The trouble with Sydney University - Green and Gold Rugby

The trouble with Sydney University

The trouble with Sydney University

Sydney Uni won the Shute Shield again on Saturday.

They won in convincing fashion, too, beating Eastwood by 50. This means they have won eight of the last nine titles, a dominance that shows no signs of ending. They also won second grade, fourth grade, first grade colts and second grade colts. This overwhelming success is now presenting significant problems for the Sydney club rugby scene.

For those not from Sydney, don’t switch off now, please. This is a complex problem with nationwide ramifications. And people from Sydney, know this: I am not affiliated with any Shute Shield club. I am neither a Uni hater nor lover.

An all too familiar sight

An all too familiar sight

The problem is simple: Uni have become too good. Their first grade XV is chocked with Super Rugby stars and their colts XV is similarly stocked with Australian Schoolboy reps. Through a natural building process, coupled with a number of key acquisitions, they are now a giant of the Sydney rugby scene, gobbling up everyone in their path. But the key question is this: how have they achieved this position?

Sydney Uni has no junior program of substance, nor do they exist in a rugby heartland area (the campus is situated in Camperdown, traditionally a league stronghold). They have a proud, long history of competition in Sydney Rugby, but not dominance.

Here is the kicker, though: they are the only Shute Shield club that is an educational institution. They are the only Shute Shield club with a significant landholding in the centre of Sydney. They are the only Shute Shield club with a world-class University. They are the only Shute Shield club with a range of gymnasiums, well-manicured grounds with full-time staff, an aquatic centre, on-site physio and medical facilities, residential colleges, pubs, clubs and Swedish exchange students.

They have a product that is top of the range. To make matters worse (or better, depending on your allegiances),  they have augmented these advantages with a world-class coaching and conditioning program, and have developed a reputation for turning junior stars into Wallabies.

This is the Uni success story. The product gets gun players in the door, and the coaches turn them into Wallabies. Or something like that.

It certainly is something for other clubs to aspire to. The problem is, though, that half of that equation – the important first half – is simply not achievable. Eastwood doesn’t have a Uni campus. Penrith doesn’t have an on-site aquatic centre. West Harbour doesn’t have Swedish exchange students.

The other clubs are not hopeless, though. Some have significant cash reserves, great facilities, and other ways of enticing potential recruits north, or west, or south, or east. But it is fair to say these incentives are well behind what Sydney University can offer.

As a result, we now have an uneven playing field. And the competition is suffering. Animosity towards Uni is palpable, with clubs taking out their anger at being deprived success at almost every level on the obvious cause of this failure. Rugby teams thrive on success – it enlivens players and fans alike (just ask Ewen McKenzie). Because of Uni’s overwhelming dominance, the other 11 clubs in the comp have had very limited success in any grade in the past five years. And it hurts.

The success of Sydney Uni is killing Sydney grade rugby. They aren’t being nefarious, or dodgy. They are simply too good.

Something needs to change to fix this problem.

The ARU has suggested a solution: ban player payments, and implement a third tier competition running from August to October comprising the top clubs from each state and the Super franchises (according to a recent SMH article by Georgina Robinson). But this will not address the whole problem as it currently exists.

Jono Hayes runs the ball A61V1063.JPGBanning player payments is all well and good, but it will hurt the other clubs far more than it will hurt Uni. Uni do not pay players. What they can do is offer access to their facilities: gym memberships, help with their studies, on-site accommodation etc. Add that to their recent on-field success and they can provide a breathtaking package without offering a cent. Other clubs don’t have this luxury. Sometimes they need to resort to dollars and cents to compete.

As for the third tier competition, this makes total sense. It will mean non-Wallaby Super players must remain with their franchises, taking significant weight away from the Sydney Uni competition tilt in all grades (typically the competition is quite close until the Super season ends and the swathe of top players return to pull on the Uni jersey. This creates a domino effect, where good first graders are relegated to second grade, and so on).

That will seemingly achieve the aim of tightening the Shute Shield. So let’s hope it gets off the ground.

