Almanac Rugby Union: The Battle of Greenhill Road



The Battle of Greenhill Road [Source: Author]



It is the local derby this week.  The Battle of the Eastern Suburbs.  The Battle of Burnside Council.  Old Collegians versus Burnside.  The Battle of Greenhill Road.


There is plenty at stake apart from bragging rights and a cup.  It is fourth versus second.  Both sides are sitting at 4-2 and separated by two bonus points.  Brighton is at 7-0 and clearing out in front, so the rest are fighting for the second double-chance spot.


Played on Old Collegians’ home deck, they could argue they are closer to the heart of Burnside.  The Burnside Village Shopping Centre, domain of the fashion mums in their enormous 4WDs, is just a couple of blocks away across Portrush Road.  The scandal-prone Burnside council chambers are just a couple of blocks down on the other side of Greenhill Road.


Burnside are a bit further removed, east along Greenhill Road, then up Glynburn Road.  Just off the Parade.  Kensington play their cricket there.  Don Bradman lived just a few blocks away.  Paul Kelly grew up just a couple of blocks down.  Joined by their love of cricket and music, there was a time when these Australian icons existed just a few blocks apart in a quiet little corner of the city.


Red and blue against double blue.  We are in the red and blue Old Colls camp.  Normally I would be drawn to the double blue, a lifetime following Sturt does that, but we came upon Old Colls first.  Still, red and blue are the colours of Moonta, the old hometown, so it’s not too much of a stretch.


The day gets off to a solemn start.  We arrive expecting the Thirds to be in progress but they are still running warm-up drills in the in-goal.  At the northern end of the ground, we sight a figure prone on the deck.  The tell-tale green on the attending paramedics indicates the seriousness of the situation.  We learn that a member of the Old Collegians women’s team has taken a knock to the neck/head and has not moved since.  The games are put on hold while the paramedics do their thing and the young girl is duly whisked off to hospital.  Word filters back later in the day that while she is badly concussed, she has been cleared of serious injury.


The Thirds kick off late and will play an abridged game to get us back on track.  No complaints are heard from the senior players.  The young blokes just do as they are told.  The Old Colls Thirds are in with a shot again this year.  Some wise old heads and some handy youngsters, they will be looking for another shot at Barossa at the business end.  The expat Englishman should also be a handy addition at flanker or number eight.  At one stage he threatens to break through and score the try of the day but keeps his powder dry.  The Thirds prevail 25-10 but not before our Will Ferrell lookalike cops ten minutes in the bin for a high shot near the end.  Burnside score from the resultant penalty which does little to improve his mood.  Headgear is hurled to the ground.  We’ve got to keep our composure!He  is still dark about it later in the day, thinks the other bloke was only 4′ 10″ anyway.


The less said about the Reserve Grade the better.  Old Collegians are on the wrong end of a 49-17 shellacking.  The sides were evenly placed going in but Burnside are far too good on the day.  No lack of effort from Old Colls, but it is never really a contest.  Maybe Old Colls were a bit under-manned?  Players from the Thirds greet each other with surprise as they find their seats on the reserves’ bench.  There is good-natured talk of the bottom of the barrel being scraped.  A reserve back scored a double in the Thirds before limping off with a knee.  He will be alright running on train tracks, but lateral movement is not an option.  A prop does what props do and comes off for a brief spell after putting a shoulder out then back in.  He’ll be right to go back in, he says.  Shoulders are shrugged (not his though) and out he goes again.  No strapping, no ice, no jab, just back into it.  Props!



Reserve grade. The author applauds. [Source: AJWalwyn Photography @AJWalwyn]


We sample the club BBQ during Reserve Grade.  The wife ventures off and returns with the standard sausages in bread in a couple of tranches.  They are busy at the BBQ so the second batch come straight off the grill.  Maybe could have done with a couple more minutes but, with plenty of sauce, they go down and stay down.  She had toyed with the idea of a bacon and egg sandwich but they were out of bacon at the time – and eggs.  Hey, that’s just bread and sauce, I said.  Her trips to the BBQ and canteen are beginning to resemble the song ‘I make hamburgers’ by The Whitlams.


The Premier Grade kicks off at 4pm, later than usual.  That half hour makes a difference in the second half when the floodlights come on and the cold night air sets in.  We were in bloody t-shirts for the Thirds!


