Bob Neil drinks West End Draught of course!

sandy And the late, great Sandy Cockburn preferred Stone’s Green Ginger Wine. These are the two staples of the Adelaide University Blacks. The staples that hold us together. Both tipples rouse a mention in The Students’ club song. For When We. Get Tired. Sandy-Gives-Us-Ginger-Wine. The West End reference is hidden in a line about opening up kegs of beer, but any Blacker worth his pepper knows that the only kegs opened at a Blacks celebration must froth with our beloved (but much-maligned) brew. Blacks’ club sponsor Angove’s Family Winemakers, a great bunch of South Aussies, still make Stone’s in Australia to the original 1740 Finsbury Distillery Company recipe, as it has been for sixty years.

This emerald elixir of wellbeing and good health is named after Joseph Stone, a prominent grocer on High Holborn in central London, a street where coincidentally I lived and worked in the Princess Louise public house back at the turn of the century. A warming syrup to stir the vittles and ward off the Dreaded Lurgi, head trainer Sandy used to offer a drop or two to weary players on the coldest of July afternoons. The West End connection is more curious. As the legacy sponsor of the John Kernahan Metropolitan Football League, it features on all amateur team guernseys in SA, so it’s not exclusivity that holds its appeal for the bookworms. It’s certainly cheap, which is high on undergraduate priorities, but when compared to goon it’s no cheap night. The flavour profile might charitably be described as ‘bracing’. In the same food category as brussel sprouts and cod liver oil, it will put hairs on your chest. Most Uni players have at least one or two by graduation. It has an amber hue, redolent of a changing traffic light in that you know you should slow down but flatten it instead. But none of these factors alone could justify its status as our holy sacrament. Perhaps we must look to the apocryphal, and the stuff of urban legend, for an answer. It’s said our Bob once traded his Datsun 120Y for a carton of West End echoes after a Scum grand final win. That’s good enough for me.

It’s also still brewed in Adelaide on the corner of Port Road, and a bit further to the west the red hand grenades stand proudly at attention in the fridge of my wife’s Nordburger family restaurant, amidst the craft beers and fashionable cider. Resolute and defiant, these icons of the south keep constant vigil. It matters not a jot to them that the good Burghers of Adelaide prefer more enlightened company. They are up where they belong,  in cosy comfort at 1.6 degrees celsius.

As each Blacks beverage has its legend, so must it have its hero. Big Jim Llewellyn, terror of the post-match changerooms, carried the conch for Sandy’s ginger wine. The dose was still medicinal, in the sense that you’d take it if you knew what was good for you. Typically, you would be delicately removing the Elastoplast from your unshaven ankles when his maniacal, lopsided grin would loom into view, his inescapably long arms embracing, ensnaring, as he foist an earthenware jug of Stone’s to your lips, his deep, raving drawl puncturing your eardrum like a team through a banner. Apparently he, and everybody else, was a ‘varmint’.

As for the amber nectar, well no-one appreciates West End Draught more than our Bob. Having tapped more kegs of the stuff than any man alive, he ought to know. But the next fellow in line, the heir to the dynasty, is Darren ‘The Jerk’ Graetz, of Footy Almanac fame. He’s a dead-set bogan with a doctorate who basically runs a dating agency for stonefruit. Having come up to town from the Riverland as a sprightly 68kg fresher, his body mass has climbed apace with his count of goals and games. I won’t embarrass Darren by telling you how chubby he is, but suffice to say that last year he clocked his 500th game and has a career goal tally of 1396, which by complete coincidence is exactly the number of calories in a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken Original Recipe.

The Jerk’s appreciation of Port Rd’s finest is immortalised in song, to the tune of Happy Little Vegemites:

He’s fatty little Darren Graetz, he’s fat as fat can be
He guzzles all that West End Beer for breakfast lunch and tea
His mummy says he’s getting fatter, scaring all the tarts
Because he loves his West End Beer
He just adores his West End Beer
It puts the sting in all his farts.

Anyway, here’s what some of the less relevant clubs in Australia prefer to drink:


An Adelaide parklands devotee and Bob Neil disciple.


  1. Rabid Dog says

    Hilarious! Many’s the time that the Green Ginger wine was passed around the 3/4 time huddle (particularly on freezing cold days), and has even come out with the trainers in lieu of a water bottle. But remember – only a capful. Great story.