But even with this comp in place, the NSWRU still faces big challenges in clubland. The game continues to stagnate out west, despite the recent success of the Parramatta Two Blues. The powers-that-be still seem to lack foresight and enthusiasm to engage the large communities in the outer suburbs. A key example of this was Israel Folau, a man who has a huge following in the western suburbs, especially in the Pacific Islander communities. Considering he would probably not ever have to play Shute Shield rugby, an affiliation with a struggling club like Penrith was a no-brainer. However the NSWRU stepped back and allowed him to sign with… Sydney Uni.

The state’s best junior talent will still be drawn to Sydney Uni, for the reasons stated above. The colts competition has almost been killed off by their dominance, and it has robbed other clubs to develop a solid foundation of future first grade and second grade players. A solution to this problem is not obvious, as most top young players will no doubt be attending University, and the pull factors at Sydney Uni are almost impossible to withstand.

These are crucial days for Sydney rugby, and wise heads are needed at the ARU and NSWRU. If these problems are not addressed then the once-proud Shute Shield will never be able to return to its glory days, or at least have a final where the result isn’t a foregone conclusion.

  • The Ham

    Agree with your comment where you say the third tier “will mean non-Wallaby Super players must remain with their franchises, taking significant weight away from the Sydney Uni competition tilt”.

    That will even up the Shute a bit. But instead of focusing on taking Uni down, bringing on other well resourced sides from Super franchises or teams with licensed club funding, etc to compete at a new higher third tier is the way to go.

    • Hugh Cavill

      I think that’s the plan. According to the article, top club sides (thinking Sydney Uni, Eastwood, Manly) will go with top QLD sides and then the Super teams. So while Sydney Uni may actually leave the Shute, the current problems will still exist in colts and lower grades.

      • Alexander Sharman

        I dont think that will work.

        Pulling SUFC, Eastwood or Manly out of Club rugby to make them “super 3rd tier clubs” would change their entire nature.

        Would players from other clubs at Club 1st grade be forced to “feed in” to the 3rd tier clubs if they wanted to play a higher level?

        What would happen to the lower grades and Colts of the 3rd tier clubs?

        I also doubt that SUFC would want to do this, as part of the culture of the club has always been that any player or any championship from 3rd colts to 1st grade is equally valued.

        I think the only way a 3rd tier can work is ARC style new franchises … North Sydney, South Sydney, North and South Brisbane, and one each for the other super franchises.

        It wont be earn money, and will probably lose it, but the ARU needs to fund a developmental league if we are to stay in touch with SA and NZ, and if we want to stop filling up our Super franchises with foriegn birn and developed players.

        Perhaps Shute shield to finish with the end of the Super 15, so Super players coming back dosnt effect the competition, then a 1 or 2 month 3rd tier.

        • the other dave

          Aussie rules has done just that by promoting the Hills Eagles and Sydney Uni the new NEAFL, which could be a good template. Both clubs still have their grade teams.

      • Marlins Tragic

        Manly will have its guts stripped out of it due to all the local boys being sent off to D grade comps in Melbourne & Perth, so I’d assume it will be a combined Manly, Rats & Norths team in that third teir comp.

        It looks to me that the SUFC mafia have gotten into the Pulverisers ear & told him they won’t support the 3T unless SUFC can play as a stand alone identity.

        Also, spare a thought for Gordon, located in Australias largest catchement area for junoirs who are all but gone from the Shute Shield next year as they don’t have a colts program, courtesy of SUFC!

        I’m a Manly supporter BTW, not a Highlander!

        • Ratty

          The Gordon situation is a tragedy. The top 4 junior nurseries in NSW, by numbers, are Gordon, Warringah, Manly and Norths, in that order. At colts level, Gordon get raped by Norths, and Warringah have good numbers in colts but get their best junior reps nicked by Manly so don’t retain the top quality. At Warringah, many people are trying to get their heads around how to retain their junior rep stars into the colts program, but the senior club is on the breadline. The 2012 Australian schools squad had 4 Warringah juniors in it. One is now playing at Syd Uni, 2 for Manly, and the other one is still at school. So, none of those reps played for Rats colts this year.

