Michael Cheika, a Randwick District Rugby Union Football Club boy through and through and now the coach of the HSBC Waratahs, has inherited a squad dominated by Sydney University Football Club players.
Sydney University, in its sesquicentenary year, has 11 players in the 36-man 2013 squad, assuming Israel Folau doesn’t hit the books in 2013! There are at least another 11 Sydney Uni players at other Super rugby clubs (I count six at the Rebels, one at the Brumbies, three at the Force and one at the Reds).
Randwick, a mere 131 years old, has won 32 first grade premierships and has produced 101 Australian representative footballers and 195 New South Wales representatives. Since 1996, when rugby went professional, 11 Randwick men have made their first appearances for Australia and 33 have made their first appearances for NSW.
Sydney Uni has won 27 Shute Shield titles, including seven of the last eight, beating Randwick in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
This year Uni won 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 5th Grade, 1st Grade Colts and 2nd Grade Colts, and were minor premiers in 4th Grade and runners-up in 3rd Grade Colts.
Whatever is said about the Students, and much of it is uninformed, they know what it takes to win. From back office to front row, they are ‘best practice’ for any sports club. They produce excellent candidates for Super Rugby and the Wallabies.
The same was said of Randwick in their pomp. Fairfax, Hawthorne, Smith, Catchpole, Ellas, Campese, Poidevin, et cetera.
Michael Cheika’s job is to merge two of the greatest cultures in Australian rugby in the past 50 years with his own style.
There are significantly more similarities than differences, despite the tired and outdated stereotypes of each club.
He is well equipped. Simply put, he has the work ethic of the Sydney Uni machine and the desire to run the ball from halcyon Randwick days.
This is not to say that previous Randwick teams lacked work ethic nor that Sydney Uni doesn’t run the ball. It is more a matter of instinct, interpretation, emphasis, perceived brand values, subtle variations and ways of thinking.
In one of his first decisions, Cheika chose Pat McCutcheon to be the Club Captain. Pat is a long-serving Sydney Uni player and a no-nonsense country guy.
I both contend and hope that there is little actual differences. The dynasties have many similarities: self-belief, a winning attitude in the form of both a unstated arrogance or even intimidation, and also courage when things were not going to plan.
If Cheika gets it right, and with the cultural change already afoot at the Waratahs, we could be talking of the HSBC NSW Waratahs as the rugby equivalent of Manchester United. By combining an exciting rugby team in a large, sports-mad city, with a global sponsor and the power of social media, anything is possible for the Waratahs regionally.
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