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The history of Woodville Rugby Union Football Club

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

History will show that the Woodville Rugby Union Football Club (originally known as the Port Adelaide Club) began its playing days on grounds at Birkenhead and Pennington in 1933. At the beginning of 1934 the club used a ground called Cheltenham Gardens and the playing jersey was in horizontal stripes of black and amber. The club delegates then negotiated with the South Australian Rugby Union to secure the Woodville Oval for use on alternate Saturdays from May 1934.

From 1936 the Port Adelaide Club became the Woodville Rugby Union Football Club (WRUFC) since they were playing in the Woodville District. The forces behind the Port Adelaide/Woodville Club at that time were W.J. Case and J.V. Case – a father /son combination. (J.V. Case was also secretary of the Woodville Cricket Club). The oval consisted of an iron shed, wooden box seats and a chip bather heater. If someone did not bring along small pieces of wood and paper then everyone had a cold shower after the game!

During the 1940’s the WRUFC developed into a very competitive team, hosting its first visiting team from Sydney. A Northern Suburbs team of various grades played two matches with Woodville losing by 10 points each. A grand ball was held in the Woodville Town Hall to celebrate the weekend with great success.

The Football League and the WRUFC continued to share the Woodville Oval on alternate Saturdays until the early 196O’s when the Woodville Football Club was admitted to the South Australian Football League. This saw the relocation of the WRUFC to the Gleneagles Reserve at Seaton. At that time, the reserve was only in an average condition compared to the well-grassed areas of Woodville Oval but it did have an old tin garage that had been converted to a change room, electricity, and showers. There was also a very dilapidated bicycle track around the ground which was removed at a later date.

In 1962 the club obtained a loan from the Woodville City Council and the first main building was erected at a cost of 2,500 pounds. The ground was fenced by the Council. The grand plan was for this area to include tennis courts and a bowling club but this never eventuated. Originally, the social area of the original building served as the team dressing room with curtain tracks (courtesy of the Woodville Town Hall) installed across the centre of the room to give privacy.

The mid fifties were golden years for the WRUFC as they won three first-grade premierships in a row and were always among the top two or three teams in the State.

The Second World War saw a number of members enlist in the services, including Don Smith who, very sadly, lost his life in the sinking of the HMAS Perth. Don was an outstanding athlete who captained both Woodville and the State. In 1946, the inaugural Don Smith Award was introduced and this is presented to the most outstanding rugby player in South Australia. WRUFC has organised and provided the award since inception and many Woodville players have won this prestigious trophy over the years.

Many WRUFC players have represented Australia in international events including Ted Fidock, Hartley Davis and Basil Scott who toured Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) with a composite Australian team. Ray Wilke and Garry Savage played in an under 16 Australian team that toured New Zealand and Michael Files played for an Australian under 21 team at the Sydney Cricket Ground against New Zealand.

Over the years Woodville teams have toured instate on numerous occasions and have developed strong club links with Victorian sides from Box Hill and Geelong. Other tours have included games in Albury / Wodonga NSW, Wentworth and Mount Gambier. The WRUFC has also hosted a large number of Navy ships coming to our shore from Britain, New Zealand and Australia. One of these ships – the HMAS Cerberus – has visited a number of times.

To ensure our club remains strong for the future, we place a large focus on the development of our junior sides. In 1997, the formation of the Western Vikings Junior Rugby Union Club occurred – a combination of two Western Adelaide Senior Clubs – Woodville and Port Adelaide. In 2013, junior rugby returned to Woodville with the inclusion of one team representing u7/8’s. This has grown in leaps & bounds with 2017 seeing 2 teams of under 6/7’s, and teams in the Under 8’s, Under 10’s, and Under 12’s age groups.

2017 saw the first Under 12’s side in 30 years play in the Grand final, and whilst they were not successful in taking the trophy, the respect they won from the whole of the playing community was on show. Finishing 4th after the home and away season, the new breed of Under 12’s played with true grit & determination to get the opportunity to play in the Grand Final.

2021 sees the juniors grow again with an Under 18s side taking the field, for the first time in club history meaning we will be fielding a side in all grades.

It is an exciting time to be a Woodville Wasp supporter / player / member.

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