  2. Linesboy says

    Brilliant Tommy…eloquent and poetic.
    Still, to this day, the odd debutant Grey’s (Blacks over 35s) player gets a surprise as they swig down a gulp of the rogue water bottle filled with Stone’s finest.
    Coincidentally, on the occasions that Jerk dons the Grey’s Guernsey on a wintry Sunday afternoon, he fervently hunts down that Green’s Ginger Wine bottle and suckles on it like a newborn on the nipple.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Sensational Tom rarely have I read something effectively smiling thru out
    ( have forwarded on to 1 or 2 guys ) thanks Tom loved it !

  4. as a scumballer by trade , nothing makes me happier than annoying a coach. i find this best achieved by passing a bottle of stones mid half time spray

  5. Jeff Milton says

    Sandy and green ginger wine forever enshrined in the club song.
    The later surely more effective than any flu vaccine.

  6. Lovely Lisa says

    Even I’ve survived a freezing Park 10 on many a Saturday thanks to the ginger wine. As for west end not my first choice but a girls not a camel!
    Pure gold Tom, thanks for the laugh.

  7. Demi Moore says

    Bravo Tom, I’m thirsty for a red can now!

  8. Vandertoilet says

    Would give my left stone fruit for another run on Bob Neil #1 followed by the opportunity to talk about it at the Havelock forward pocket….

  9. I have only seen one Blacks game. A month ago when they finished with 16 fit players against Henley. Very Southwark Bitter.
    Doesn’t Coopers Sparkling make it past the end of the Parade to Bob Neil #1?

  10. john Griffen says

    ????545am and a smile on my dial ! I was fortunate to have Sandy and his “Ginger Wine “in my years at the Blacks , and as for Bob Neill !!!! I believe we used the GW on a few occasions when the cricket pitches at Number 1 turned to an ” Ocean ” of Black mud .

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Tom. Those full stops are very important.

    When I started in 1982 , the next lines were

    We’re the fittest team you know
    The T.H. Shuffle makes us so

    The references to fitness coach Trevor Hastings went by the by in future years, but the Sandy tribute lives on.

  12. Alex Page says

    Ripping read TM. Two starkly contrasting beverages immortalized in digital print. More importantly it’s a great reminder of what it was like playing at the worlds greatest footy club. After experiencing the boost of drinking green ginger wine at half time…. orange segments just seem like a waste of time.

  13. Brian Rocky Austin says

    Too true Tom.
    Like loyalty to the Jumper… We remain loyal to our West End, which requires some courage and determination.
    The preferred drink a a real local.
    It feels good when you order one, the bar goes quiet, the hipsters pack up their board games and run, the other patrons try to steal a glance of this maverick (without making eye contact of course) and they are heard to whisper:
    ” I reckon he played for The Blacks. Do you think he knows Bob Neil”.

  14. Super Dazz says

    A most nostalgic and chuckle worthy read Tom and as always happy to be the BUTT of much humour. Red Cans, green bottles and Bob forever!

  15. Great read and memories flooding back. Nice pic of Sandy and “Snake” Kenny too.

    Loved a nip of Green Ginger and a fag at half time whilst sitting in the smokers corner with the likes of Rox Wello and KG back in the day. Still not convinced of the virtues of West End, but it’s better than XXXX!

  16. Gold Tommy, although I started to tremble when I heard the word “varmit” – Big Jimmy was certainly a big personality.

  17. chocka bloch says

    Poetry Thomas, pure poetry., I’m that old I can remember when Sandy introduced the Green Ginger at 1/4 time of an away game.. He said it was medicinally recommended by club great Dr Anthony Ravesi, an ox expert, who was filling in that day in the forward pocket. Bob was in the back pocket & had the West End on ice, which Sandy said was strictly for St. Peters’ poofs. Rocky Austin (14 years old) had signed a rego form as an 18-year old & said the beer wasn’t all that bad but agreed the green ginger was the go. We beat the poofs at Pooftah Park & shot back to the Queen’s Head where Rulebook brought out the raffle book & the song was sung with gusto before Rocky performed his first skull. Now you tell all that to anyone & they just won’t believe you!

