The Old Collegians (OC) Rugby Union Football Club was formed in 1937 as Prince Alfred Old Collegians Rugby Club by Jack Hastwell, Monty Bennett, Jack Phelps and others, and is now one of oldest continuous rugby club in South Australia.
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.
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 as University 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 the district criteria 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.
The original Club Guernsey was a maroon jumper with a Prince Alfred College crest, it evolved to broad maroon and navy hoops in 1955, and again to light red and blue hoops in the mid-1970s, It’s current blue with red stripes was adopted in the 1990s.
Despite this outward evolution, OC’s desire to play and enjoy competitive rugby in the true spirit of the code has not changed.
OC’s first home-ground was in the centre of Victoria Park racecourse; 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.
Tregenza 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 Oval 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 Clubhouse, minus change rooms, was opened on 11 November 1972 by Sir Norman Jude; with the change rooms being 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 match/practice capers. The tradition of rugby at OC in the late 1980s was enhanced by the Club’s 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.
Old Collegians has a proud culture of inclusion, consistently maintaining a full complement of senior teams, juniors since the 80s, and a women’s team since 1996. A family club, it now boasts second, third and fourth generations of players in some families. Since the women’s team became an influence, it also has many children with two rugby-playing parents.
Since the 90s, the club has been blessed to watch junior players progress to seniors, securing the future of its ranks. It has also thrived by assimilating “blow-ins” from as far afield as Argentina, England, Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and Wales.
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 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.
Old Collegians has a successful history on the pitch, winning First Grade premierships in 1956, 1959, 1967, 1970, 1971, 1982, 1991, 1998, 2001 and 2006 and the West End Trophy for Best Club for the last eight years it was presented (2001 to 2008) by the SARU.
It has had countless state representatives, and the Don Smith Medal for SA’s Best & Fairest has been won by Len Perkins (1946), R Barker (1961), Rod Hauser (1972, 1973), Sean Beaton (1982, 1985), Gavin Pfister (1997) and Andy Farquharson (2006).
The club has also 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 halfback 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 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 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.
Old Collegians has some world class players amongst its far-flung sons and daughters, such as Rod Hauser (Wallabies), Gavin Pfister (London Irish, Stormers & Ulster), Brock James (Australian 7s, Australian U19s & U20s, Western Force, Clermont-Auvergne), Alex Rokobaro (Stade Français, Melbourne Rebels), Liam Gill (Australian Schoolboys & U20s, Australian 7s and Queensland Reds) and Mackenzie Sadler who was in the 2014 Nejing Youth Olympics playing rugby sevens for Australia.
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 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.
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?”
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). Peter Allen and Geoffrey Holdich were also Presidents of the Club and then Presidents of the SARU.
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 to players’ families and partners. Its formal Balls and Annual Presentation Dinners in recent years are a testimony to the social side of the Club