Written by Dave Spence
At 1:50pm this Saturday Sydney University will Host Inner West Magpies at Sydney University Oval 1 in the Premier Division Men’s. However, on this occasion more than just four premierships are on offer. The Peter Ramus Cup will also be on the line as the two club face off in Round 2 of the 2021 AFL Sydney Season.
The Peter Ramus Cup was inaugurated in season 2008 to honor Sydney University Australian National Football Club (SUANFC) stalwart and former Western Suburbs junior official Peter Ramus, with the Cup taking on even greater poignancy with the passing of Peter in early 2009.
In many cases clubs join together to honor two respective club legends (e.g. Hird-Archer Medal) when they play each other but in this case both Inner West (formally Western Suburbs) and Sydney University wanted to recognise someone who had contributed magnificently to both clubs.
Peter Ramus was known at the Sydney University footy club as “Branch”. He was actively involved in the Sydney University club’s affairs for over four decades after initially starting his time at the club as a player. This was followed by stints as captain and coach of the senior team, and then as a long-serving official.
Peter originally played with the Newtown club, which was at the time a powerhouse club in the Sydney AFL competition. However, he soon developed a strong connection with the nearby Sydney University club. Peter would often play and coach the University team on a Saturday in the Second Division competition and then play for Newtown on the Sunday.
It takes a particular type to match the competing demands of playing good quality football and extreme sociability. “Branch” was most adapting at it and successfully lead Sydney University on several intervarsity campaigns.
A favorite story about Peter Ramus is how he once “out-coached” former Australian rugby coach Dave Brockoff. Peter was training the AFL team on the University’s No. 1 Oval which included in its ranks the then first grade Sydney Uni rugby player Greg “Huey” Harris (who later coached East Sydney to three Sydney AFL premierships in a row and was chairman of selectors at the Swans under Ron Barrasi and Rodney Eade). The rugby and AFL teams shared the use of the oval for training; Brockoff then coaching the University rugby team spotted Harris training with the Aussie Rules team and summoned him to his end of the ground. “Huey” refused and continued to train with the AFL team much to Brockoff’s displeasure. Ramus had the lure of a keg after training on offer for his team!
Peter became very highly involved with junior footy in the inner west after his playing days. He became Vice President, President and Coach of the Western Suburbs junior club and together with the unerring support of his wife Jan they were largely responsible for regenerating the club. With the support of the Wests senior club and Sydney AFL inroads for the code was made into schools in the inner west. These achievements have been built on and have provided a solid foundation for further growth of the game in this area, thus sustaining the Western Suburbs senior club with local players.
Peter was an active member of the Sydney AFL History Committee and was the driving force behind the past player reunions held in conjunction with the Sydney AFL Grand Final. He also provided strong support and practical assistance to the Newtown Junior AFL with the compilation of their historical resources. He was highly delighted with the re-formation of the Newtown club albeit in a junior form.
Fortunately for all his admirers Peter was present at Picken Oval, just around the corner from the family home in Ashbury, to view the inaugural clash for the Peter Ramus Cup. Many friends from the local football community were in attendance that day to witness a classic encounter. Wests held off a spirited late fight back by Sydney University to secure the cup at its first offering.
This Saturday it is in contention again with each club hosting the Cup in alternate years. Sadly, “Branch” won’t be there, but his memory will live on – and not just when ‘Wests’ plays ‘Uni’.