2018 changes to Sydney schools rugby fixtures - Green and Gold Rugby

2018 changes to Sydney schools rugby fixtures

2018 changes to Sydney schools rugby fixtures

Some significant and potentially valuable changes will be made to the 2018 GPS, CAS and ISA rugby fixtures.


  • GPS, CAS and ISA schools will continue to play one round intra-association comps at the end of the season.
  • The extended series of pre-season trial matches will be expanded to include all ISA, GPS and CAS schools.
  • The scheduling of trial matches will focus on ‘grass roots’ needs. These include ensuring more matches are played between teams of similar ability and enabling schools, where possible, to play most of their games at the one venue.
  • An ‘inter-association comp’ is not in the pipeline for the foreseeable future. This is due to the very high value still placed on the traditional intra-association competitions by the schools and old boys’ networks.

This article outlines the pros and cons of recent comp formats and the 2018 changes. The objective is to present a balanced view, address some of the key misconceptions and promote further constructive discussion. If you’d like to share your thoughts and perspective, make sure you post a comment at the end of this article.

Knox (CAS) versus Joeys (GPS) 2017

Knox (CAS) versus Joeys (GPS) 2017


I’d love a dollar for each time I heard someone say..”they’ve killed a perfectly good comp; why fix what wasn’t broken”. The recent 10 game, two round comp played by GPS and CAS, had plenty of fans. Key reasons were:

  • it made for a series of significant length, with many saying “this year’s five game comps felt like they were over before they had even started”
  • it favoured tradition, by being played amongst schools that have (in many cases) battled it out on the rugby field for over a century, and
  • it made for some highly anticipated return clashes, where the opportunity to claim revenge for a first round loss was available.
Waverley (CAS) versus Joeys (GPS) 2017

Waverley (CAS) versus Joeys (GPS) 2017


But the 10 game format also had several significant shortcomings.

It wasn’t a great format for schools (or teams within schools) who were getting beaten by big scores week-in-week-out. The prospect of a return clash against a team that had put 50 points on you the first time around was hardly motivating.

And it wasn’t much chop for teams within schools who had to play each other (or the same teams from other schools) week after week, because the other schools didn’t have the same depth in every age group.

Put simply, the 10 game format was great for players and supporters of the more successful teams and teams from schools that had a regular opponent of similar ability each week. But it was not a good arrangement for everyone else, and that was a lot of teams and players.

Joeys versus Shore 2017

Joeys versus Shore 2017


The 2017 changes to the GPS and CAS programs were an attempt to leverage many of the benefits of the intra-association competitions, while addressing some of the key shortcomings.

Tradition was retained, albeit in a truncated format, with one round five game intra-association GPA and CAS comps. And the opportunity to play games outside of the usual competitions was created through the scheduling of a series of trial games between the GPS schools and some of the stronger CAS schools.

But despite some noble intentions, the 2017 season missed meeting some of its key objectives. In particular, mismatches still occurred frequently and many schools still had to send multiple teams to multiple venues, making for logistical nightmares for those responsible for scheduling matches, transport arrangements and food for the boarders.

And in some extreme cases, some teams didn’t get a game some Saturdays.

Barker 1st XV vs Joeys 3rd Xv 2017

Barker 1st XV (CAS) vs Joeys 3rd XV (GPS) 2017


Like in 2017, the schools will again play a one round five game comp, within their own associations, at the end of the season. But before that, the trial games will be expanded to include schools from GPS, CAS and ISA.

Certain schools will be combined into ‘one line’ in the draw so they can compete, collectively, against a larger school or another collection of smaller schools. For example, it’s anticipated that St Augustines and St Pius will combine their fixtures and play against larger schools (or other collections of other smaller schools).

The aggregating of schools and scheduling of matches will have a ‘grass-roots’ emphasis by focussing on the number of teams a school (or a combination of schools) can field, rather than just the standard of the school’s 1st XV.

Knox versus Joeys 2017

Knox (CAS) versus Joeys (GPS) 2017


The anticipated benefits of this new format are it:

  • respects the desire for many schools to keep their traditional comps
  • gives boys in teams at ALL levels better and more varied games with teams of a similar standard, where mismatches will be (as far as possible) eliminated
  • enables schools to play (the majority at least) of their games at the one venue, and
  • assists the relatively smaller schools to develop their standards and increase player numbers because of the significantly better set of games their teams will experience.

Barker 1st XV versus Joeys 2nd XV 2017


This is currently not in scope and a key reason appears to be a broad-based reluctance within the schools (and the old boys networks) to expand competition games outside the traditional school associations.

However, if an inter-association comp were to be played before (or after) the five game intra-association comps, then tradition could be retained.

It would allow for more games of ‘genuine consequence’ and address a key criticism of the current model, which is that 7+ trial games is simply too many.

