The Black forray in to the Collegiate League, come reunion with the Amateur League

2006 sees another evolution in the warty hobbling shibboleth that has been the Adelaide University Blacks SC with the club dividing its operations between the new Division 1 facilities at the Veneto Club and the club’s spiritual home on the North Adelaide playing fields.

That the club should continue to evolve like a Chernobyl field mouse should come as no surprise to those players who have been around long enough to remember the great Windsor Gardens disemboweling of ’99, or the “Saturday Batter Day” all-in fist festival versus Murray Bridge in ’05 that marked the Div 3 team’s first ever game in the Amateur ranks. Emphasis on amateur.

For while the Div 1 teams have been sitting atop the Amateur League’s Saturday competition for years – the Reserves winning the premiership in 03 and the firsts winning it in 2000 – the recently amateurised Div 3 and 4 teams have had long histories (which feel actually a lot longer) in the Collegiate League prior to their decision to join their strangely successful and irritatingly skillful Div 1 colleagues in the amateur ranks.

The Collegiate League is sometimes mistaken for a private shooting range where Rostrevor College, Mercedes College, Unley High School Old Scholars and, at various points, heinously ugly University Teams (not the Blacks, naturally) have spent whole seasons blowing the heads off sedated, overweight, blind poultry masquerading as the rest of the competition. Sadly, the Blacks have on occasion been the obese chicken-suit-wearing victims of this syndrome.

Not that the Blacks haven’t put up a fight – mostly.

In 1999 the Collegiate Blacks were a very different beast. A thinner, tatty and occasionally cranky beast led from the back (given he was goalkeeper) by Tony Zollo (for the A & B teams anyway) with a third team in the A2 competition lorded over by Steve Cramond. In that year the A & B teams both had years of respectably mid-table stodginess, tarted up by the Bs progress to the latter stages of the Collegiate Cup competition. The A2s, wearing shirts so old that black had faded to brown and that bore the name of a sponsor who had gone broke when horseless carriages caught on, battled hard all year and came up with, from memory, bugger all. The starkest memories are of being remorselessly pantsed 8-0 by Windosr Gardens at home, and of giving up a 3-0 lead to a geriatric Grads Red (otherwise known as the Greek national team of 1957) to scramble a late 3-3 draw. And even then not so much for the game as the ferocious hilarity of Steve’s post-match swearing.

2000 saw the first of those evolutionary change things I mentioned. With the Zollo Era over, the Collegiates shrank to 2 teams (despite having the obligatory 3458965 people out to the first training, by July there is usually about 16 people available to cover all teams) and came under the softly-spoken, dummy-giving, gameplan-avoiding, swearword-dispensing tutelage of “the Bargy Argy”, Danny Arevalo. A regular player for the Div 1s for many years, Danny listened to his body and descended to the Collegiates to be player-coach. Under his rule the Collegiates were exhorted to dispense with the complicated tactical fulminations of previous years and to simply “play our game”. That no one knew what “our game” was didn’t seem to matter. In the end the best guess the team could come up with was to punt it forwards, lose it in attack, fart about in midfield, rely on one or two ball-fiddlers to dribble themselves into dead-end corners before giving it up and then leaving the defenders to run their buttocks to the bone and the keeper to say his prayers…of course, being a defender my recollections wholesale NFL jerseys could be slightly biased.

In 2001 the Div 1 seniors won the premiership for the cheap NFL jerseys first time in the club’s history (which starts in 1936). This event was marked by a Black Tie presentation night at season’s end at which food was served in between wine refills, apparently. Nobody can remember.

For the Collegiate teams the years 2000-2002 marked a period of gradual rebuilding where the results, although unspectacular, belied the emergence of some of the team’s recent and current stalwarts. In this period the reserves team – as seems to be the case in recent years – did quite well in places wholesale NBA jerseys and with coaching over this period from injured Div 1 warhorse Phil Safie managed to turn in solid mid-table results during those years.

The genesis of the current Blacks Divs 3 & 4 teams came in 2002 when Arevalo returned to the Div1s to be reserves coach and Kevin “Glad Hands” Holohan took charge of the Collegiates. Reforming the financial and administrative structure of the team, Holohan created a team that now boasts the best sponsorship arrangements, facilities and equipment seen at the Blacks for at least a decade. On the field Kevin brought a different approach to Arevalo. Accentuating team-building and trying to create a more cohesive system, Holohan’s first couple of years again produced some indifferent results for the Blacks as off-field logistical issues and the age-old Blacks inconsistency obstructed some otherwise valuable improvements.