It threatens to be a tight contest and does not disappoint from the outset.  Open rugby but still tough when in tight.  Tacklers are realising they can linger in the tackle without rolling away as the rucks go back in time to some retro rugby.  If only we could go back to some old school rucking!


Old Collegians have to draw on their bench a lot earlier than hoped.  They have lost their Nos. 1 (head knock), 15 (hamstring) and 2 (knee) for the day, with only 30 minutes on the clock.  Down 3-7 at time, Old Colls will have their work cut out for them.  You do not want to lose two thirds of your front row against another top four team.


Burnside look to be in control and,with all the possession and territory, they stretch their lead.  Old Colls are hanging in.  A late try in the far corner keeps them in touch at 8-14 at the half.


From our vantage point behind the bench, we are able to witness the Old Collegians coaching staff up close.  There are calm heads throughout.  Frustration and disappointment are evident at times, but never allowed to boil over.  Lessons are reinforced to those watching from the bench.  The coaches just want to see an effort, some endeavour, a sign.  The head coach has already played a game in the Thirds today but is in civvies on the bench this week.  There is a game to be won at half-time but he also makes sure his young son has a sausage and hot chips on the bench.  The manager disperses a generous supply of snakes to the reserves on the bench.



Great vantage point [Source: Author]


It has been a tough contest.  The crowd is engrossed, such that the excited shouts of the livestream commentator ring out across the ground at crucial junctures.


On the hour, Burnside plunge a dagger close to the heart of Old Collegians as a clearing kick from a forced turnover fails to find touch.  The Burnside winger retreats to his own half to take the ball, the first Old Colls chaser over-commits and is out of the play in an instant, the next potential tackler is beaten, and the afterburners are turned on.  Untouched, he streaks away to score in the corner.  Such a momentum swing can prove fatal.  Desperate defence saves a try on one touchline, only for the retrieved ball to be turned back over and a try scored down the opposite touchline.   Burnside are now up 26-11.


Still, Old Collegians will not be denied.  They make progress through a string of penalties.  They probe at the Burnside line without luck until the Old Colls winger puts on one of his big right foot steps to go over from close range.  He makes something from nothing.  He gives Old Colls some hope with ten to go.  A missed conversion means they still need two scores.


Old Colls are pressing again inside the 22.  They display some of their most consistent ball use all day.  They keep probing on the right again.  The half looks to spread the ball back across the park and the pass goes down right in front of the posts.  The knock-on call is touch and go.  Probably a rugby league knock-on.  Still, the pass was there to be caught.


A scrum is set with four to go.  A good Burnside scrum, but Old Colls are on them as soon as the ball comes out.  A hurried Burnside clearing kick won’t find touch.  The Old Colls winger comes forward at pace.  He looks to have it covered until the fickle ball drops and swerves late on him in the night air.  The knock-on is clear.  The low floodlights didn’t help his cause either.  The Burnside bench rejoices.  The Old Colls bench deflates.


Old Collegians play it right out but, when you are chasing the game, every little mistake counts.  This is exacerbated when you have men playing a lot of time in positions they were not expecting to occupy.  Double-duty, extended duty, shifting the magnets, it all catches up eventually.


Burnside continue to play expansive rugby well into ‘red time’, seeking the bonus point try which they ultimately find.  Fancy footwork puts the Burnside centre over on the left.  33-16 at the end and we are happy for the referee to blow time.  Burnside have struck a telling blow in the battle for the double-chance.


Old Collegians will be seeking redemption when Port Adelaide make the trip across town this week.  Bring it on.



Burnside. The victors. [Source: Author]



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Dour opener and close-checking fullback. Peaked early.


  1. A tale of courage in the face of adversity.

    Loving your coverage, Greg!

    Will you attend the clash when Burnside take on Brighton?

  2. Thanks Ian.

    Burnside v Brighton after the long weekend does look appealing. Only a five minute drive away so it may well get the nod on that day.

  3. Daryl Schramm says

    A good read Greg. You have quite possibly convinced me to attend a match before the year is out. You describe the Burnside CC localities well.

  4. Cheers Daryl. Free entry so it is easy to wander in and out you see fit.

  5. Thanks for this, Greg

  6. Cheers Smokie.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m really enjoying these reports Greg. Keep them coming please.

  8. Cheers Swish, will do. Glad you enjoy them.

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