Also, if the aggregation/’playing two or more schools in the one line of the draw’ model works well (and address mismatches and other ‘grass roots’ issues) then why couldn’t those trial games become comp games?

For example, where two schools play in the one line, they could elect at the start of the season, that one school’s 1st XV competes in the 1st XV comp and the other schools 1st XV in the 2nd XV comp, and so on. And it would be business as usual for the bigger schools.

It wouldn’t be perfect, but at least the games would provide more than just bragging rights.

What do you think? Enter your comments below?

Barker 1st XV versus Joeys 2nd XV 2017

  • Greg

    Does John Papahatzis know about the idea to combine St Augustines and St Pius? :-)

  • Johnno

    It’s a bit disappointing these minor-reforms.. They didn’t go far enough(not remotely) and it seems this is what the CAS/GPS schools are saying(ISA has been more progressive as they only started in the 1990’s)…. But it’s clear these reforms say the following.

    It’s the year “2017” and these GPS/CAS schools value outdated traditions over modern society/modern life. In soccer we scrapped the outdated NSL, we should scrap the GPS… Old boys networks wins for the worst for OZ rugby. And also most students and parents are not even part of these old boys networks, it’s just the school boards and headmasters that are calling the shots..

    2) Schools rugby culture: These schools have also made it clear in the year 2017, they don’t see it as there role to be rugby factories to be elite talent factories for the ARU and making the wallabies competitive vs the All Blacks isn’t a priority.. It’s a big F** U to the ARU, that they want to be left alone and stop being pestered or pressured from Australian rugby(fans and ARU) to be rugby factories and unlike in NZ where the schools have given up there rugby sovereignty and let the NZRU run the schools program and make the schools rugby factories(despite concerns and protests by some kiwi parents about the rugby obsession the NZRU and rugby factory culture now in NZ schools) they press head in the name of All Black dominance. These Sydney private schools don’t have the same desire or allowance to be pressured by rabbid OZ rugby fans/or ARU to turn there schools into rugby factories. Well in saying that I don’t want to see these headmasters publicly complain about the wallabies woes vs the AB’s if they are not willing to be part of the solution nor see it as there role to be rugby factories to be more competitive vs the AB’s…

    3)Merged comp: This should of happened but “tradition” sadly in this case has won. CAS for example, has been a Knox/Waverley monopoly for a long time now. Cranbrook for example have won only 1-title in 23 years and were hopeless this year. Not sure the last time Trinity/Aloys/Barker won a title.
    The sydney division-1 title should of been Scot’s vs Waverley, but instead these schools could only play in trials if they played this year. Scots have won 5 straight GPS titles. None of these monopolies and dominance by the big schools is good for developing elite talent. But hay the headmasters don’t see it as there responsibility to develop elite pathways and talent so they won’t buckle and fix there competition structures to make the wallabies more competitive and our super rugby sides. Stuff like commercialisation of schoolboy rugby. blockbuster matches $$, and making money, and TV deals $$, and big local derbies, this sorta of stuff just aint a priority for these headmasters. Im sure the parents must be getting annoyed by this, and they want there kids to get a rugby edge in more competitive structures. Well I want big crowds and commercialisation nd tv deals for school boy rugby like in other countries e.g. NZ have a big major sponsor and tv deals, 1st 15 rugby is very commercialised there despite some parents complaints about this corporate culture and rugby factory culture obsession. I want big money spinner wider audience blockbusters, and Scots vs Waverley fighting for the Sydney title would have got a big crowd and tv ratings. But no the outdated headmasters don’t want such hype and commercialisation, they are a “closed shop” not a wider audiences business model.

    4)Junior club rugby the future:
    This latest strategic direction by the sydney private schools, has re-affirmed my point, most schools in OZ don’t have the resources/desire/or facilities to produce elite rugby pathways and competitions… It’s now up to the ARU to invest heavily in junior club rugby and make it the focus to develop elite talent by having elite comps like rugby league has e.g. SG Ball/Harrold Matthews…

    5)Nothing new:
    This is just re-spin they used to do this in the 90’s, play trial games vs other schools, then have a 1 round close association comps..

    6)Merger name: If a merger name was to happen which I support and tams placed in divisions based on strength/or ZONED Geography I’d name the comp ISA…Merging under 1-banner/or admin/and centralization would be better, but alas the headmasters don’t want to produce elite rugby pathways they don’t see it as there problem or desire too…

