The signing of coach Frank Arok at the start of the 1969 season was to prove one of the club’s most influential of all time, and Frank’s passion for St George was never-ending. A two year stint as coach for 1969 and 1970, was followed by a further year in 1972, a year which was to see St George claim its second title.
Sandwiched between the initial Arok years, and coached by the legendary Rale Rasic, St George had also won its second Grand Final, in 1971, a 3-2 win over Western Suburbs. In 1971, St George was also invited to participate in an international tournament in Japan, competing against the Japanese national team, its “B” team and Danish club side, Frem of Copenhagen. The Saints won that round robin competition, becoming the first Australian club side to win an international tournament.
In 1972, the St George club was honoured to welcome the touring Santos side from Brazil, including the world renowned Pele, who attended a function at Soccer House, after their match against Australia.
The Socceroos, now coached by Rasic, qualified for the its first World Cup, travelling to West Germany in 1974. As proof that St George was the pre-eminent side of the time, five Saints players were selected in the squad of 22. They were Doug Utjesenovic, Manfred Schaefer, John Warren, Atti Abonyi and Harry Williams. It was only due to work commitments that Saints keeper, Jim Fraser, was not included amongst that squad.
St George, and Alex Pongrass, contributed substantially to the creation of the National Soccer League, which kicked off in 1977, the first sporting competition in the country to go national. While the first few seasons saw St George struggle, resulting in relegation in 1980, the club was quickly returned to the national league at the end of 1981 season, following yet another Grand Final win, this time over Sydney Croatia.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that 1981 had seen the return of coach Frank Arok. A Grand Final win in 1982, 3-1 over Sydney City, may have shown up the talents of the St George side of the day, a team including players such as Australian keeper Terry Greedy, fellow Socceroo David Ratcliffe, gun striker Dez Marton, and a young Robbie Slater, but unfortunately for the Saints, the end of season playoffs were not regarded as the official Championship, that award going to the team that finished first past the post. Strangely enough that year, Sydney City.
But our first national title was to be only a further twelve months away, and that was claimed in 1983, when St George became national champions for the only time. Captained by Peter Stone, the Saints were eleven points behind leaders Preston with ten games to play, but made a late charge for the title, winning eight and drawing two of those final ten matches, to claim the title on the final day of the season. Heading into that final matchday, St George were equal with Preston on both points and goal difference, but having scored more goals, Preston were in top spot. To win the title St George needed to better Preston’s result by one goal, and duly did so, defeating Brisbane City at St George Stadium by 4-0, while Preston succumbed 0-1 to Sydney Olympic. The title went to St George.
It is worth noting the St George lineup that day, the day the national championship came to Barton Park:
Terry Greedy, David Skeen, David Ratcliffe, Robert O’Shea, Michael O’Shea, Peter Stone, Mark Barton, John O’Shea, Robbie Slater, Paul Wilkinson, Dez Marton.
St George continued with a relatively successful 1980s, making the national league semi finals in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989. The Saints made the Northern Division Grand Final in 1986, but lost 2-3 to Sydney Olympic. In 1987, the Saints made the Grand Final once again, this time defeating champions APIA Leichhardt 4-0 at Parramatta Stadium, but for this particular season, the end of season playoffs were not regarded as a title decider.
At the end of the 1990/91 season, St George were controversially omitted from the National Soccer League, after a league restructure saw clubs from Adelaide, Newcastle and Brisbane added to the competition, at the expense of clubs from Sydney (St George), Melbourne and Wollongong. The club returned to the NSW State League for 1992, but initially struggled to adapt, and two subsequently poor seasons saw the club relegated further to the state league second tier for 1994. Regaining top status for 1995, the club continued to yoyo between the top two divisions, being relegated again in 1998 but regaining top tier status at the end of 1999.
The club came very close to claiming the NSW State League Premiership in 2003/04, a late season stumble resulting in the Saints, coached by Manny Spanoudakis, conceding the title on goal difference to Belconnen Blue Devils. Yet another league restructure in 2005 saw St George omitted from a new 10 team competition, the Saints once again being forced to compete in the second tier from 2006. In 2010, the club, coached by Nick Orlic and captained by Simon Verrender, made the Grand Final, but were defeated by a rampant Northern Tigers.
Manny Spanoudakis returned to coach the club once more in 2013, and with a largely new squad, claimed the Premiership, Championship and Club Championship, winning the Grand Final with a 3-1 win over Mounties Wanderers. The club gained promotion to NPL1 after eight seasons in the second tier.
But a tough season followed, and the stay in NPL1 lasted only one year, and demotion back to NPL2 followed for 2015.
Following relegation from NPL1 in 2014, the club’s best seasons were in 2017 and 2018 when we finished second on the ladder, with the team going on to win the Grand Final in 2018 under coach Wally Savor.
In 2019, St George made the final 32 of the FFA Cup for the first (and only) time, before going down in extra time to Sydney United.
After two COVID interrupted years, the most recent season in 2022 saw us finish in 9th position.
During the two COVID-19 seasons, a new board led by Bruce Spiteri was installed with the intent of renewing the club. Assisted by coaches Greg King (later to Yokohama F Marinos), and then Mark Milligan (Adelaide United), the St George side, with a focus on youth development, competed strongly in the NPL2 competition, later renamed League One Men’s.
As 2023 commences, there is only a bright future for St George FC.