100 reasons to cheer a proud history
The Adelaide University Football Club, aka the "Blacks," always loves a party but this month its members have 100 good reasons to celebrate.
Founded in March 1906, the club is celebrating its centenary this year. It has enjoyed a long and proud history, punctuated only by war, and distinguished by a world renowned mascot in the form of Bob Neil.
Its website modestly lists it as "the world's greatest football club," a claim backed by a history of achievements.
It is the only club to have been represented in A1 in every year the South Australian Amateur Football League (SAAFL) has operated.
In the 1960s it was the largest football club in Australia, and with eight teams and 300 registered players now in the competition, the strength of the Adelaide University Football Club is the envy of many.
The year 1911 is an important date in the club's history as it marked the formation of an active club, in contrast to a club which had existed in name only for the previous three seasons. It also marked the formation of the SAAFL, with which the name University has been synonymous ever since.
The Amateur League went into recess in 1915 for the duration of World War I, as many clubs had difficulty fielding sides, but the years 1920-29 were some of the club's most successful, with five premierships in the space of a decade.
The 1930s will be remembered for the University's great rivalry with Underdale, which produced some remarkable finals.
Again, World War II forced the Amateur League into recess between 1942-1945.
Post-war, the Blacks performed well, although premierships eluded them.
The 1950s saw the Blacks return to a powerful position in Amateur League, playing in six grand finals and winning four flags.
Without doubt, the 1960s were the Blacks' "golden years". Coach Alan Greer took the A1 side into six grand finals, winning four premierships. Players of this era were considered by many to be the finest in the club's history and included the likes of AR Clarkson, DC Hill, WR Jackson, ME Jones and AE Byers.
The connection with Bob Neil goes back to the 1970s when he joined the Blacks as a player, later becoming a lower grade coach and committee member.
His name first achieved legend status during the 1986 grand final when a chant of "Bob Neil, Bob Neil" was used to spur the Blacks on to victory. Soon his name began appearing all over Adelaide - in graffiti, on banners and over the loudspeakers at Adelaide Oval.
When a Bob Neil banner was spotted at an Aussie Rules match at The Oval, London, he had ceased being a cult figure and had transformed into a phenomenon. His name even appeared on the Berlin Wall just before it was demolished in 1990.
A brilliant mathematician, these days Bob Neil works for the Defence Department at Salisbury, but his legacy is imbedded in the Blacks' website, named after him: www.bobneil.com.
Club president Peter Maddern credits Dr Fred Bloch, a senior lecturer at the School of Commerce, with turning Bob Neil into a cult figure for the best part of 15 years.
"Fred has been a key person in giving the club its cultural identity. He also helped change the club's image from a 'private boys' school image to a far more egalitarian club," Mr Maddern said.
Increasing financial pressures, due to the Voluntary Student Union and additional running costs, mean the club now relies heavily on sponsorship and the support of past and present players.
To this end, the Adelaide University Club is hoping for a big turnout for its gala dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre on Saturday, June 10.
Story by Candy Gibson
Tickets can be ordered through the club's centenary website at www.blackscentenary.com.au or through Archer Events on 08-8235-9122.