Micky Petersen was one of the best all-round talents in Australian football. He was top class Socceroo midfielder, club champion at South Melbourne, coach of the year in the National Soccer League, developer of a football boot and a great teacher.
His pedigree was good. He was born in Melbourne on 6 May 1965, the son of Dutch star Hans Petersen who played with Hakoah, Wilhelmina and George Cross in the 1960s and for Australia against Heart of Midlothian when they toured in 1959. Mike began as a junior at Port Melbourne, where he was player of the year of the Third Division, and moved to Heidelberg Alexander in 1983. Then thanks to his Dad’s connections he had spells with Roda JC and the mighty Ajax in Holland as a teenager.
In 1984 he was transferred to Brunswick Juventus and helped the club to the National Soccer League title in 1985. He scored a critical late goal, assisted by an ‘accidental’ handball not spotted by the referee, in the Southern Division Grand Final against Preston Makedonia and Robbie Cullen set up Paul Wade for the winner with only five minutes left to play. Laurie Schwab described Juventus as the finest team in 15 years and Petersen was the man of the match in the second leg of the grand final, when Juventus saw off Sydney City Hakoah by one-nil. The Juventus squad included Yakka Banovic, Mehmet Durakovic, John Dowie, Brian Brown, Eddie Campbell, Fabio Incantalupo, Mike Petersen, Richard Miranda, Paul Wade, Robbie Cullen, Joe Sweeney, Paul Drinoczki, Sean Keogh, Andrea Zinni and Rino Minichiello. The coach was John Margaritis.
Brunswick topped the Southern Division ladder in 1986 but lost the preliminary final to JUST. Paul Wade called him ‘Micky P’ but another nickname ‘The Crab’, stuck to Petersen for much of his career. Perhaps it was his sometimes angular movements, or his habit of moving from side to side in defence or midfield which attracted the title. The combination with Wade at club and national level was very effective. Wade would do the grunt work and Petersen would find the killer pass to create goals or opportunities for his forwards.
In 1989 Petersen moved to South Melbourne and was a key part of the championship winning team of 1991. He remained at South Melbourne till 1997. For much of the later period injuries limited his senior playing time but he turned out several times with the youth team and acted as on-field coach to the youngsters, sharing his experience and developing their tactical awareness. The next generation at South were the beneficiaries of his teaching.
He was appointed as assistant coach to Ange Postecoglou in 1997 and hence was a key contributor the club’s to back-to-back titles. In 1999 he took over as senior coach at St Albans Dinamo in the Victorian Premier League. In 2000 he was back at South Melbourne as senior coach and led the club to the top of the table by eight clear points and the grand final where Wollongong Wolves with Dean Anastsiadis in goal denied South Melbourne by two goals to one. The goal for the Blues was scored by Dean’s brother John, but it was not enough. Petersen was named coach of the year.
Petersen received his first cap for Australia in 1985 against Udinese. He came on as a substitute for Oscar Crino in 78 minutes and scored the winner four minutes later in a two-one defeat of the Italian club in the World Series tournament. He also played against Red Star Belgrade that year and two games against a Chinese select. From 1988 through to 1992 he was a regular in the Socceroo midfield, eventually gaining 50 caps (38 A internationals) and scoring three goals. He helped the Socceroos qualify for the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988 and played in the upset win over Yugoslavia. In 1991 he played against England and in the President’s Cup in South Korea where the host team won on penalties after a scoreless draw in extra-time.
Ange Postecoglou had Micky Petersen as his assistant when the former was coach of the Olyroos and Young Socceroos. Postecoglou pointed out that he and Petersen both played for the Socceroos when they were very young. ‘Frank Arok wasn’t afraid to play young players,’ he said.
Micky Petersen demonstrated another talent when he helped to design the ‘Concave’ football boot, which was claimed to help prevent metatarsal injuries which had laid low a number of top players in England and Australia. Kenny Dalglish was impressed enough with the boot to become one of its promoters. Petersen was inducted into the Football Federation Australia Hall of Fame in 2005.