Nedlands Rugby History
Established in 1934, Nedlands RUFC represents an area not much older than the club itself. In 1931, the Claremont Roads Board split and formed the Nedlands Road Board, later becoming Nedlands Municipal Council and then City of Nedlands. Land in the area had initially been settled in the 1850s by Captain John Bruce, and he bequeathed the land to his son Edward – hence the area became known as Ned’s Land, later morphing into Nedlands. The Club’s emblem – the rampant lion, is thought to have derived from the badge of the Bruce family.
Nedlands RUFC was formed at a meeting in Alec E Davies’ tearooms on the corner of Broadway and The Esplanade called by Cliff Stark, at 7.45pm on 5th April 1934. In that first season, the Club fielded just one team with players wearing a black jumper with a large gold N on the chest. The jumper was changed to blue and gold in 1962 to conform with the colours of the original Claremont Road Board.
The Club initially played on a ground made up from four vacant blocks on Aberdare Rd. After nearly 20 years of temporary fields, Neddies was finally granted a permanent home on the Nedlands Foreshore in 1951, after using it unofficially since 1946. The Foreshore had been reclaimed from the Swan River before and after World War 1, and in the 1930s was a highly popular camping and holiday ground. But as West Australians became more mobile after WW2, the demand for its use fell away and it became a sports ground. Initially, the park was shared between the Nedlands and Associates clubs, but Associates moved to a ground of their own in the 1980s.
Success came early for Nedlands. After finding its feet in the 1934 season, the Club won the 1935 B Grade grand-final, a wonderful achievement. This success caused an upshot in player numbers with membership rising from 24 in 1935 to 55 in 1936. Now with teams in both the B and C grade, the Club pushed for promotion to A grade. This was finally granted in 1939, and the following year, Nedlands proved that they were now a force in WA rugby by winning the 1940 A Grade grand final. This team included some of the great names in our Club history with Cliff Stark, Bob McMIllan, Laurie Simmonds. John Poor and Joe Poynton all featuring in the Club’s records in the years to come. It’s interesting to note that captain Laurie Simmonds’ son Ken featured in the Club’s third A Grade premiership team thirty years later in 1970. Today, 80 years after their great grandfather led Neddies, another generation of Simmonds are turning out for the juniors, proudly wearing the blue and gold.
World War 2 and its aftermath brought hard times to Nedlands, compounded by a breakaway group who went to rugby league in the early 1950s. While some of these players returned to the fold, and the Club won a famous A Grade premiership in 1957, this was a difficult period for Nedlands. For a time, we were only kept alive by the determination and great work of men like Joe Poynton, Jim Stitfall and Jim Macauley. Charlie Duncan and his wife Jess were also key in holding the Club together, with Jess serving as both Club Secretary and Colts coach for a number of years.
The Club’s fortunes began to change in 1963, with the arrival of Peter Bailey. Bailey, known as the father of the modern Nedlands club came to Perth for the Commonwealth Games in 1962 and fell in love with the city and with Nedlands. He introduced a “kiwi connection” to the Club and in the ensuing years served in a wide range of roles from player to coach to President, in the process building the foundations of the powerhouse that Nedlands has become. Many of the people who were to contribute to and lead the Club in the next 40 years were nurtured by Bailey, including Steve Takiari, Terry Bradbury, Peter Shaw, Dave Walsh and Chris Lowson, together with great clubmen Rex Julian and Garry Ash who started the Thursday night dinners from the then tiny kitchen. Players such as Englishmen Dave Brock and Dave Rosewall, and Kiwi imports John Walker, Tim Lowson, Bradbury, Rob McKenzie, Peter Rowan, Graeme Holmes, Phil Hobbs and many others made huge on-field contributions to Nedlands through this period.
The 80s and 90s, along with the holding of the Americas Cup yacht races in Perth saw another influx of strong players to Nedlands, and our supporters grew used to seeing top quality players such as All Black Paul Koteka, representative level players Peter Chadwick, Peter Roberts, Gavin Bermingham, Reg Walters, Nudge Edwards, Mike Ryburn, Glen Thompson, John O’Callaghan and Tom Fearn wearing the royal blue and gold. With excellent coaches like Viv Booker, Wayne Hill, Dave McKnight and Fearn guiding them, these men were successful in what was arguably the best quality A Grade competition ever known in Perth – in today’s world they would be highly paid professionals plying their trade in Europe. When the WA State team went on tour, there were so many members from Nedlands that paying their tour levy to WARU placed severe financial strain on the Club. The Club’s honours boards attest to the huge number of Nedlands players who have represented their state, and even their country. During the 90s a powerful Neddies Women’s team swept all before it, and the Club, in particular great stalwarts Sue Roberts and Freda Black, is keen to resurrect that team. The key administrator to emerge from these times was long standing patron Richard Vaughan who has contributed to the Club in a myriad of ways.
In the last 30 plus years, Nedlands has seen a shift of emphasis from relying on imported players to developing home grown ones. Over the years the Junior Club has gone from strength to strength and we have poured resources into developing skilled and successful colts teams which have brought home numerous premierships. Many members of these colts teams have gone on to play hundreds of games for the Club, with the leader in this regard being great rugby man George Forster-Jones who turned out in the blue and gold an incredible 500 times – and then went on to a successful refereeing career! Other “ex-colts” to feature in over 200 games for Neddies include Michael Botes, Matt Caporn, Damian Pacecca, Tim Badham, Mike Weir and Matt Suter, with ‘youngsters’ Jamie Hawgood, David Bailey and Kauri Cudd all heading towards that mark.
The 21st Century has seen another group of people represent and contribute to Nedlands. Tony and Rod Ball – sons of Life Member Kevin and themselves Life Members, and Terry Bradbury’s son Steve have been key members, along with Wendy Hickman Lisa Vaughan, Craig Holdcroft and outstanding leaders Murray McLean, Hans Sauer and Peter Malcolm. In 2009 the Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary and this was marked by the publication of a magnificent book “Neddies – The First Seventy Five Years” written by Life Member Mark Drummond and including an earlier version “The Golden Lion” by Bob Messenger which had been written to celebrate Nedlands’ 50th Anniversary. In 2013 the Club changed its administration model from the traditional committee to a Board of Management, while past president and long-term sponsor Rick Wolozny guided the formation of a Board of Trustees to oversee the Club’s finances and ensure that financial resources are put away for future projects. On the field Nathan Roberts has played more than 200 games for Neddies, while Richie Naylor, Brad Wilkinson, Joe (Peanut) Ritchie, Alvin (Stardust) Lau, Trefor Thomas, Chris Naylor and Dylan Loversidge have all made massive contributions. In 2017, the Club was proud to have three members of our 1st grade team – Michael Ruru, Anaru Rangi and Jermaine Ainsley offered contracts with the Western Force. After the demise of the Force, all three players have gone on to successful professional careers around the world.
Nedlands members haven’t just contributed to their club however. Many Neddies administrators, including Sauer, Takiari, Lowson and Josh Aislabie have gone on to serve on the board of Rugby WA and in other capacities, with Bradbury and Bailey being awarded Life Membership of that organisation for their great service.
Neddies looks to the future with great confidence and enthusiasm. Under the guidance of the Board of Management the Club has excellent systems in place to ensure our future success, adding another chapter to the long Nedlands story.