          As for how to structure the 3rd teir, in Sydney you have to use the tribalism that already exists around areas like Northern Beaches, North Shore, Eastern suburbs, Shire, Western suburbs, etc. group the District clubs around those geographical entities and combined their squads, caching staff, etc in a rep type format, and share the home games among your traditional grounds, eg Rat Park and Manly oval sharing home games for a beaches side.

          That’s a cheap model that builds on tribalism that already exists, connects you to your juniors, and doesn’t require any further investment or infrastructure than already exists.

        • Marlins Tragic

          The Rats also have an issue with Newport being a very successful club in the Subbies.

          Having 1st, 2nd & 3rd grade teams as well as two colts teams @ Newport will tend to drain away any more players from the Rats colts program, thats about 120 players, tell the Board at the Rats to look closer to home for their woes & not blame Manly!

          For that matter, you could tell them to start nurturing the kids a bit earlier! I was involved with U10’s Reps this year at Manly & our two sides were both “heavily” graded, starting with 80 kids & dropping down to two squads of 18 each, an A & B Team.

          Warringah on the other hand fielded two teams & neither even looked like grading had occurred, Newport’s U10 A’s were under represented yet the Narrabeen U10 B’s were VERY prominent! If this happens all the way up through the age groups then that would be a pointer as to why kids come to Manly later in life & potentially why kids from Gordon bugger off the SUFC!

          FYI – Our two U10 Manly rep teams defeated the Rats, Gordon & Sydney Uni. The Uni team was a combination of kids from Balmain & Petersham, these are the two teams that Uni are responsible for at a junior rugby development level. We also won the U11, U12 & U17 State champs as well, beating Gordon in most of those finals.

          As for a combined 3T team on the Northern beaches I’d be happy to watch a combined Warringah/Manly team, although I’d split the difference & have the team play at Brooky Oval!

        • Stampy

          re: Newport’s representation in the Rats U10 squad – 12 of the U10A’s were selected, along with 3 of the U10B’s. You’re correct in saying that neither of the Warringah teams were graded

  • mike

    Despite their dominance in Shute Shield, they don’t produce many Wallabies, and the ones they do produce are mediocre.

    Looking at the team on Saturday, it is full of very average super rugby players. So while they produce good club players, they offer nothing to higher levels. The value of their much lauded weights program has to be questioned when it only produces park rugby bullies and not Test players.

    • Grant

      That’s a shame, mike, this was quite an intelligent discussion until you weighed in. Out of approx 830 Wallabies, about 100 were or are Sydney Uni players including Nick Farr-Jones, Phil Waugh, David Lyons, Brendan Cannon, Richard Harry and Dean Mumm all of whom came up through the club. Almost 300 Test caps there and If you are calling them mediocre, I suspect you’ll have more than me disagreeing with you.

      Very average Super Rugby players? I haven’t got time to count all the Super games played by all of them but it’ll be in the hundreds. And why are you singling out the weights programme for producing “park rugby bullies” (whatever they are)? Why not the rest of the training programmes?

      Don’t think you’ve really thought this argument through.

      • Tony Dun

        Cannon was a Brissie boy mate, don’t think he came up through the SU club

        • the other dave

          Brendan Cannon came up through Brisbane Souths

        • Grant

          You’re right Tony, my apologies. He was signed to Uni for a long time whilst playing for the Waratahs and the Force, that’s what fooled me.

      • Mike

        Have a proper read of my comment, and try again.

  • Wessell

    Agreed. The Folau decision was a disgrace. The best idea I feel I have heard is for all the super teams to have a B team. I think the best shute shield players would be willing to travel to distant provinces for their rugby careers (as Hodgson did) and it means that all teams would have excellent facilities available by using the same facilities that the firt team does. I feel it is slightly naive at this point to think we can field more teams at that level than that. Furthermore I would think you could create interest by having those teams play in different venues around their respective cities (including western sydney) at very low ticket pricing to try and get more people through the gates. Thoughts?

    • Nedrick

      Yes, and put it on free to air TV ARU you greedy bastards!

