Old Collegians (OC) was formed in 1937 as Prince Alfred Old Collegians Rugby Club by Jack Hastwell, Monty Bennett, Jack Phelps and others, and is now the oldest continuous rugby club in the State. The Club finished second in the B Grade Competition in 1938, its first year of competition, but was beaten in the final of the Consolation Cup by Army A. In 1941, during World War II, the Club and North Adelaide Rugby Club were planning to combine. However, the competition ceased from 1941 and the combination was not consummated.
The club was reformed in 1945 on the renewal of the competition in the State, mainly through the efforts of Len Perkins and Lloyd Jackman. The club was then named Old Collegians Rugby Club.
Since then, the Club has had varied successes on the field but has played a major role in furthering the game of rugby in SA.
The Club won the Division 1 premiership in 1956, 1959, 1967, 1971, 1982, 1991, 1998, 2001 & 2006. The "decade" frequency of success through the 1960s to the 1990s does not show that the Club was relegated to Division II in 1962 and then fought back to compete in virtually all of the Division 1 final series from 1965. It seems that the "bridesmaid" role in finals during the last two decades began in 1948 when OC beat all of the clubs convincingly during the season but was put out by Woodville in the semi-finals, partly because of repeated indiscretions by a player who insisted on picking up the ball after tackles rather than toeing it first. It does appear to be typical of the club. especially in the past few decades, that they tend to lose at the grand final.
The club has had many successes in other grades over the years and has regularly fielded four or five senior sides.
Many OC players have captained or represented the State at senior and junior levels over the years and have taken out SARU individual player awards. The greatest achievement went to Rod Hauser (Don Smith Trophy winner) who was selected for the Wallabies while playing for OC. He toured England as understudy to John Hipwell and was later selected as half back for Australia. Brock James, who came up through the Juniors, went on to play five-eighth for Australia U19 & U20s, for Taranaki in NZ, Western Force in WA & has been the highest point-scorer in France for Clermont-Auvergne. That he failed to play for the Wallabies was the consequence of fate, and ironically had he not played for Australia in the U19 & U21 grades, he had, by 2009 qualified to play for France. In the 2000s in particular the club has lost players either to the east coast competitions or more often to clubs in the northern hemisphere with players such as Will Sadler playing for T'gooi in Amsterdam & Ben Hamer for Lewes in the UK.
Some of the other most talented players that have played for OC include Mick Hone, Jock Yule, Geoff Archer and Shamus Bestick in the 1940's; Jeff Hone (Captain first Premiership team) and Paul LeMercier in the 1950's; Phil Williams, Tony Jubb and Bob Forbes in the 1960's; Sean Beaton (two times Don Smith Trophy, three times Sir Norman Jude Tackling Trophy winner and the club's best & fairest six times (possibly seven ..) and Dennis Hayden 1970-80. John Davies coached Division 1 teams in excess of 10 years. Bob Burgess, the longest serving Division 1 player in South Australia, hung up his boots as a hooker in the late 1980s. Ben Perkins, the son of Len, became the ARU's kicking coach before coaching individuals such as John Eales. In the 1990s, and into the 2000s, the club has seen talent from Rob Sadler, who continues to play despite retiring, along with ex-juniors players such as Stewart Douglas, Graham Raymond & Ben Suttell who would be rivalling Bob Burgess for the number of games played over the years. In the 2000s the club & the state has been thrilled by play from Andrew Farquharson, Shaun Gough and Barney Bloxham, all of whom have moved away from South Australia.
OC is a club that thrives on both its long-standing players and its individuals with a wanderlust. Talent that stays & talent that seeks to travel. Consequently the club also thrives on assimilating so-called "blow-ins", with talent such as Juan Aguiar from Argentina, David Pack who from his Gurkha regiment based in Hong Kong would spend his leave playing for OC, David Watson from Scotland who stayed for a few years & then introduced Ben Hamer to the possibilities of playing in the UK, even if only for a Scottish club initially. It is a club nurtured by players & ex-players who move on, once the body is weak or questionable, to a fierce dedication to maintaining the club & supporting rugby in the state; the likes of Colin Runge, Bert Rogers, Ted Apted, Richard Waddicor, Peter James, Geoff Holditch, Michael von Berg, Mickey Finn, Kim Evans and the almost indistinguishable Harry Clark & Hamish Cranna.
OC is a club which enjoys the full spirit of rugby, even to the extent that a referee had to ask a third division side to refrain from singing rugby songs in a line-out! It is also a club whose players, at times, fit traditional rugby eccentricities. A few years ago Division 1 used the names of fruits or vegetables for their line-out calls to denote the front or back of the line respectively. A well known forward (front row?) was seen to stick his head out of a line-out when the call was Artichoke - 8, and was then heard to ask the caller, "Is artichoke a f____ fruit or a vegetable?"
Eligibility to join the club has been influenced by South Australian Rugby Union (SARU) policies. Initially clubs had to select players from defined club districts, except for OC who had to draw on private school old scholars, university graduates or officers of His Majesties Services! For many years the club then relied heavily on players coming from the University Club after graduation (Uni could only play two graduates in Division 1) and from players being transferred with business or seeking employment from the eastern states and overseas. When the SARU changed their policy on district for players, membership of the club was open to anyone with a penchant for rugby, no matter what level. Transient players and players with a wide range of interests have contributed much to the rugby and culture of the Club and have taken that with them when circumstances decided a move away was desirable or necessary.
The Club ran senior teams only for many years and in the mid 1980's the number of new players was diminishing. The Club then planned the development of it's juniors. The Club ran an U/18 team for three years in the early 1980's and then formed the junior Collegians in 1985. OC now competes in each junior age bracket. Prior to Junior Collegians, OC had an earlier input to juniors in the 1970's when it provided some of the first coaches for the newly formed Waratah Club and coaches for secondary schools. Particularly via the juniors, the club is looking at its 4th generation of players coming through and since the Women's team became an integral, and civilising influence, on the club, we have children from marriages of players within the club; the old 'Heavies Bar' corner where drinking there was by invitation only has long given over to a creche of the next generation of children to have been brought up in the clubhouse.
The Club has been fortunate in having many "characters" amongst its members over the years - more than can be discussed in this short article. The Rt. Rev. Howell Witt is one person who kept coming back - he played Division 1 and was President of the Club in the early 1950's and was guest speaker at the Club's 21st and 50th Anniversary Dinners. His well-known sense of humour was shown on the field, when, as half-back, OC won a scrum near the line, and the blind winger ran past him yelling out "pass, pass, pass" only for the spectators to hear Howell Witt yell out "four no trumps" and then see him run around the base of the scrum to score a try under the posts.
Members of OC have been heavily involved in the administration of rugby at the State level through holding many of the positions in the SARU, South Australian Junior Rugby Union (SAJRU) and the South Australian Referees Association (SARA) through coaching and selecting State teams and through holding management positions in the Crippled Crows and the Rugby Club of SA. Colin Runge, a member of the first team in 1938, was later a President of the SARU. Bert Rogers, a President of the Club, was also a President of the SARU and also the West Australian Rugby Union (WARU).
Old Collegians has had the privilege of hosting overseas and interstate touring teams and entertaining visiting international teams. The development of the Club has been well supported by sponsors for which we are thankful and player's families and partners. It's formal Balls in recent years are testimony to the social side of the Club.
The Club Guernsey has changed colours from the initial maroon jumper with a PAC crest, to broad maroon and navy hoops in 1955, to its current light red and blue hoops in the mid 1970's, but OC's desire to play and enjoy competitive rugby in the true spirit of the code has not changed.