Old Woollen Footy Jumpers – Gerry (The Torp) Both: Adelaide Uni Blacks. A Blast from the Past

Gerry Both Adel Uni 3Gerry Both Adelaide Uni 2

Swish Schwerdt’s amusing article on his Adelaide University Blacks guernsey had me fossicking through my wardrobe to shake the mothballs out of my own jumper (number 136; woollen, long-sleeved).  I also had a lace-up sleeveless guernsey but I think that when I went overseas on my post-doc, a younger brother snaffled that one.  Goodness knows what fate it met.  The woollen one looks like it has seen a game or two, in fact over ~120 before I left for the USA.  There is a rust mark on the front and the 3 in 136 is barely survives but the memories came flooding back.  A short history follows with some names mentioned, some of whom re-emerged in my life 20 years later.  Apologies for mention of personal achievements but as this age past glories are all I have left!

I started with the Blacks as a fresh-faced 18 year old rover (never tall enough to be anything else) in the A2 Reserves in 1967 and rapidly progressed to the lofty heights of the A1 reserves at the time that Alan Greer was coaching the A1s near the end of their golden era.  Paul Rofe, Ian Hockridge, Ian Edgley, Val Bondar, Rob Meucke and Neil Beagley are just a few players that come to mind.   Like the A1s, the A1 res lost in the Grand Final that year to Teachers College at Alberton Oval, which was disappointing but at that age I thought that another chance would come along next year.  Still, it was a good year; I developed my “torp” (albeit with a ball drop that was too high and both arms outspread for balance) and finished with the Alan Greer trophy that year as B&F.  1968 saw me in the A3s with John Trowbridge as the other rover.  Long drives to Port Adelaide to play on Semaphore oval (?)  is the main thing that sticks in the mind.  We only finished eighth but another trophy appeared in the cabinet for Most Consistent player in A3.  In 1969 I played in both the A3 and A2’s with guys like John McMurtrie (Macca), John (Fish ) Keily, Peter (Railway) Crossing, Des Menz  and Rod Aistrope, to name a few.  The A2s finished disappointingly in fifth place, but, to my surprise, the inaugural F. Bloch trophy appeared in the cabinet for the highest B&F points scored between two grades (neither total being enough in A2 or A3 grades).  After starting the A2s in 1970 I finally made it into the A1 team in about round three with captain Paul Rofe,  Jimmy Katsaros, Jock McFarlane, Morrie Croucher,  Ben Hunt, Micky Thorpe, Peter Bruce and Tom O’Malley.  Tom was later to say that I was the tallest five foot six he had ever seen; I think it was the neanderthal-length arms!   We were undefeated after eight rounds and beat Flinders University on the Wednesday prior to heading for Intervarsity in Melbourne.  How good is this, I thought!  Well, we were dumped from first division at IV and came back to the horror scenario, well documented in the club’s history,  when all teams in the club were stripped of their points for a (we thought) minor selection irregularity due to pressures associated with fielding teams during university vacation.  I note that the amateur League Tribunal was awarded the JT Goose Memorial Trophy that year for services rendered.  This was the club’s most infamous trophy, usually awarded for acts of stupidity.  It was the only way that the A1s could be stopped from winning three consecutive premierships.  We lost only three games that year but just missed the finals.  It was probably my best year of football and my best chance to win a premiership.  It was a cruel blow indeed.

I was chairman of the Social Committee that year as well and with the club in turmoil there wasn’t much to celebrate.  In addition, the coach Peter (Lizard) Vivian promised that he would conjure up a sports car for us to raffle as a fund raiser.  This also proved to be a major challenge as it transpired to be a small Honda sedan but we finally sold enough tickets to make a modest profit.  He also convinced the winner, a lady from north Adelaide, to part with another $1000 as a donation.  The man should have been an insurance salesman; in fact I think he was! To cap off a tumultuous year I was very surprised to be awarded the trophy for Best Clubman in 1970.  I was still naive enough not to have  even considered  the possibility and it remains the most treasured memento from my time at the Blacks.  I played solidly for another two years, mostly in the A1s and played my last game in 1972 (the highlight scoring 51 goals as a rover that year).  The lowlight of my career was that in my last game against Glenunga, teammate Tony Brown suffered a devastating neck injury which ultimately cost him his life.  Having been knocked out myself against SPOC two weeks earlier in a similar collision, I recognised how unlucky he was.  Vale Tony.

