1970 - 1979
THE 70S - A DECADE OF CHALLENGES
After the heady successes of the 1960s, when the club competed in all ten grand finals, expectations of club performance had risen to new levels. Whatever followed in the ensuing years would be compared with the 'good old days', and anything short of dominance of the A1 competition and successful competition in the lower grades was likely to fall short of those standards.
However, the 1970s started in excellent fashion with the A1 side carrying all before it prior to the May vacation in 1970. With the Inter-Varsity team in Melbourne for the carnival, and hence missing a full round of matches, it was decided to play Flinders University at University Oval in the week prior to Inter-Varsity in A1 and A1 Reserves. One player who was a reserve for the A1 side in this mid-week game also played against SPOC in A2 on the following Saturday, thus effectively playing for the A1s and A2s at the same time.
An oversight certainly, and a foolish one at that, but the reaction of the Amateur League was astonishing. In a decision of incredible severity, the club lost all premiership points in every grade up to that point of the season. This, of course, left all sides in bottom position after eight games. The effect on the club was marked, as can be expected, and certainly had repercussions that season and in 1971. It was a credit to the character of the club, the A1 coach and A1 team that the performances for the 1970 season were even better than the high standards set by the club in the previous few seasons. The side was undefeated at the time of the Inter-Varsity, lost the next game and then remained undefeated until the second last minor round game when a loss to Postal Institute cost the team a place in the finals.
In the next three years, 1971-1973, the A1 side performed solidly but not spectacularly, and the prime goal of premierships eluded the side. Indeed, the side missed the four in 1972 for the first time since World War II (1970 being discounted), despite a fine finish to the season. The only premiership in the club during these years was a 1972 victory in the A4 Reserves, led by G.C. Harcourt and R. Hunter.
Four years had passed without a A1 premiership when K.R. Griffiths was appointed coach in 1974. The district clubs of the Amateur League were making their presence felt more strongly, and the domination of student sides evident in the 1960s was waning.
1974 saw an influx of experienced players to the Blacks from league clubs, other Amateur clubs and interstate. Indeed four players new to the club won All Australian selection in 1974 (K.R. Griffiths, S. Johnson, B. Ferris and S.T.P. Trumble), and a further two players who also joined in this year became All-Australian players after the 1976 carnival (M. Schwartz and M. Kerr-Grant).
The three years that K.R. Griffiths coached the club saw the A1 side take out two premierships (1974 and 1975) and finish runners-up in 1976. This was a return to the dominance of the A1 competition that the club had enjoyed in the fifties and sixties.
The club had rationalized the number of teams back to six following several years in the late fifties and early sixties when eight were fielded. At this stage old scholars' clubs were gaining in strength, and the trend affected the club's recruiting for the lower grades. It was also at this time that a decision was made to stabilise the movement of players through the club by placing ‘core players' in each side. This concept involved the naming of ten to twelve players in each of the lower sides who remained the backbone of that side. Any promotions or demotions took place with the other members of the team (there were exceptions to this rule).
This stabilised the lower sides (A3 Reserves and below) and helped the coaches and captains develop a team spirit and identity which had been lacking before. Generally, the idea was successful, as team performances improved and everyone in the club had a side with which he could identify. In past seasons up to one hundred players could pass through the sides in A3 and below.
Teams led by T. Nagel (comprising Adelaide University basebaIlers and cricketers) and R. Forbes played off in the 1975 preliminary final in A8. This was to be the beginning of a strong lower grade contingent comprising players like R. Neil, G. Bellchamber, J. Green, A. Nurk and G. de Boer who enjoyed considerable success in A8. They won premierships in 1978 and 1980 and two of their players, J. Green and W. Sarre, won Amateur League medals.
G.C. Harcourt and N.C. Beagley also had similar groups of players who played over a period and identified strongly with the A3 Reserves.
The late seventies saw an increased professionalism come into the game, and the problems of a truly amateur club competing for players became difficult. Players no longer played for University for a couple of years and then tried their hand at league football as had happened in the past. Country players began to return home on weekends, lured by the promise of 'expenses', while district clubs and SAFA clubs boasted about facilities and incentives to lure the young away from the Blacks.
The club reacted to these changes through very active recruiting campaigns on campus and amongst the schools, and by playing a higher percentage of graduate players than in the past. With the absence of Inter-Varsities from the football program, the club initiated pre-season trips to Melbourne (1980) and Loxton (1981) to in some way replace these games. This was done with the ultimate hope of revitalising Inter-Varsity.