For fans of Perth Glory, last weekend will forever be remembered as the weekend they waved goodbye to a legend. Neil Sherwin has the story.
In a game that slowly but surely loses all association with terms such as ‘loyalty’ and ‘for life’, it is refreshing to know that there are still stories of one club men who give their all for the cause.
As Gary Neville announced his Manchester United retirement last week, on the other side of the world another long-serving defender was bidding farewell to hordes of adoring supporters. On Sunday afternoon Perth Glory’s Jamie Harnwell played his 256th and final game, having recently taken over from Bobby Despotovski as the club’s record appearance holder.
The game didn’t go quite as planned for the 33 year old as he conceded one of two penalties converted by Kiwi striker Shane Smeltz to give Gold Coast United a 2-1 win; however that mattered little to the thousands that stayed behind as he completed a lap of honour. At 2-0, Harnwell was thrown forward as an emergency striker like he had been so many times before, and it was from his knockdown that Adam Taggart scored Glory’s final home goal of the season.
“I can’t describe the honour and pride I’ve felt by representing this club for the past 13 years,” said Harnwell as he announced his decision to retire last week.
“Playing football for a living is the best job in the world, however, for the past few months I have not enjoyed myself as I should have and the years of training, travelling and sacrifice have caught up with me.
“I look around the dressing room and see good players and good mates, but although this will always be my club, with the new direction they are heading next season, a new team will be built.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the club at its peak, playing in four grand finals in five years and will always treasure its history and the players that make Perth Glory great.”
Harnwell started out with State League side Sorrento before debuting with Glory in 1998. His greatest achievement is arguably winning the old National Soccer League (NSL) title in both 2003/04 and 2004/05 alongside such great names as Bobby Despotovski, Shaun Murphy and Damien Mori, who is the all time record goalscorer for the Australian national team. In terms of individual honours, Harnwell was the club’s leading goalscorer twice and also the Members’ Player of the Year for 2007/08.
He skippered the club in its inaugural A-League season, and continued to do so until he was replaced by Simon Colosimo before the 2007/08 campaign. In total Harnwell scored 44 goals, including a memorable hattrick against the now defunct New Zealand Knights in 2006.
The only real blemish on an otherwise exemplary record was an unsavoury incident with team mate Adrian Webster in 2007 when Harnwell was on the receiving end of a punch and both players were fined by the club and suspended for one game.
There were brief spells overseas with Leyton Orient and Welling in England, as well as Liechtenstein’s F.C Vaduz, but he was always Glory at heart. Fellow club legend Despotovski was first in line to pay tribute to his former team mate and friend, describing him as something for the current crop of players to aspire to.
”Jamie has been great for the club since he joined,” he said.
“Being sort of a quiet boy, with a lot of players that have already played two or more years in the national league, he was very quiet, but sometimes the quiet achievers (are the most effective).
“I'm glad he stuck with the club through thick and thin. He got records at the club, he played for the club he loved, supporters love him, so he deserved everything that he got.”
Harnwell will now return to the local leagues with Sorrento and looks forward to spending time with his young family, though is likely to stay on at the Glory in a development capacity. He runs his own coaching courses and holds a Bachelor of Science (Human Movement) from the University of W.A.
“I’m really looking forward to training two nights a week and playing on the weekends, and the game not being a job any more, and getting back to really enjoying and loving it,” he said.
As the hardcore supporters in the NIB Stadium's Shed End belted out chant after chant in tribute to their hero, you could sense that a part of the club’s identity was being lost. But there will always be the memories, and there are plenty of them.
You can follow Neil on Twitter @neilsherwin.