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Adelaide Rams

Sean Fagan of

Bruce MamandoThe NSWRL long had hopes of eventually having a team in the South Australian capital. Laying the groundwork began with games being taken to Adelaide Oval, the most successful being in 1991 when 30,000 fans packed in to watch St George take on Balmain. Winfield Cup games taken to Adelaide proved to be much more successful than any taken to Perth or Melbourne in the same period.

An Adelaide consortium under the control of the South Australian Rugby League, lodged an application in mid-1994 to the ARL to join the expanded 1995 premiership - it was announced that the side would be named the Adelaide Aces. The bid was unsuccessful.

On 12 November 1994 the Adelaide Advertiser reported that News Ltd's 1996 competition would include a South Australian club. It announced that Sydney club would relocate to Adelaide Oval and would be named the Adelaide Aces. Events would soon see the end of that plan.

The push for an Adelaide team gained serious momentum once the SARL signed on with Super League in June 1995. While it seems Super League's preference was for a Melbourne team, the VRL had remained loyal to the ARL slowing down progress. The Victorian government was also hesitant to provide any assistance or support.

In December 1995, with Super League still only having nine clubs for its 1996 competition, the organisers hastily returned to South Australia to put together their Adelaide side. John Ribot made a number of relevant comments at the club's launch in (13/12/95) about why Adelaide was invited into the 1996 Super League competition with virtually no preparation and how the Rams name was selected.

"Adelaide was preferred over Melbourne as the 10th franchise because of the enthusiastic acceptance of Super League by South Australian Premier Dean Brown and the move by the SARL to switch to Super League recently."

"Due to legal constraints that have prevented us from negotiating with existing clubs who have expressed a desire to join us, we have decided to fast-track Adelaide," Ribot said. "Victoria is going to happen, but Adelaide put up their hand first."

"The Adelaide Rams name is readily identifiable with strength and hardness. The interim label of the Adelaide Aces was too soft, and did not have the required identity and "branding" necessary for a Super League team," Ribot explained.

The local media though pointed out that the name "Adelaide Rams" was actually a discarded tag that had been originally proposed for the "Adelaide Crows" AFL side.

Super League franchises from around the country were then asked to provide a couple of players each to boost the Rams' stocks in the few weeks remaining before the 1996 season. Impressively, in that same short period, the Adelaide Rams sold 7,000 season tickets for their home matches at Adelaide Oval.

The Adelaide Rams played two trial games in 1996 losing to Canberra in Fiji and defeating Perth by 14 points in Darwin. However, the Super League was brought to a shuddering halt by the Courts and the 1996 season never eventuated. While the players dispersed across the ARL competition for the season, the fans kept faith for 1997 with two thousand of them not seeking a refund on their season ticket/seat.

When the go ahead was given for the 1997 Super League competition in October 1996, sixteen of the Rams original 21-man playing squad returned to Adelaide including Rod Maybon, Kevin Campion, David Boughton, Alan Cann, Chris Quinn, Dean Schifilliti, Andrew Pierce and Mark Corvo.

Also joining the team was the Brisbane international hooker Kerrod Walters. The Rams were coached by ex-St George players Rod Reddy and Tony Smith (as assistant).

Adelaide performed credibly in the ten-team Super League competition. The Rams won six of their 18 games and had an average home crowd of 15,000. Although they finished in ninth place, only two points covered positions six to ten in the final standings.

The Rams enjoyed wins over Hunter (in their debut home game), a 29-18 demolition of Cronulla at Shark Park and twice found Penrith's measure, particularly the final game of the season where the Panthers were crushed 36-16.

The World Club Challenge also provided the Rams the chance to secure some more wins - in Australia they thrashed all three of their opponents. In the return games in England, Adelaide again beat Oldham but suffered defeats to Leeds (at the famous Headingly ground) and Salford.