  • Greg Truman

    Rugby’s fundamental, debilitating problem–one that has now brought the sport to its knees in Australia while it flourishes just about everywhere else–is its history and continued insistence on defining itself as an exclusive sport. While aspects of this plan are positive, it’s still a private school v private school development model. The GPS, CAS and ISA are fine bodies and the standard of footy is terrific, but there are literally millions of kids who play sport and do not attend these schools. They go to government schools and play sport through district clubs. There has to be an outreach from traditional rugby nurseries (and of course the tragically flawed ARU) to provide opportunities for those kids. Sure, a government high school can’t compete with Joeys, but a combined CHS team might be competitive, or a selective bush team. What’s wrong with Sydney Under 18s, 16, 14 etc playing in those ‘trial’ fixtures — or CHS squads (selected the previous season) competing? They’d have to be part of a fixture list that blends their participation on game day with a schoolboy program, but what is there to lose? Numbers in private school rugby programs are dwindling. The standard of the game in Australia is mediocre and Australia’s rugby IQ is appalling. The sport is a whipping boy, and deservedly so, because its culture has traditionally been condescending and acutely self interested. Development can’t only be about improving the quality of the shrinking private school playing base, there is an imperative to create a larger/broader base, drawing on talent from everywhere and giving it structured opportunities to flourish. Nibbling around the edges of the problem won’t work.

    • Johnno

      Agree, but that’s the thing whose gonna pay for CHS rep teams to play on regular saturdays. The NSW State Govt won’t fund saturday sports teachers in public schools(unlike private schools who pay there teachers to coach sport on saturdays).. The ARU or sponsors will hav to be found to fund coaching 3 days a week after school and on saturday(match day).. I agree though I’d have no problem with CHS Zoned teams playing in GPS or CAS etc..

  • Paul Findlay

    As a former old boy and 1st XV player from a GPS school, I’m all for the tradition to be retained. There’s nothing like tribalism and rivalries to drive passion in the game. I think Sydney Club Rugby has proven that over the past couple of years. Every competition is trying to build that loyalty to their product and without it, the game dies.

    However I can’t see why they can’t combine the 2-3 comps currently run into one competition. You’ll retain the traditional grudge matches, increase the numbers of games improving game craft and skills of all teams, and provide opportunities for kids to test themselves against the so called better teams in the Sydney Schools pond. There’s no reason why the current competition tables couldn’t be run concurrently with the expanded comp table, as is the case with the Bledisloe and Rugby Championship, so there would still be a GPS Premiers and a CAS Premier etc. It would also produce a much better Australian Schools Team as the standard would rise across all teams.

    • Johnno

      Ah your wrong on a few points. Modern day kids and parents don’t care about tradition if it means declining playing standards. They want the schools to be about highest competition standards and helping rugby domination for australia and being no 1 ala rugby factory culture. And I’m sorry the mainstream public and rugby fan wants to watch Scot’s vs Waverley more than Scot’s vs Newington or Knox vs Aloys(weak rugby school). Rugby fans in sydney wanna see the best and want a merged comp. And no there are not enough weeks in the year to have two concurrent comps. Now the GPS need to give way and have best playing standards and help australian rugby have rugby domination not outdated comps that are not at the highest possible standards they could be. Rugby domination must trump tradition, playing standards and helping Australian rugby must come first and the and outdated traditions 2nd.. These GPS schoos need to get hungry to beat the All Blacks and scrap there traditions, not have an attitude of we don’t car if the wallabies are 1 or ranked 100 we are not here to help the ARU or australian rugby achieve global dominance and we don’t give 2hoots if we never beat the all blakcs again, that unfortunately is the attitude of these school boards at present. They could have much higher playing standards and merge the comps and have divisions according to strength but alas they peter lopsided scores to keep there outdated traditions and little isolationist power vacuum in place, at the detriment of ARU rugby factory development style culture..

      • Chris Furey

        Johnno – how many times do you need to beat the same drum? Get it through your head that the GPS & CAS competitions span more than just Rugby and are not a production line to feed the ARU. I understand that, in theory, the ideal situation, from a rugby standpoint, would be that Knox play Joeys, Waverley play Scots, Newington play Trinity, etc.. but that is a rugby centric viewpoint that does not span all sporting interests of these ‘so called’ outdated and isolationist schools. These schools also compete in Cricket, Basketball, Rowing, Volleyball, Soccer, Athletics, Rifle Shooting, Cross Country, Tennis, Swimming & Water Polo and cannot simply sever ties in one sport yet presume to retain traditions in others. It is a holistic view which needs to be taken and your continual sprouting that the GPS must do this, the CAS must do that to bow the needs of rugby are simplified and boring. Add to that the simple fact that you are talking about schools which have no obligation to do anything other than meet the expectations of the parents paying the fees. Give it a rest!!

        • Johnno

          Chris, you don’t get it. These schools tax payers subsidise(public money), there”d be no CAs/GPS with out tax payer help.. These schools shouldn’t get away with being isolationist for that reason I said above. And sporting excellence not just rugby but other sports, of the public are funding them they have an obligation to create as competitive sporting environment as they possibly can and not just rugby all other sports they play. And merging into centralised comp based on playing standards doesn’t impact other sports traditions at these schools as local derbies and old rivalries would still happen anyway…


An ex-piggy who once played with lots of passion and not much panache, with the bravehearts, beasts and blue giants.

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