Adelaide University Football Club

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The Blacks
Adelaide University Football Club Logo.png
Names
Full name Adelaide University Football Club
Club details
Founded 1906; 108 years ago (1906)
Colours      Black,      White
Competition SAAFL
Premierships A Grade Premierships (23): 1911, 1912, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1926, 1929, 1932, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1975, 1986, 1996, 1999
Ground(s) Adelaide University Oval (AKA Bob Neil Oval No. 1) Capacity: 100,000
Other information
Official website www.bobneil.com
Guernsey:
Adelaide University Guernsey.jpg

The Adelaide University Football Club (AUFC) is a South Australian based Australian rules football club. It is an affiliate of the Adelaide University Sports Association (AUSA) and plays in the South Australian Amateur Football League (SAAFL).[1] The club promotes itself as the largest amateur football club in Australia. The club trains on the University Oval No 1 located across the river from the University on Park 12, and Park 10 in the portion of the Adelaide Parklands between the University and North Adelaide. The AUFC is known as "The Blacks". Notable club members include Dr Fred Bloch (Adelaide University Professor of Commerce) and Bob Neil (official club legend).

History[edit]

Pre 1906 - The birth of the club[edit]

The Adelaide University Football Club was officially formed on 26 March 1906 and became affiliated with the Sports Association two weeks later on 9 April 1906. Prior to this time, there was no University Football team competing in a regular competition; however, games were arranged on an irregular basis.

The earliest reference to football at the University can be found in the Prince Alfred College School Chronicle of 1885. The report states that Adelaide University could not organize a full side for a Saturday game; however, there were enough players available for a mid-week game. This was arranged for Wednesday 19 June 1885 and several League players and old scholars from PAC comprised the side. University lost this encounter 4.11 to 1.1.

1906-1910 The early years[edit]

The first team to truly represent the AUFC began competing in the Adelaide and Suburban Association in 1906 with H.W.D. Stoddart as captain and T.H. Donnelly as vice-captain. This Association was already in existence when joined by the "Varsity", and the other five teams competing at the time were Portland Imperial, Semaphore Central, Norwood II, West Suburban and Prospect. University finished out of the four.

During the year a match was also played against Melbourne’s Scotch College on Adelaide Oval and the team was defeated 5.8 to 4.9.

During 1907 the Club again competed in the Adelaide and Suburban Association, which now consisted of ten teams (West Torrens II, South Adelaide II, North Adelaide II, Sturt II, and West Adelaide were the new sides with West Suburban becoming non-existent). University finished ninth with only one win after ten of the eleven rounds. West Adelaide finished bottom.

In the programme at this time, with one round off for the SA vs Vic. League match, and one round off for the International Lacrosse tournament, which was then a major sport. Finals consisted of the Minor Premiers playing the third side and the second side playing the fourth side. The winners of these games then played to decide the Premiership, with the proviso that if the ultimate winner was not the Minor Premiers, then a final challenge match could be played.

During the three years 1908-1910, the Club existed in name only and, except for the annual match against Melbourne University, did not compete at all. This put the Club at a disadvantage in these matches as the team was a "scratch" side whilst Melbourne University was admitted to the VFL in 1908 after being Premiers of their Metropolitan Association for the previous two years.[1]

Prominent players of this period were H.W.D. Stoddart, P.H. Donnelly. C.E. Dolling, W.A.V. Drew and C.F. Drew.

1911-1915 The birth of the SAAFL[edit]

1911 is an important date in the Club’s history as it marked the formation of an active Club in distinction to a Club which had existed in name only for the previous three seasons. It also marked the formation of the South Australian Amateur Football League with which the name "University" has been synonymous ever since.[1]

Over this five-year period, University won two Premierships (1911, 1912) and competed in the Finals each year. 1915 was highlighted by C.E. Pellew’s winning of the Naylor Medal for the fairest and most brilliant player in Amateur League.