There is now an almost twenty year gap in proceedings while I went to New Jersey on a post-doctoral fellowship (2.5 yrs), came back to the ANU in Canberra as a Queen Elizabeth Fellow (2.5 yrs) and finally landed my first real job with the CSIRO in Sydney in 1978 (where I still live).  It transpired in 1989 that the son of a fellow scientist (Peter Molloy) was playing after school with a mate when that mate’s father took Peter into his cellar to discuss/sample wine (….as you do).  There on the wall were a few footy photos and as Peter was browsing he saw my name.  Did you play with Gerry Both, he asked?  Yes said Tom O’Malley, he was my rover!  This led to the discovery of a nest of former Blacks players in Sydney and a ten year career in touch Aussie Rules, a unique game played under unique conditions.  We played it like half-court basketball using a soccer/rugby field.  Those who turned up were paired according similar (in)ability.  With help from Rob Forbes (A3, 1969 and other teams) we even had black and white T shirts made for each player; white for the Crocks and black for the Gerries (as in geriatrics).  We aimed to run and tackle but it was more like “plod and touch”. Once “tackled” you had to stop until someone ran past for the handball.  Goals could only be kicked from a mark and kicks were required to go over the cross bar and between the uprights.  Anything over twenty five metres was good kick!  Players during this ten year period were Tom (elbows, knees big mark, tap it out again) O’Malley, John (bald head, footy hat, short pass on again) Trowbridge, Ben Hunt, John McMurtrie and Peter Bruce (until he did his hammy big-time).  Other notables also turned up regularly, including Grant Brecht (Sydney Swans psychologist), Rob McClean (McKinseys) and David Morgan (Reserve and Westpac Banks) as well as sons, friends and those who just wanted a “run” including a rugby union player called Rob (lots of tow, wobbly dob).  The season usually culminated in a dinner for plodders and partners.  One memorable one was chaired (literally) by Macca who in his role as chairman of various things insisted that all jokes has to go through the chair; no private conversations made for a unique and hilarious occasion.  I retired in 1999 at the age of 50 after we lost Tom O’Malley to cancer but the memories linger on as do the friendships.  These are now maintained with the Greys functions thanks to Rulebook’s organisation.   Who’d have thought that a simple story about an old footy jumper could evoke such a response?


  1. Dr Goatboat says

    Gerry, it wasn’t just any social committee, it was “Relax with the Blacks”……not sure what budding marketing tyro dreamed that up….tended to complement the queens head and the britishnquite nicely….
    Yes, Vivian did sell insurance, got into bother trying to do a deal with the club I believe…his father in law Syd carried the water bucket and towel ( aka: medical kit).
    Morrie Croucher was your co rover I believe for some time….
    I remember that fateful day at glenunga, I was BP to tony brown at FB….
    Peter Bruce was the resident Marxist ….
    The IV at the George Hotel……well that’s for another time…watch this space…
    dr Goatboat ( aka michael thorpe)

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says


    Great to hear tales of the Blacks in the era(s) before mine.

    The rows of old team photos on the walls of the change rooms immediately spoke to me about the club I was joining.

    I played alongside Neil Beagley once in the early 80s, as he answered the call during Uni holidays and he did quite nicely in a Park 9 forward pocket.

    Swish (The Hurried Left Foot Snap) Schwerdt

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great stuff Gerry loved it , fantastic and fun memories Peter Bruce rang the other day and it went to message bank but he didn’t leave his number so if any 1 has his contact details please send them thru , other names mentioned in the article I haven’t got there details and harassed in to joining the Greys are john Kelly , Rod Aistrope and Peter Vivian
    We are up to 80 Greys financial NSW based members and 545 overall and want to keep growing , look forward to catching up on Sundsy July 20 Gerry ! Go the blacks
    We are the worlds greatest f c

  4. Tom Martin says

    Love it Gerry, the accomplishments of the Blacks alumni never cease to impress.

    There are stories in the Blacks mythology, both comedy and tragedy, that I have heard (and retold) so many times. You were there.

    Really enjoyed reading this, great stuff.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Gerry. Good to see the jumper still fits.

  6. charlie brown says

    A really belated comment from me Gerry….a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful read. This kind of history is so important. Brilliant stuff.

  7. Terry Schultz says

    Gerry, greetings from my wife Di (Gilding- Nuriootpa) and myself, Terry Schultz. I played with many of those Blacks you mentioned.
    Good health and best wishes.

Leave a Comment