OLD COLLEGIANS: 50 YEARS & BEYOND
(An article written in 1987 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the club - PH)
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, the Club and North Adelaide Rugby Club were planning to combine during World War II. 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 and 1991. The decade frequency of success 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 since 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.
The club has had many successes in other grades over the years and regularly fields 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.
Some of the other most talented players that have played for OC include Mick Hone, Jock Yule, Geoff Archer and Shamus Bestick in the 1940s; Jeff Hone (Captain first Premiership team) and Paul LeMercier in the 1950s; Phil Williams, Tony Jubb and Bob Forbes in the 1960s; Sean Beaton (two times Don Smith Trophy and three times Sir Norman Jude Tackling Trophy winner) 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, recently hung up his boots as a hooker.
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 vhose 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 know 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 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 of 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. The transient players and the players with a wide range of interests have contributed much to the rugby and culture of the Club.
The Club ran senior teams only for many years and in the mid 1980s the number of new players was diminishing. The Club then planned the development of its juniors. The Club ran an U/18 team for three years in the early 1980s 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 1970s when it provided some of the first coaches for the newly formed Waratah Club and coaches for secondary schools.
OCs first home-ground was in the centre of Victoria Par race course; the club then moved to the dairy cow grazed pastures of the south parklands many a tackle had an excremental bow wave! and then to its current location at Tregenza Oval in 1953. The oval had in excess of six metres slope from end to end and, after levelling with its poor drainage, it seems that other Clubs consider that we have reverted back to excremental bow waves in wet years. The Club also used the back oval of Prince Alfred College for training and an odd match during the 1940s.
The development at Tregenza epitomises the great effort that many players,. Supporters and their partners have put into the Club. The small, green galvanised iron changing shed during the 1950s and 1960s was well known for its lack of reliable hot showers and robust air-conditioning all year round. This forced show of player machoism was softened by the offer of a cuppa tea and scones as the players left the field on Saturday afternoons. The sale of tea and scones to spectators by Dot Rogers, Lillian Holdich and others from a small canvas tent regardless of the weather, provided a financial start for the current clubhouse.
The Club house, minus change rooms, was opened on 11 November 1972; the change rooms were completed in 1977. The clubhouse culminates the movement of OC from the Green Dragon Hotel, to the Botanic Hotel to the Feathers Hotel for after mach/practice capers. The tradition of rugby at OC is enhanced by the Clubs communal spa bath in the change rooms, a legacy of senior members enthusiasm for rugby tradition on their return from the Golden Oldies tour to London.
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 1950s and was guest speaker at the Clubs 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 our 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, SAJRU and the SAFA; 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 the 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 players families and partners. Its 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 1970s, but OCs desire to play and enjoy competitive rugby in the true spirit of the code has not changed.