The Adelaide Rams only representative player in 1997 was Kevin Campion who turned out in two games for the Queensland Origin Tri-Series team.

In the meantime, a number of younger players grabbed some limelight - in particular Luke Williamson, David Kidwell and Adam Peek.

The Rams survived the December 1997 "peace-deal" unlike their counterparts the Hunter Mariners and Perth Reds. Unfortunately for Adelaide, Super League's new team - the Melbourne Storm - had already snared the bulk of the available players. The Rams were bolstered for the inaugural NRL competition by Noel Goldthorpe, Tony Iro and Matt Daylight. After the season had commenced the club also secured the services of Deon Bird and Graham Appo.

1998 turned out to be a disaster for the Rams. By the end of the season there were few positive points to reflect upon. The on-field performances were at times so bad, that it is surprising that the Rams managed to hold their home crowd average to 7,500 faithful fans.

Producing only one win in the opening seven games drove the club apart, eventually resulting in coach Rod Reddy being shown the door. Reddy was sacked in early May after the club rejected a team for the game against Canberra - the coach had intended to drop at least four star players from the starting 13.

Out of work Perth Reds coach Dean Lance took Reddy's place. Lance turned things around slightly, thanks largely to on-field efforts led by Kerrod Walters, which saw the Rams eventually finish the season in 17th place (of 20 teams).

The Rams permanently abandoned the open spaces of Adelaide Oval in round 15 with a "Steel Cities" match against Illawarra in Whyalla - the Steelers won the match 39-4 to further dishearten the few remaining loyal fans who had travelled from the capital city. In the following three rounds Adelaide delivered their best run of the season - they thrashed the Gold Coast Chargers 40-12 at Carrara, embarrassed Balmain 52-0 at Hindmarsh Stadium in the club's finest performance ever and defeated the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the SFS by 34-18.

An important milestone looked set to be achieved in the final home game against Manly. With Dean Schifilliti ruled out on the morning of the match by back spasms, the Rams called upon local 17 year old Para Districts player Adam Glover as his replacement.

A member of the ARL's Developing States squad, Glover's inclusion in the Ram's first grade team would see him as the first Adelaide Rams local junior to play NRL. However, five minutes before team lists had to be submitted to the NRL, Schifilliti declared himself fit and Glover watched the Sea Eagles from the Hindmarsh stands.

In the final game of the season the Rams looked set to cause a huge boilover at Marathon Stadium as they took an early 3-try lead over the semi-final bound Newcastle Knights. However, Adelaide (wearing predominantly gold jerseys) were overrun in the second half and eventually beaten 34-20. The end of the season saw Tony Iro gain representative honours for New Zealand to become the Rams only ever Test player.

Adelaide Rams 1998

With the NRL deciding to keep twenty teams for the 1999 season, the Rams set about on a buying spree to help secure their tenuous position for the impending 14 team competition of 2000. At a pre-season launch in November of 1998, the Rams trotted out their new squad in jerseys more closely reflecting the traditional colours of South Australia. The team at this time had all settled in to Adelaide and included new players Luke Priddis, Albert Torrens, Jason Ferris and Terry Hermanson.

However, amidst the hope for the future, the St.George and Illawarra merger triggered further talks between the NRL partners. Adelaide was told by News Ltd: "We have concluded that further significant financial commitment by News, in addition to funds received from the NRL, is not financially viable". The Rams Board had desperately sought out alternative funding and merging with a Sydney club to no avail.

On 1 December, while the players were away at a training camp in Strathalbyn, the Rams closed their doors. Their promising 1999 team never took the field.

After being selected in an ARL & Institute of Sport development squad, Adelaide teenager Nathan Vagg joined Cronulla. A prop forward, Vagg made his NRL debut for the Sharks in May 2003.

Copyright © 2006 - Sean Fagan. All rights reserved - the article above may not be reproduced (in full or part) in any form without written permission.
Copyright © Sean Fagan 2000-2006
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