Sandstone Rugby Factory – Green and Gold Rugby

Sandstone Rugby Factory

Sandstone Rugby Factory

They might have gone down in the hunt for a record-breaking seventh Shute Shield title, but Sydney University’s rugby club has still been pretty damn successful over the last few years.

Five Uni players are in the Australian squad facing New Zealand on Sunday: Dan Vickerman, Berrick Barnes, Ben McCalman, Luke Burgess and Nick Phipps.

Six premierships and a record number of elite players, all from a club that was in danger of being kicked out of NSW Premier Rugby in the mid-1990s after years of bad results. Their success is based on the creation and development of their Elite Development Squad (EDS)  in 2004 by current head coach, Todd Louden.

Players in the EDS train for eleven months a year, with a real focus on heavy weights and speed training. It’s all part of a philosophy of rugby as the ultimate collision sport, which Bruce Ross has written about here. Combined with a strong off-field culture, this approach has produced results that speak for themselves.

G&GR tracked down Phil Waugh, Tom Carter and the other men responsible for Uni’s success to find out more.


  • fatprop

    great piece, well done!

    • Jnor

      Thanks, fp. I should add credit to BaaBaa for his Wallabies commercial for the opening footage too.

  • Swat

    Yeah, really enjoyed that. Go the students!

  • pete88

    Hopefully the competition pinches all their secrets and Australian rugby can have more factories. Really surprises me that it took a semi-pro organisation to invent some of the equipment they’re using, but it’s good to see a setup with in our sport that values physicality.

    • Bruce Ross runs a business that manufactures and sells the rugby training equipment shown in the clip. More details on his blog:

      • AngrySeahorse

        I like the look of the line-out lifting one.

  • Jez

    Here comes the trolling…

  • Great article Jnor,

    I’ve read Bruce Ross describing physical imposition rugby before and love it as a stated goal to play and train towards.

  • Bay35Pablo

    Some dispute Uni is the oldest club. The records at the time are a bit sketchy, and Uni unsurprisingly takes the most favourable reading for them.

    Dan Vickerman and Berrick Barnes. Great Uni junior products ……

    As Phil Waugh says, when a bloke finishes school it’s a good club to come to. So jettison the junior club you may be playing with, and made you the player you are, and come down and join Unit the team with palrty juniors!!!

    Uni is doing a great job, and more clubs should be like them, but no matter what they say the linsk with the Unit when utlisied properly as they now do give them however sligh an advantage.

    I won’t conede the culture. Nothing they said differentiates them from any decent rugby club. Difference is they also have a winning element.

  • Darkhorse

    While you have to credit uni for what the program they have set up, they can hardly claim Berrick Barnes and Dan Vickerman can they?

    If they were able to produce a couple of their own players it would be nice as well – and by ‘own’ I mean someone that has played with a subsidiary club at any point in the juniors.

    • Darkhorse

      Ah sorry Pablo I didn’t see your post.

      Just to clarify my post above, it would be easier to respect uni if they had a more active hand in producing juniors. I will admit that their rugby program has unquestionably helped Australian rugby.

  • Davo

    So I was doing squats in the Sydney uni weights room last summer and (I’m pretty sure it was) Luke Burgess gave me a compliment on my form!

    Happiest day of my life

  • Kiap

    cheers – good vid

  • Oli

    What a great piece!!

  • cyclopath

    Well done, Jack. Well put together. While the argument about juniors and development has been had many a time, and has its good and bad points, there is no doubt they have put in place an enviable set-up for “developing” players to that next level. If we had several more clubs get to this level of set-up and organisation, how much better would our club competitions, and thus the provincial (and higher) stocks be.
    And Bruce is a thinker whose input we should seek more, rather than less.
    Great stuff.

    • Jnor

      Thanks for the comments, Cyclo. It’s be great if other clubs had this kind of set-up and in time an ARC would have developed that to some degree.

      One of the reasons I think so many Uni players have made the step up to provinicial level especially is that the step for them is not as big as with players from other clubs and so if they are picked on form they’re maybe a bit less likely to have problems adjusting to the demands of a Super team.

  • Chunderstruck

    Awesome to see some emphasis on scrum and physical dominance, more of this everywhere please!

  • gorod

    im pretty sure luke burgess originally came from waringah

    • topo

      I don’t think you’re right on that one. Burgo grew up in Maitland and went to Joeys so didn’t play junior club rugby in Sydney. Played Colts for Uni and went to Easts for a while when he couldn’t get a run at Uni. Came back to Uni last year.

      • AngrySeahorse

        Correct Burgo came from the Maitland Blacks from good ol’ country NSW & went back there to visit the old stomping ground before the RWC.

  • Matt NT

    The major reason for Uni’s success can be put down to very deep pockets. But they can’t buy premerships forever. How about a write up on the team that actually won this year. Eastwood. (Methinks a few old school ties at G&GR??). The woods played consistently brilliant football all year (and last year) which was a pleasure to watch compared to the, at times, dour waratah super 15 games we had to to sit through. Go the woodies!!!

  • Putting it out there

    It may not be sandstone, but isn’t Brisbane GPS rugby the real Rugby Factory of Australia..? Once again, that might come down to deep pockets….. Just inciting some debate.

  • Tedward

    As I see it it all comes down to cash & connections. A young player looking to make a career from rugby would be unlikely to kick on being the best player for the Two Blues or the Emus more chance being noticed with Uni, Woodies or Randwick.

  • bro

    sick oooooooone

  • DNor

    Gordon Bray would be jealous!

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