July 18th 1993 and 20, 246 people packed the Adelaide Oval to see the very first professional rugby league match staged in South Australia. On that occasion, an impressive Canberra Raiders side out muscled league leaders St George Dragons 30-2.
The Australian Rugby League was preparing for four new clubs to join the competition in 1995 and despite Adelaide not being one of the four, the league wanted to test the interest of the sport in an unknown landscape. 20, 246 people was their answer.
But the league had no room for a team out of Adelaide and their birth into the professional rugby league world would come from Super League.
In early 1995, the Super League War was in full swing and News Limited were on the hunt for a tenth team to finalise their competition for 1996. With both St George Dragons and the North Sydney Bears eventually staying loyal to the ARL, News Limited were in a quandary.
But not for long. They remembered those 20, 246 people that filled Adelaide Oval in 1993. In June 1995, the South Australian Rugby League were offered the final franchise in the rebel competition.
The Adelaide Rams were officially launched on 13th December 1995 and nine days later appointed Rod Reddy as its foundation coach. With the courts ordering Super League off for a whole twelve months, the club appointed Liz Dawson as their very first Chief Executive. The first woman to be given this role in any of the Australian football codes.
Given time to form and build the team, the Adelaide Rams would have eventually been a success in the city of churches. But in a time where rash economic decisions were made to further their competition, the Super League simply did not have time to mould the club.
With twenty-one clubs already set to play in both the ARL and Super League competitions respectively, the Rams were limited in the players they could buy.
News Limited had already spent upwards of $500,000,000 securing clubs and players for their Telstra Cup premiership. The Rams would eventually pay dearly for not joining sooner.
Adelaide’s first captain was former Australian international Kerrod Walters. The Rams also secured the services of fellow veterans Alan Cann and Dean Schifilliti.
After two away losses to begin their 1997 campaign, the Rams hosted Hunter Mariners at Adelaide Oval in their first home game. A crowd of 27, 435 turned up to see the Rams down the visitors 10-8. The club would eventually only win one other game at home throughout the year with a 36-16 win over the Penrith Panthers.
Despite a horrible season on the field and player depth a serious issue at the club, the Rams were spared the axe when the War concluded. With the ARL and Super League coming together to join the National Rugby League, Adelaide was made one of the twenty clubs in the new competition for 1998.
A 1-9 record to begin the year saw coach Rod Reddy bench Walters, Tony Iro and Noel Goldthorpe. This would eventually see Reddy sacked and Dean Lance appointed in his place. With ongoing issues continuing with the South Australian Cricket Association, the Rams moved to the much smaller Hindmarsh Stadium where they thrashed the Balmain Tigers 52-0 in their first appearance at the ground.
The club won four of five matches between round 16 and 20 to once again escape the wooden spoon but would eventually lose their last four matches.
With the new millennium on the horizon and a re-structured fourteen team premiership coming into place, News Limited counted their losses and pulled their funding from the club in early 1999. The team was actually away in pre-season training when they got the news that they would not be competing in the 1999 premiership.
In hindsight, the Rams should have been saved for the future of the NRL. The people of Adelaide proved early on that they wanted to support the team and with smarter economic planning would have been a success in the competition.
Sometime in the future Adelaide will once again have their own rugby league side to support.