  18. Haha nicely done Tom. I confess I gave up trying to guess what Sandy was talking about as he busied himself pre-match, strapping tape in one hand and green bottle in the other. Something about dogs, horses, odds, I dunno – it was all delivered in these fervent half-sentences and it was an effort to fill in the blanks. I was trying to prepare myself for a big match after all. You know, like the A1 grand final on Adelaide oval. Jeez no point in changing the routine: there was Sandy as always, and Half-Eaton with his kit bag containing clocks, warming up with some run-throughs in preparation for keeping time. Brian lurking in the shadows hoping for a glimpse. Boz Bozzing. Same as every week. So Griff tells us to “prance” when we get out there. Brilliant. Put em right off their game. The Bob Neil chant debuted late in the last. No wonder we got up, and Rivvies only knew the half of it. Pure, exhilarating, hilarious madness, every week. Boz Bozzed those West End cans into eskies on ice, don’t you worry about that, the “10 year drought” champagne that had been rather hopefully bottled saw the light of day, and Sandy, with tears in his eyes, made sure every one of us had a healthy swig of the green ginger. Beautiful.

  19. Michael Kenny says

    Tears of laughter and a tear or two of reminiscence for Sandy Cockburn. Fond memories of listening to his tales of what “mum” had recently cooked for him or the current price of beef or pork. A working class hero who loved the Blacks with an abiding passion and amateur footy with almost equal passion.

    A sensational read Tom, many thanks.

    btw I reckon from the photo that I haven’t aged a bit since ’86!!!

  20. fantastic Tom – how the young ones should lament the good ol days…today they play on SACA prepared ovals, use credentialed trainers, magnetic clipboards, forward, back and mids coaches, electronic scoreboards, long and short stops…… and ….Boz……….apart from Boz us old farts enjoyed extracting putrid tarry substances from our every orifice after game, the gnarly hands of legends such as Sandy, coaches struggling to comprehend the Bob Neil phenoma, the dulcet tones of Chocka at the Welly/Dover/…, tepid showers & warm magnums of champers (the Hickinbotham Cup) after the game against the college poofters…but West End and GW transcends all…..thanks for the memories

  21. Brilliant, Tom, brilliant. One still tries to extol the virtues of Stone’s Finest; kids today, however…and (coughs) No, Mick, you haven’t aged a bit…

  22. Great words Tommy. Stories like this build and reinforce tradition. I’m gonna ask for a dash of GW in my west end at the footy tonight.

  23. David Gordon says

    Love your story Tommy! Reminiscing about Sandy and his Ginger wine, I remember a cold winter’s afternoon on Park 10 (maybe ’87…anyway it was the year when the Uni Oval “bog” was dug up and fitted with new drains and we got re-located there). At half time in the A’s and in a very cold, damp changeroom Sandy produced a shiny Green Ginger bottle from his kit, then insistently put a splash into several of those famous, mouldy, green plastic cups grabbed quickly from an old yellow Coke crate. I don’t know whether I really needed a hit of Stones at the time but I hadn’t been in the side long so felt honoured to have that cup of green ginger thrust into my hand by one of the true legends of our club (and a lovely, salt-of-the-earth character too). Got to admit, it wasn’t he first time I’d tasted a green ginger wine nor was it the last. So glad to see it behind the bar in the Long Room as it always should be in honour of Sandy Cockburn.

  24. Tom Martin says

    Thanks all for reading and for the colourful commentary. I think it was Swish that added the classic photo that is clearly still bringing unbridled joy to Mick. I’ve heard so much about the ’86 grand final over the years that I’ve started to believe I was there. With the season the A grade is having it might be time to retrieve the T.H. Shuffle from the history books.

    PB, the Coopers’ brewery at Leabrook was bulldozed for a retirement village a few years back, so while your theory about the no-go zone at the end of the Parade might have been creditable in the good old days, it can’t be the answer now. As with most things, in the absence of a clear explanation, the blame must lie at the feet of one Boz Maloney. Coopers are yet to devise a means of putting their ales into aluminium cans in remotely drinkable form, which would mean the weekly run to the Scout’s recycling centre is out of the question.