1912 saw the formation of the Club’s first ‘B’ side, and 1914 saw the inauguration of the Adelaide Students’ Football Association in which University was the first Premier. Inter-Varsity competition was continued up until 1915 when it was suspended because of the War, and in 1914 the Club defeated Melbourne University for the first time.

1916-1919 World War I[edit]

The Amateur League went into recess after 1915 for the duration of the War, as many clubs had difficulty fielding sides. Though short at times, University still had enough players to make up one, and occasionally two, teams during these years.

Matches were arranged on an irregular basis against various teams — mainly school sides. Details of games with PAC and SPSC have been found in the Prince Alfred College Chronicle and the St Peter's College School Magazine, and are certain to be contained in other school magazines.

1920-1929 An era of supremacy[edit]

The years 1920-1929 can be considered as some of the most successful in the Club’s history, with the Al team competing in the Finals every year, winning Premierships in 1920, 1921, 1922, 1926 and 1929, finishing runners-up twice and third three times.

During this time the ‘B’ side also took Premierships in the Adelaide Students’ Association in 1920, 1922 and 1924.

The 1922 season was the most successful during this period, with both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides winning Premierships, the Adelaide side defeating Melbourne in the Inter-Varsity match for only the second time ever, and H.G Prest winning the Naylor Medal.

1923 saw the formation of the Club’s third side competing in the Students’ Grade and although it was not an immediate success, the future strength of the Club was assured. Other highlights in this period were the effort of W.R. James to be the first full forward to kick over one hundred goals in Amateur League (1927), the beginning of the Gunning Medal for the ‘A’ grade best and fairest (1927), the formation of the A2 grade in Amateur League (1928), and the Hone Medal awarded to C.B. Sangster in 1929.

1930-1941 A period of contrast[edit]

The years 1930-1941 were ones of great contrast for the Club. During the early 1930s, the Club kept its position as one of the pacesetters in the Amateur League, contesting all the Finals from 1930-1935. It was undefeated Premier in 1932, second in 1930, 1933 and 1934 and fourth in 1931 and 1935.

These years are remembered for the Club’s great rivalry with Underdale, which produced some remarkable Finals matches. The team lost the 1931 semifinal to Underdale; defeated them in the 1932 Final; defeated them in the 1933 Final; drew the challenge match and then lost the challenge replay; defeated them in the 1934 Final but lost the challenge match; and lost to them in the 1935 semifinal. These were truly memorable games.

The Club suffered a decline over the years 1936-1940, which climaxed in the Al team almost being relegated in 1939. Fortunately the team rallied in the crucial games and with a little bit of luck was able to finish eighth, which is the lowest position that the Al team has ever occupied. 1941 saw the Club improve its standing and, once again, contest the Finals series, finishing fourth.

Despite the lack of success in the local competition, the period 1930-1941 was one of the most successful with regard to Inter-Varsity competition, with matches against Melbourne University being won in 1932 and 1936 — only the third and fourth occasion that these matches had been won in twenty-eight attempts.

The Club’s ‘B’ and ‘C’ sides did not do well during this period as they had the ever-present problem of trying to maintain stable sides. After finishing near the bottom from 1929–1932, the A2 side was dropped back to the Students’ Association from 1933-1937 before competing in A2 again during 1938-1940.

In 1941 there was a shortage of players due to the war, and the Club only fielded an Al team in Amateur League and a ‘B’ side in the Students’ Association.

Amateur League matches were suspended after 1941 due to the war.

1942-1945 The war years[edit]

Because of World War II, the Amateur League went into recess for the years 1942-1945.

Although University ranks were depleted due to war service, there were many fine footballers studying in reserved occupations and still looking for that Saturday game of ‘footy’.

A competition evolved on a week to week basis where matches were arranged with Service teams and the League Reserves. Looking at the SANFL records, one can see that in those years the eight League Clubs combined to form Norwood/North, Port/Torrens, Sturt/South and West/Glenelg.

After the League teams had been chosen for Saturday, each combination would nominate six players to constitute the League Reserves for that week, which made the competition almost up to League standard.