2003 was a landmark in several ways for the Blacks. Arevalo took the Div 1 reserves to the premiership (as gobsmacked Collegiates looked on) before promptly retiring, and Aleks Gade took control of the Collegiate reserves – allowing Kevin to concentrate on the As and the general administration of the club.

In 2003 the Collegiate reserves took to Aleks’ coaching method – which encouraged a love of the colour yellow, the odd Norwegian-English verbal spray, a love of wingbacks and routing the ball through Aleks at defensive midfield – and sustained some wildly consistent performances (including a brilliant undefeated run midseason for the first time since humans evolved from sea slugs) and a tremendous mid-table result in 8th position. The A team struggled a bit more, which was disappointing as they started the year by making it to the final of the pre-season carnival (beating arch-nemesis Uni Whites along the way and only just lost the trophy 1-0 to perennial uberteam Mercedes). The underperformance was usually as a result of periods of lapsed concentration that would undo otherwise strong games. Mention must also be made of Nathan Rawlings who, throughout most of this season and the previous one, was the sole keeper for the Collegiates and bore the load of bad days more than most (see Hall of Fame). Puntilla The season ended in ambivalence when the As finished 10th in the League and then made it to the quarter finals of the cup only to be downed by a reserves Uni Blues team in what was a disappointing end to the year.

B highlight, slamming Flinders 4-1 including a Kastelijn brace complete with goalkeeper taunting and weightist remarks directed at the Flinders captain. Lowlight, losing 4-3 to Norwood in the final minute after being 3-0 up after 20.

A’s highlight, belting Flinders 5-0; lowlight, going down 3-2 to Norwood in the final game after cruising at 2-0 for 75 minutes.

2004 started in the worst possible way with the sudden death of Nathan after a short illness.

The remainder of the season saw a familiar pattern establish itself as the Collegiate League separated into a few over-indulged teams beating the pancreas out of the remaining clubs for their personal pleasure. Nevertheless, the Blacks were again competitive for the most part all year. The reserves again put in some decent performances – including a couple of memorable and pain-exorcising wins against perpetual pains in the lunchbox Uni Whites and Norwood. The As however had perhaps their least satisfactory season for a few years with more heavy defeats than the previous year. This season also saw a third team re-enter the scene with an A2 squad formed and, after some bruising early games, come through with a solid finish to a season that saw them at the wrong end of the ladder but on an upward trajectory (there was nowhere left to go).

A’s highlight, whacking Comets 5-2 – lowlight, there were a few and a 8-0 smacking Büyüyerek by CBC in the first game wasn’t a good start.

A2’s lowlight, an early season 10-0 disembowelment by Windsor Gardens (followed by an even more dismembering after-game spray from defender James “Awful Truth” Vallance). The undoubted highlight was a brilliant 5-2 win over a strong, usually successful but totally gutted Unley outfit.

B’s highlights were manifold – beating Norwood 3-2 after being 2-0 down early on exorcised the previous year’s choke, but belting Uni Whites 5-1 after they had described the Blacks as the equivalent of a bye was perhaps the sweetest moment of the whole year (soccer and non-soccer related).

And so to 2005. With the decision made to 1 leave the Collegiate League, the Blacks entered the Amateur League with 3 teams and a little trepidation. The year began inauspiciously with the first A game cancelled after an on-field ruckus with Murray Bridge, but as the season wore on it was clear some of the same issues that had plagued the Blacks in previous years remained – namely consistency. For the Bs there was a lack of consistency in leadership as they went through 3 coaches with Gade having to relinquish the job mid-year and then a succession of stand-ins taking the team through to the end. Although the middle of the season had some shaky performances with an unsettled side, by the end of the year a more coherent lineup was putting in solid performances that should stand them in good stead in 2006. For the A team there was also a lack of consistency in lineup with several players rotating through and the cutting edge in front of goals a constant issue. Some improved performances by the end of the season – including a good last game against Champions Gleeson – means there should be cause for hope this year in Division 3.

The Div 4 team – inheritors of the old A2 mantle – were taken under the wing of “Oddly” George Lesses and became a tight, had hard-working unit with perhaps the best team unity in the club. With some early struggles overcome, the Div 4s were extremely consistent with very few blow-out losses and a lot of tight hard draws and not a few impressive wins; ones to watch.

Div 3 A highlights, beating Murray Bridge 2-0 to avenge first game debacle. Lowlight, losing a lot. B highlights, 4-0 over Murray Bridge and 8-0 over Torrens Valley…although against 8 men and with Lobban missing a penalty it should probably be in the lowlight column.

So, there you have it; an alarmingly incomplete recent history of the greatest team never to win the League. Or the runners-up. Or third spot. But, as they say in the classics, once you’ve been Black you never, ever, go back.

Go Blacks – Onward to Victory!