    Later today my 1999 premiership team-mate Ryan Eagle (Is Not A Dirty Word) arrives in sunny Perth with future Blacks champion son Jack and wife Kate, who is the sister and niece respectively of the White Blackers Tom and Ian. Bryan and I will now probably spend most of the afternoon schlepping about Perth to find a carton of WED. Perhaps we might settle for a swig of Stone’s to take on the ferry down the Swan to Freo tomorrow. We’re having lunch at Little Creatures and will be joined by Guy (Very Very) Badman and family. Little Creatures is a favourite haunt of the Western Hipster, so it would be fun to whip out a red tube when we’re there but I suspect that in that environment the detection of such plebeian refreshment might cause some form of industrial alarm to sound and the premises to be evacuated. As much as we would enjoy seeing all the board games packed away and the fixed gear bicycles disappear into the distance, there will be mouths to feed and we must think of our own little creatures.

    So that we are fully prepared, Rocky I’d be grateful if you could please consult with Sam for his view as to the proper collective noun for a group of hipsters. A ‘flask’ seems apposite but I’m sure that those unconventional slaves to convention have already come up with something much more post-modern. Sam’s thirst for West End suggests an exquisite sense of irony, although genetic factors cannot be excluded at this stage.

    Chocka, I believe you – always have.

  25. Great read Tom. One of my most vivid memories of playing with the Blacks was the final minor round game of 1984 (I think). It was the A7 fixture between AUFC and West Cordon Bleu at West Cordon Bleu. We were out of contention for the finals. That did not deter coach Clone Ball from motivating his charges pre-game through a viewing of Debbie Does Dallas (on a 1970s TV with VHS). Given we were being flogged and it was a dark. cold winter’s day Green Ginger Wine was being distributed to all and sundry prior to 1/4 time. Did it change the course of the match? No. Were we warm and content at the final siren? Yes!

  26. Bob Neil voted number 7 in abc legends of south australia – making the first 6 feel very special

    Sandy Cockburn was originally trainer for semi centrals / port districts but “loaned” to adelaide uni if his club didn’t play finals

    It was the greatest loan since the Marshall plan and bretton woods

  27. Ryan Eagle says

    Tommy let the Sunday hunt for West End Draught in the West begin.

    If Bob was willing to trade his Datsun for a six pack of West End Draught then surely it’s good enough for the rest of us mere mortals and you can’t beat the warmth of a quick hit of Stones.

    No doubt in 100 years time the Blacks will still be signing about and consuming West End Draught and Stone’s Ginger Wine.

  28. Raj Singh says

    Nice write up Tom a look forward to an upcoming article on the art of inswing bowling

  29. I’m still getting over the demise of Southwark in a can…

  30. G’day Tom. Love the piece.

    It does get chilly in Queensland, especially on clear nights. While Bundy is the preferred drink Up North – as Phillip White points out in the link you include, the Stone’s comes out more than you might think. XXXX of course is the WED equivalent – I like both those beers (I am a ‘cask’ beer drinker). We Queenslanders have a special cocktail to ward off the chill. It’s called a ‘boilermaker’. Remove the top from your stubby, preferrably on a post or corner of some description. Swig to leave some room. Fill with Gringer (as Stone’s is called up there). Ah, the boilermaker.


    PS Would it be an ossuary of hipsters?

  31. Tom Martin says

    Thanks JTH, the ‘boilermaker’ would be right at home in the repertoire of Bob Miles ‘High’, barkeep of the Long Room at Beautiful University Oval. We might have to redub it the ‘engineer’, whether for cultural reasons or the uncanny echoes of ‘ginger’ and ‘beer’. Jags was obviously on to something earlier, although I suspect the only Stone’s at Adelaide Oval last Friday was secreted in (or from?) private hip flasks.

    Speaking of flasks, ‘ossuary’ has a lot going for it. The wife also suggested ‘girdle’, with similar skeletal connotations.

  32. Great to hear from “chocka”, Daddsy, Nose and Michael on this topic and to remember Sandy with all his virtues. Great that the Club immortalises this and the legend is carried on by “kids” who never knew Sandy. Green Ginger in the trainers’ room was a highlight on a cold Saturday arvo. “Come here Diggers”.

    And yes “chocka”
    “I had to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.”

  33. And well written Tom.

  34. A jamjar of Hipsters.

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