"Varsity" played a high percentage of matches against the League Reserves, but players of that era may remember RAAF teams from Port Pine, Mallala, Springbank and the School of Technical Training, (stationed in the old Exhibition Building, North Terrace).

Competition was pretty keen and the Air Force would pull out all stops to win. One memorable event included a train trip to Mallala Base, the hospitality of the RAAF, and experiencing the thrills of a LINK TRAINER at the hands of the opposing team. "Varsity" still took out the honours in the afternoon on the local Mallala Oval.

During the Final Round, "Varsity" often gave a League team match practice whilst having a bye prior to the Grand Final. On the day of the 1944 Preliminary Final, "Varsity" played the Norwood/North combination on Adelaide Oval No. 2. It was a very close game, "Varsity" was proud of their narrow defeat as Norwood/North went on to win the Grand Final the following week.

Old players on leave from the Services were always welcome for a game, Norm Shierlaw and Peter Dalwood once displayed their former skills by playing without training, and in Army boots.

Maybe it was only a makeshift competition, but it definitely kept the game alive and fulfilled the aims and objects of the AUFC at the University during those years when the Club could easily have gone into recess, as did the other Amateur Clubs.

1946-1949 Post war recovery[edit]

The SAAFL had ceased to run a regular competition from 1942-1945 due to World War II. In 1946, when life was returning to normal again, the Amateur League recommenced its competition with two grades, Al and A2. The Club was represented in both these grades and performed quite well in the years immediately after the War. Although Premierships eluded ‘the Blacks’ in these years, the Al side played in the Finals in all but one season and was most unfortunate to be disqualified in 1947 when a Premiership looked a possibility.

On the administrative side, 1949 saw the retirement of Dr. N.S. Gunning from the Club Presidency after a long association with the Club that dated back to the early 1920s. His place was taken by Dr. C.B. Sangster who had been an outstanding player with the Club in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

On the playing side, H. Page returned to the Club as coach on the path to a most successful era in the 1950s. A.G.A. Tregonning, winner of the Gunning Medal in 1944 and 1946, captained the Club in 1947 and 1948 and also led the State Amateur side in 1947, 1948 and 1949. In 1948 the State side won the Amateur Carnival for the first time with H. Page as coach and a strong University representation.

This period represented an era of consolidation for the Club and, although Premierships were not won, there was a building up of Club strength that was to show itself in the 1950s.

1950-1959 A dominant era[edit]

Although the post-War years had been reasonably successful, there had not been an Al Premiership. In fact the last time ‘the Blacks’ had won the Flag was back in 1932. This situation soon changed and the 1950s saw the Club return to a position of power in Amateur League.

E.G. Tilley replaced H. Page as coach in 1950 and continued on the improvement shown by the Club in the years following the Second World War. During his six years at the Club, the Al side played in six Grand Finals, winning four Flags. These were the results that the Club had attained in the 1920s and early 1930s.

L.G. (Jack) Giles took over the coaching duties from E.G. Tilley in 1957 and was in charge until the end of the 1959 season. The Club enjoyed reasonably successful seasons under him but did not take off a Premiership.

There were many very good players of this era and the representatives the Club had in All-Australian Amateur teams fit into this category. J.K.A. McLeod (1950 and captain in 1954), D.M. Brebner (1950), J.F. Walsh (1954) and B.M. Seppelt (1958) were all magnificent players for the Club. The number of State players the Club provided during this time was also very high (seven on average) and E.G. Tilley coached the State Amateurs from 1951–1956, after taking over the job from H. Page.

The Club had expanded and at stages fielded five teams although at this time the Amateur League only had five grades. Teams were fielded in the Students’ Association and the Sturt District Association and both these sides met with success. The feats of J.C. Liii in this latter Association are worth noting. After winning the Club’s Best and Fairest in the fifth side in 1955, he won both the Club’s Award and the Association Medal in 1956 when this team was the fourth fielded by University. The following two seasons, 1957 and 1958, he won the Gunning Medal for the Al side.

