Nineteen hundred and sixty-seven co-incided with the final year of Parade’s East Melbourne existence – and yet in the sporting sphere it heralded a genuine first.
For 1967 was the year in which the College fielded its maiden rugby union team, the Parade Rugby XV - and how the group came together is a tale in itself.
The story revolves around the XVs Captain of that year, Bruce Cornwell, who in 1966 as a boy of 15, relocated with his parents and siblings from Sydney to Melbourne.
Fate dealt its hand when Bruce’s father accepted a position as Manager of the Moreland Hotel when the six o’clock swill made way for 10pm closing.
“Dad had run the Carringbah Hotel in Sydney, which boasted the biggest beer sales in the southern hemisphere, and had also worked at The Rex Hotel in the Cross,” Bruce said.
“When Dad got paid big money to run the Moreland we all moved across and lived together in the pub . . . that’s when I joined Parade.”
Though Bruce’s early school years were spent in Adelaide where he was exposed to
Australian Rules, by his own admission “I was useless at it”.
“But I had been the Captain of the Carringbah-Cronulla team, had also played union for St George juniors and loved it, even though it’s a pretty ordinary game to watch if it’s not of the highest standard,” he said.
“At 16, I weighed in at 15 stone and stood 6’2, so I was a strapping lad at Parade. There, myself and a few mates got talking about a union team and although I was captain I wouldn’t claim the idea outright – a few of us were interested in getting the team going and one of them was Eddie Kondys, a League football exile.
“The Czernys, Julius and Charles, were good at it, and I think Julius might have later represented his state – that was at about the time I was an active Uni student throwing flares onto the field during the Springboks Tour in ’71 and I got jailed for that.”
Three years later, Bruce returned to Sydney, based on two mitigating factors.
“It was the end of July 1974, and I remember throwing a bucket of water to get the ice off the windscreen of my car in Fitzroy, which was pretty ordinary,” he said.
“There was also quite a lot of political repression at the time and the special branch of the police was pretty ordinary – but that’s another story.”
Though his memories of those first few union forays as a Parade player aren’t vivid (and he concedes that Coach Br. Donohue knew precious little about the game) what remains etched in Bruce’s memory is the guernsey. As he said: “It was a great jumper - lime green with purple collar and cuffs – quite startling it was too”.
A quick flick to page 45 of The Paradian of the year, and one can find the following glowing appraisal of the College’s inaugural union leader: “Bruce Cornwell, the captain, proved himself a strategist, looking always to the disposition of his ‘troops’. His captaincy was forthright, diplomatic, a source of unity, and was much appreciated by the coach”.
The unnamed correspondent was equally generous in his praise of the fledgling team members and of the game of union itself.
“After nearly 100 years of Parade’s existence there came to its official sporting activities the greatest game of football to come out of Olde England – Rugby Union Football. (The school also plays another English game – Cricket!),” the enthusiastic author wrote.
“We are pleased to record that about 20 boys played for Parade and obtained a new lease of life, besides rounding off their education. To these 20 pioneers of the game at Parade goes much credit for displaying the courage of their convictions, comradeship, sportsmanship, and for being a credit to their school.”
A total of 21 “pioneers” are featured in the ’67 team photograph – Michael Audley, Christopher Blampied, Garry Brown (Vice-Capt.), Ron Chadwick, Len Cook, Bruce Cornwell (Capt.), Samuel Crisi, Charles Czerny, Julius Czerny, Bernard Horsley, Damian Kelly, Edward Kondys, Terry Murphy, Rory O’Connor, Neil O’Farrell, Peter O’Neill, Kevin Prince, Alfred Quadrocchi, Stephen Tomming, Thomas Watson and Kevin Youlden.
With Br. Donohue the resident Coach, Parade’s XV fronted up against the likes of St Kilda CBC, Army Apprentices, Box Hill, Nunawading High School, Powerhouse, Melbourne High School, Brighton Grammar and Melbourne Grammar. The team managed four victories from 11 matches through the ’67 winter and rounded out the season with a 3-14 loss to the Victorian Under 16 Team.
For the record, O’Neill scored the first try for Parade in the opening match with St Kilda on May 23. Julius Czerny so impressed that he was later named to represent Victorian in the Under 16 Rugby Union Carnival – the first Paradian to represent his state in Union while at the College.
And so the die was cast.
“The first season of Rugby was most successful, so much so that there are two acres at Bundoora to go under Rugby Union Football in 1968”.
For the past five years, based on student interest, Parade has fielded teams in a Rugby Union 7s Gala Day convened by the Melbourne Rebels at the Powerhouse Club Albert Park. Last year, a total of 16 boys under the watch of Coach Luke Rosbrook competed in three matches in Pool A alongside the likes of Sunshine College, Fountain Gate - and finished 6th in a playoff with Hampton Park.
To quote the Captain Noah Volau: “Considering our lack of experience, I was very proud of the efforts of all the boys” – which pleases the inaugural Parade Union XV captain no end.