By Peter Argent
Any former footballer who was lucky enough to win a flag will tell you the connection with premiership team mates is a rare bond.
It’s not just the long-lasting euphoria of the grand final siren sounding when you’re in front, but those memorable days in future years – the recounting of feats at premiership anniversary reunions.
On Saturday, July 17, at Eudunda Oval, there was a special 40-year reunion of the Eudunda Football Club’s 1981 successes in the Barossa and Light competition, when the club won the A grade, Reserves and Senior Colts flags.
It was also a celebration for the Robertstown premiership team of 2001 in the now defunct Mid Murray competition.
An amalgamation of the Eudunda Roosters and the Robertstown Roos in 2010, the Southern Saints currently play in the North Eastern Football League and are coached by 2015 West Adelaide Premiership captain and Jack Oatey Medalist, Robertstown junior Chris Schmidt.
Looking back four decades ago to the early 1980s, there was a fierce rivalry between Eudunda and Tanunda.
At A grade level, the clubs faced off in three consecutive grand finals from 1980, with the ’81 season decider being the Roosters’ last A grade premiership.
Adding to the sporting antagonism between the clubs, every one of the Barossa and Light Reserves grand finals from 1978 had been between the Roosters and the Magpies, with Eudunda winning all four deciders.
“It was a great weekend of celebration, and I think by the end of it, Tanunda had lost about 50 games in one day,” quipped Eudunda 400-game champion Greg Post.
“We certainly celebrated the day. ‘Ming’ (the club’s late great full forward Graham Minge) kicked 13 goals in that grand final, which must still be a record in the Barossa Light and Gawler Association.
“It was a great day for the Southern Saints as well, who had a good win and the weekend was a great step forwards as we celebrated Eudunda and Robertstown football and netball premierships, with so many stories being told,” Post said.
“The best yarns I heard for the weekend were from two old blokes who played in a premiership in 1951, some 70 years ago.
“One told of the games at Robertstown West, when the Eudunda boys travelled to the game on the back of a lorry.
“The publican at Point Pass (the small town half way between of Eudunda and Robertstown) always donated two flagons of port to the team with one provision – that the contents were to be consumed on the oval.
“There must have been some very relaxed footy played.”
From the Robertstown flag-winning team of 2001, there is still a participant from that team playing currently, 38-year-old Nick Schmidt, older brother of the current coach.
“Yes, I was 18 back then,” said Schmidt, a state country footballer for SA.
“My late premiership team mate of ’01, Neil Mosey, was represented by his son Todd in this game as well.
“Back in 2001 we defeated BSR (Blanchtown Swan Reach) by about four goals in the end at Swan Reach Oval.
“It was a great night of celebration last Saturday, with the commemorative jumpers we wore being auctioned.”
One of the many generational links is John Michalk, a Eudunda under 17s premiership footballer in 1981 and Roos 2001 Premiership player – nick-named the “Incredible Michalk” because of his imposing physical stature – and his son, Jed, who played at centre half back in the round 10 win over North Clare.
There are plenty of other family connections that were celebrated on the day.
Vice-Captain of the 1981 A grade team, Gilly (Kym) Schulz, who is currently the team manager of the 2021 Saints A grade side, and son Kane, now a member of the team.
A premiership half back in 1981, Stephen Prior, also had both his sons, SA country footballer Andrew ‘AJ’ Prior and 50-game SANFL league footballer with Central District Matthew Prior, in the team.
The Wagner family connection to Eudunda is unique.
One of the club’s oldest Life Members, 92-year-old “Bip” (Wilfred) Wagner, played in four A grade premiership’s for Eudunda. The first was in 1946 in the County Eyre League, the second in 1951 in the Mid North competition and then two flags followed in the Barossa and Light in 1959 and 1960.
Bip Wagner’s son, Anthony, was a member of the 1981 Premieship side, playing as a dashing rover.
The Schmidt connection at Robertstown goes back a couple of generations.
Chris and Nick’s father, Mickey, and their uncle, the late Lindsay – a triple Mail Medalist across a couple of leagues – were champions of their era.
Mickey always wore the number five jumper for Robertstown, while Nick – winning premierships at Tanunda and a Mail Medal – and Chris with West Adelaide in the SANFL would also don the same number.
Lindsay Schmidt’s sons, Tim – an AFL footballer with Sydney and the inaugural coach of the GWS Giants AFLW team – and Sam Schmidt, a Mail Medalist at Mintaro-Manoora, were also accomplished players.
The Eudunda-Robertstown Southern Saints are currently second on the 2021 North Eastern Football League ladder and will no doubt be keen to write another chapter into the football history of these towns.
Sign up to see all the news from around the SANFL each week – directly in your inbox!