On the administrative side, Dr. C.B. Sangster served as President from 1949–1953 and was succeeded by Dr. R.T. Steele, former captain of the Club. He served until 1959 in this capacity. Constitutional changes saw the new category of Honorary Life Membership introduced in 1952 and two worthy recipients, Dr. N.S. Gunning and Dr. C.B. Sangster, were the first to be accorded this honour. Further men who received this honour in the 1950s were H. Page and H. (‘Longun’) Wilson (1953), H.V. Millard (1954), and J.K.A. McLeod (1957). All these men were very worthy recipients of this honour.

It was a sad moment for the Club when ‘Longun’ Wilson died in 1956. He had been a significant part of ‘the Blacks’ since 1928 and his presence as a trainer was missed.

This was a very successful era for ‘the Blacks’ with the Al’s dominating the top grade and the lower sides increasing in strength as the decade progressed.

1960-1969 The golden years[edit]

Although the Club had enjoyed a particularly successful era in the 1950s in which it played in seven Al Grand Finals and won four Premierships, even greater success was to come in the 1960s. Dr. R.T. Steele ended a six-year term as President and a twenty year active association with the Club as a player and administrator when he stepped down as President at the beginning of the 1960 season. His place was taken by another stalwart of the Club in J.B. Day who remained as President throughout the 1960s.

Constitutional changes in the mid-1960s saw Sir George Ligertwood become Patron in 1966 and another long serving stalwart R.L. Whittle take the position of Chairman in 1967.

An important appointment on the playing side was that of Alan Greer to the senior coaching position in 1960. His record as a player with Port Adelaide and the State side was very impressive and he had coached Riverside in Amateur League during the late 1950s. In his eight years with the Club he took the Al side into the Grand Final each year and won four Premierships. This record surpassed the performance of E.G. Tilley who took the Al side into six Grand Finals for four Premierships in his six years with the Club in the 1950s.

The sides of the early 1960s were considered by many people to be the finest that the Club has fielded. Many of the players represented the State Amateur side and many progressed to League football where they played with distinction. A.R. Clarkson, D.C. Hill, W.R. Jackson, M.E. Jones and A.E. Byers are examples of players in this category.

The middle 1960s continued the fine performances of earlier years. However, Premierships eluded the Club with the exception of 1965. W.R. Haslam, J.F. Sangster (an All Australian captain), J.R. Blake, I.F. Edgely and C.H.A. Meyer were some of the brilliant players of this era.

The late 1960s also saw the Club in a pre-eminent position in Amateur League as a new generation of University players carried the Club to Premierships in 1968 and 1969 under coaches D.F. Kimber and P. Vivian. This period saw outstanding players such as V.J. Bondar, B.R. Simmons, J.H.P. Disney, J.R. Goodhart, P.J.L. Rofe and J.S. Sandland wearing ‘the Blacks’ jumper.

Thus the Club played in every Al Grand Final in the 1960s, winning six Premierships. This was an enviable record and a performance unsurpassed in Amateur League history.

As well as the outstanding record of the Al’s during this period, the remainder of the Club also had its share of success. This can be attributed in part to Alan Greer who generated great Club spirit by insisting that all teams train together. G.O’H. Hyde led the A3 team to a Flag in 1965 (undefeated Premiers), the Al reserves were runners-up in 1964 with J.G. Olliver in charge, and won the Premiership in 1965 under the leadership of G. Kraehe. K. Allen led the A2 Reserves to a Flag in 1961. D.R. Harrison coached the A3 reserves to Grand Finals in 1964 and 1965, winning the 1964 Premiership.

The 1960s saw the Club expand into the largest football club in Australia, a fact of which the Club is very proud. It is no wonder that this era is looked upon as the Golden Era of the Club’s history.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  • 75th Anniversary of the Adelaide University Football Club, compiled 1981. A copy is available for viewing in the Archives of the University of Adelaide.

Notes[edit]