ASSOCIATES Rugby Union Football Club (Soaks)
The Club was formed in 1948 as the University Associates (affiliated with the University of Western Australia) by a group of ex-servicemen: Athol Gibson, Dan Davies-Moore and Hilary Morton. Their initial aim was to form a team as the University old boys’ team. Associates needed to recruit from outside the University arena and chose the Adelphi Hotel in the city (located where the Parmelia Hotel is today). Members met in the Saloon Bar after Saturday morning work; many players were recruited for their first game for the Club just because they happened to be in the Bar.
When looking at the Club’s performance across the decades, it can be summarised as great in the ‘50s and ‘60s, a slump in the ‘70s, revival in the ‘80s, success again in the ‘90s and consolidation in this decade culminating with a very successful end to season 2012 with Soaks winning Premierships in Firsts, Seconds and Colts. Over the past 65 years Soaks has been Club Champion (most points for seniors and colts games)seven times, first winning the award in 1965 and Healthway Champions (for senior and junior grades) eight times. In the Senior grades: the Colts teams have won 26 premierships; the Firsts 12; Seconds six; Thirds five; Fourths six and Fifths and Sixths one each.
A trigger for the change in fortunes in the ‘90s was the construction of the Clubhouse at Swanbourne, completed in 1988. After 40 years, Associates had a permanent clubhouse and grounds. The Club originally played on the University grounds then moved to the Nedlands foreshore in the 1960s. They shared grounds with Nedlands Rugby Club until ‘83 when Allen Park in Swanbourne became the Club’s grounds. The Clubhouse in the 50s was the Captain Stirling Hotel where teams were selected on Thursday nights in the lounge bar. The names were written on the back of brown paper bottle bags and were never again seen by the administrators of the Club! The Clubhouse was moved to the Nedlands Park Hotel (Steve’s) in the early ‘60s with a year at the Mounts Bay Sailing Club in 1962; then the Swanbourne Sportsman Club from 1983 to 1986, then the Ocean Beach Hotel in 1986 and 1987. From 1979 – 1882 several proposals were put to the Nedlands Council for the building of a clubhouse at seven different locations, including Allen Park. The use of hotels as Club rooms for nearly 40 years finally ended in October 1986 when the Council approved the current Clubrooms to be constructed.
The Club developed a strong association, which continues today, with the Special Air Services Regiment in the ‘70s when long-time Club member Dan McDaniel was attached to the Regiment. When the Clubhouse was built, a major cost was the removal of a sand dune. Through Bruce Hughes and Club connections, an army manoeuvre was conducted by the Engineering Corps to clear the site.
The Associates Juniors was formed in 1986 by Roy Hart and Richard Trend. There had been earlier failed attempts to form a junior section to Associates. What started with this very small group has now grown to over 237 junior members in 2012. Over the years many players have been selected in State Junior teams and the junior players have provided a significant pool of talent for the senior grades. The Associates Colts (Under 20s) have been an integral part of the success of this Club and have been winning championships since 1966.
A number of players have reached significant milestones : Geoff Stooke played his 600th Club game in 2011; Michael Valentine his 500th game in 2010; Bruce Hughes, David Hurst and Richard Trend have played over 400 games; and Denny Bennett, Brett Dickson, Paul Carter and Greg Pritchard over 300 games. We have players from generations of the same families; in season 2012 this included across both Juniors and Seniors:- Trend; Norcross; Valentine; Rovira; James; Brain; Carter; Gleghorn; New, Bowles, Jagger, Cayley, Kailis, Hunter, Clarke, Morgan, Masibaka, Tinley.
On the Administration side of the Club, Soaks was the first Rugby Club in Western Australia to elect a woman to the position of Club President. Edna Rovira was the Club President for four years from 2004 to 2007 inclusive. The Club boasts one of the longest-serving administrators in WA Rugby in Eric Hall who was Club Secretary 26 times in the 32 years from 1962 to 1994. He joined the Club in the mid-1950s, was selected in the State team; played over 100 Club games by 1962 and was made a Life Member in 1973. Eric died in 2010, and left a bequest to Associates which is used for Club development.
Over the years the Club has had many characters amongst its fraternity and lots of fellowship. There are tales from the 1960s of limp falling when “Falling over, suddenly and quietly, lying still on the floor for five seconds (no longer) then getting up and resuming your conversation, caused fright among the elderly” according to Gordon Dawson; Jim Coad’s sister Christine was nominated as the Soaks’ Miss Rugby entrant; and Denny Bennett clambered up an arch at Steve’s to the consternation of his mates. In the ‘70s there were kegs at Bob Perman’s parents’ house; chicken and champagne evenings and a Soaks Revue at Bill Lloyd’s mother, Verna’s house; trips on Denny Bennett’s boat the “Super Ugly”, and many more wonderful times.
From this it is evident how the nickname Soaks came about, with the early players renowned for their parties and love of rugby. Not much has changed in the ensuing years as Associates has grown to become one of the largest and most successful Clubs in WA. Today the Club has over 500 Senior and Junior players and many more Members. The Clubhouse is a hive of activity during the playing season, and an important place for current and past players, and supporters to gather to talk about the season that was and what the future might bring.