Last week it was confirmed that the NSW GPS 1st and 2nd XV competitions in 2013 will involve just six schools:
- Newington College
- St Ignatius College (Riverview)
- St Joseph’s College (Joeys)
- Sydney Church of England Grammar (Shore)
- The King’s School
- The Scots College
The schools will play two rounds, home and away, and play just one trial game before that.
What are the other GPS schools doing?
Their 1st XVs will play in a competition with the 3rd XVs of the other six schools.
High was already playing in the 3rd XV competition. It had withdrawn from the 1st XV comp in 2008 after interest in the sport had dropped, as it had in other selective schools outside the GPS.
In 1983 21 rugby teams ran on every Saturday for High, but by 2008 the ethnicity profile of its boys had changed. That year only 32 boys registered for open rugby, compared to 79 for soccer. It hadn’t won a Ones game since 2001 and after a flogging by Joeys 112-0 in Round 1, High forfeited the other 2008 games to protect the lads from injury.
After 106 years the school that produced great Wallabies John Thornett and Peter Johnson, and Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer, withdrew from the 1st XV competition.
High is the only public school in the GPS and selects its students on an academic basis. Alumni have criticised the school for taking such a narrow view on enrolment. As “Steve” said on the SHS Old Boys Union website:
What a disgrace that GPS tradition and history has been sacrificed for the last 15 years to focus on academic intake which was always well above average in terms of HSC results in the first place.
Its time to make some hard decisions and make Saturday sport compulsory again. Who knows, it may even be helpful to focus on sport and develop social skills / friendships that will last a lifetime for even the most academic of students. Perhaps the school ought to increase the weight of consideration given to students who are willing to participate in more than just the classroom.”
In 2011 the High 1st XV played in the 2nd XV comp and struggled, winning just one game, against the Grammar Twos, but in 2012 they played in the 3rd XV competition. They were competitive and beat Newington and Shore.
The Armidale School
Their 1st XV was competitive in the 2nd XV competition last year in every game but one, and they beat Riverview. They should be one of the favourites in the 3rd XV competition.
Grammar haven’t won a 1st XV game in the last 4 years. They decided to have one last try in 2012 but lost all their matches again and shipped over 300 points in their last three. Like High in 2008, Grammar has withdrawn from the top competition for the sake of player safety. The lads played with great heart in 2012 but they will find the 3rd XV competition a lot more enjoyable and safer.
Alumni of Grammar, or Old Sydneians as they are called, are not happy about the deterioration in the rugby results of the school that produced famous Wallabies Alec Ross, Col Windon and Johnnie Wallace. They fear that Grammar will follow High into rugby oblivion.
Old Sydneian, “Pooks”, commented on Green & Gold:
Why does the school continue to recruit scores of pupils only interested in a UAI over 95? The school needs to look at students who give back to the school.
“George Smith”, not connected with the school, mentioned:
The school needs to start from the ground up. That is, the U13s and U14s and start getting really good skills developed in a ‘safe’ environment well before they are really tested in an ‘opens’ age group that is characterised by a whole team of well developed physical and technical skilled players.
To ensure a sustainable solution is obtained a leaf from Grammar’s rowing program is needed. That is, develop core skills, gain a little momentum of success, allow the school kids to celebrate and support the success and then enjoy the ride.
The Super Six
They will find the going tougher with 10 hard competition games in 2013 compared to only 5 in 2012 (plus Grammar.) This will test their depth as the CAS found out when they went to two rounds in 2009.
The draw, not finalised yet, will be trickier for them too. Usually the reserves of a side come from the the team playing before them, but in 2013 the 3rd XVs will often not be playing at the same school as the Ones and Twos are.
Not everybody is happy with the changes and the marginalisation of the weaker GPS schools; certainly not the headmasters of High, Shore and Grammar who are reportedly pointing their academic fingers at the recruitment policies of others.
They may have a point, said “Think About Rugby” in the Green and Gold Schools forum:
GPS rugby is doomed in 2013. The idiots who have taken away the amateur schoolboy game have won. In doing so they have destroyed the competition. I hope they enjoy playing against the mirror! I am sure the trophy will gleam.
But many have been calling for exactly the type of competition that the AAGPS has come up with for 2013: two rounds involving the top six teams, instead of one round and too many trials — but with the proviso that if the other GPS schools prove themselves they should be let back in.
Do they have a chance to get back in?
Perhaps the Grammar people, in particular, can take heart from one of their old school captains who made a comeback. As a young barrister he wrote to a friend:
“My prospects are worse than ever – you do not know the slenderness of my chances.”
But things turned out OK later for the Old Sydneian. Edmund Barton became the first Prime Minister of Australia, and one of the founding justices of the High Court.