The club was born when a handful of Greek Migrants – 15 or 20 of them, decided to create The Hellenic Soccer Club in 1936. The team played mainly in Division 2 or 3 primarily on Sundays at any ground they could find, often at Adelaide High School, and each player provided their own clothes and boots. They paid the referee out of their own pockets. In those days a “big crowd” would have been around 100 people, but then the Greek community as a whole barely exceeded a couple of thousand.
The club was officially formed in 1945 under the name of Olympic by members of the Greek community and played mainly in Division 2 or 3 in the late 1940s and the decade of the 1950s. In 1960, Olympic was suspended from competition due to crowd disturbances and in 1961 it was reconstituted as the Hellenic Athletic and Soccer Club. The emblem that is used to this day was created to use the blue and white of the Greek National flag and the Olympic torch was representative of the old Olympic club. In 1962, the club re-entered the South Australian State League as West Adelaide Hellas through the amalgamation with West Adelaide Soccer Club, (founded in 1910 and Division one champions of 1930) due to the work of principle founder Mr A Hatzi-Stathi and others. Hellas used Hindmarsh Stadium as its home ground. From 1963, when it was promoted from Division 2, the club achieved enormous success in the State League winning many honours, including winning the Ampol Cup and the South Australian Federation Cup in 1964. From that point on, the club was a dominant force in South Australian soccer and was invited to be a founding member of the National Soccer League (NSL) in 1977.
West Adelaide had the honour of scoring the first goal in the NSL in Australia. The date was the 2nd of April 1977, the scorer was John Kosmina, and the venue was Manuka Oval in Canberra.
How ironic it was then that the national league’s first goalscorer ended up being the national league’s top goal scorer – amassing a record 133 goals in his national league career. Not to mention top scorer in full international games for the Socceroos (25 goals).
It did not take too long at all for the ambitious and progressive club to gain national success. In only the year after the inception of the national league, West Adelaide were national champions. In these non-finals years, the ‘minor’ premier was crowned the champion team. West Adelaide won the 1978 title in a scenario only dreamed about – at its home ground, with an 85th-minute goal, on the last day of the league, in front of 16,251 fans – and against longtime cross-city rivals Adelaide City. This was a fitting way to celebrate the club’s 33rd anniversary!
A long challenging period followed West Adelaide’s early successful national stint. The club was to finish at the wrong end of the national league ladder for most of its following national league seasons and were lucky to avoid relegation twice in the early 1980s. West was finally relegated after the last dual-conference national league in 1986. The club spent four of the next five seasons in the relative limbo of the South Australian state league, interrupted by a brief return to the national flight in 1989-90.
A major report commissioned by the national league executive in 1990 implied that it was in the national league’s interests to have a strong club like West Adelaide back in its ranks. Thus West Adelaide was virtually invited back to the national league for the 1991-92 season.
Since 1991-92, on and off the field success has seen West Adelaide needing no more favours to continue its national league survival. After another slow return (finishing second last in 1991-92), the club then made the astute decision to appoint Raul Blanco as their new coach. Dividends were returned immediately with finals’ placings in 1992-93 and 1994-95. On 9 June 1998, the Club, which had been renamed to Adelaide Sharks for broader appeal, suffered a major setback as a fire destroyed change rooms and some administrative offices at their new Thebarton Oval base. The damage bill was estimated at $150,000.
On 6 September 1998, a general meeting of Adelaide Sharks members supported the privatisation of the Club, endorsing prominent Adelaide Greek Australian businessman Con Makris as its new owner with a 51 per cent share of the Sharks. However, the Sharks lasted just one more year in the National Soccer League. Its final hurrah was a 1-0 derby win over Adelaide City – the last time the two clubs would face off in the competition. The Sharks withdrew from the league just before the 1999-2000 season was due to kick-off, debts having mounted.
The club lived on through its junior arm, which was legally separated from the senior club during the messy bankruptcy. The juniors joined with state league club Adelaide Olympic and competed in the South Australian competition from 2000 to 2007. In 2008, West Adelaide and once again fielded its own senior sides in the state league, beginning in the third tier. Its juniors had returned to their original name as West Adelaide a year earlier. The club won promotion to the second tier in 2012 and a year later secured a berth in the top tier, where it had not played since 1999.
Friday 21 February 2014 was a proud day for the club, as it returned to the top tier of South Australian soccer after nine seasons. The derby match against Adelaide City, which finished in a 1–1 draw, attracted one of the largest attendances (2900 people) in South Australian soccer for many years.
West did not have to wait long to taste glory again. Coached by former Sharks NSL defender Paul Pezos, the club won the 2015 South Australian premiership and championship. Its title was sealed with a 4–2 grand final win over Adelaide Blue Eagles.
There is no other player which embodied the spirit of West Adelaide Hellas better than Nick Pantelis. Since migrating to Australia in 1964 from Cos, Greece, Nick made a magnificent contribution to the game as a player and coach which saw him become a Life Member of the South Australian Soccer Federation.
Nick represented South Australia on 25 occasions between 1966 and 1971 and was the States leading goal scorer on three occasions in 1966, 1971 and 1973. Crowds adored the number seven of West Adelaide Hellas, and fondly remember him tearing the right wing apart for Hellas, which contributed to him winning Championship, Federation Cup, Ampol Cup and Coca Cola Cup medals.
Nick was an inaugural inductee of the FFSA Hall of Fame, receiving the Award of Distinction for meritorious performance.