  • the other dave

    From what I recall, Sydney Uni’s success stems from the 1990s when they were in dire trouble on and off the field. One of their first acts was to establish ‘friends of SUFC’ which organised donors and corporate sponsorship. With that, they then strengthened their links with SUSF (originally part of the student union, but segregated after VSU). Basically, they saw the natural advantage offered by having a university campus that barbarian mentioned, as well the old boys who were also largely uni alumni, and exploited it. But here’s the thing: UQ has a very similar setup in terms of campus facilities (i woild actually call their facilities better) and access to an alumnus network, but don’t come close to Sydney’s success. The reason is in the professionalism of their setup: Sydney’s coaching is outstanding from colts through the grades, and the club itself is run like a tight ship (sans rum, sodomy, and the lash).

    • Alexander Sharman

      Exactly Dave, uni was threatened with relegation in the mid 90´s, Success came from the ground up through the SU foundation, formed by ex players, the appointment of Manu Sutherland as coaching co-ordinator, and colts who then moved up to grade.

      At the time Randwick has just finished a spell of 8 titles in ten years with an almost all NSW and Aussie rep team.

      Instead of lowering the bar or punishing uni for its success, I think other clubs should try to follow their example, and, for example look to tie ups with other universities.

      • Hugh Cavill

        But that is impossible. There are only a finite number of universities in Sydney, and the big three (Sydney, UTS, UNSW) are already attached to clubs, or have clubs of their own.

        This has nothing to do with ‘punishing uni for its success’ rather it is about leveling the playing field. Uni have considerable advantages that other clubs are never going to have.

        • Alexander Sharman

          Hooking up with universities is simply an example. Other clubs also have advantages that Uni will never have, such as recieivng bar revenues or having licensed clubs.

          There is no inherant reason why a University club will be more successful than other clubs in an amatuer competition.

          Have a look at other club rugby competitions in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe, South America, or around the world. University clubs do not always dominate, e.g. UQ do not dominate in Queensland.

          The real advantage that Sydney Uni has is simply that in recent years it has been better organised and managed to attracts better coaches and players than the other clubs.

          There is no inherant reason why uni has to, or will dominate Club rugby. In the 1980´s and early 90´s Randwick dominated club rugby. When Uni was threatened with relegation in the mid 1990s, the Friends of Sydney Uni rugby was established, by ex players, leading to success of today.

          England managed so much success in the last Olympics by copying, and betterring the what had been successful Australian elite sport model. Other Sydney clubs need to try and pursue and better the SUFC model.

        • Hugh Cavill

          But it isn’t that simple. You CAN’T copy many aspects of the SUFC model, and that is where the problems lie. That is also why I can’t see the current situation evening out like it did with Randwick as you point out.

          A few clubs have licensed clubs and bars, but these are hardly comparable to the massive structures Uni have at their fingertips. The licensed clubs tend to be tinpot little things that cover the rugby club’s expenses, rather than amassing funds for expansion.

          I am not arguing other clubs should not strive to do better. I am not placing this current situation entirely at the feet of Uni.

          I just want to make the point that Uni has so many natural advantages, and when combined with great coaching it makes it very hard for a level playing field to exist.

    • Catriona_A

      There are many parallels between Sydney Uni and Queensland Uni – but I think the differences there are more due to the methods employed in developing the club, rather than the professionalism of the setup itself.

      The UQ Foundation, like Friends of Sydney Uni, was created in the 90s in response to the club almost going belly up – broke with no results to speak of. In my first year of involvement with the club (1999) they won a single premiership in Colts 3.

      Then the club employed a development officer who set about strengthening the Colts setup and the results were evident quickly – in 2001 all three Colts teams made the GF (all lost) and the following year all three Colts teams won the GF (and the boys who had missed out on premierships the previous year created their own team and won the premiership in 2002 too).

      For a while the Colts were the only real GF chances. There was a lot of investment in making these colts teams translate into Premier grade (or 1st grade) success and they made a GF (and lost). IMO this was done badly and I refer to it as the Dark Days of Uni Rugby. There was a disconnect between what was happening in 1st grade and what was happening throughout the rest of the club. The mentality that the only team that mattered was Premier Grade hurt the club morale tremendously and there were a couple of near-wooden-spoons after the club made the GF.

      Since Mick Heenan came aboard, the Club’s No 1 priority each year is to win the Doughty Shield (the club championship) which every team in the club contributes to. The sense that every team’s result matters has started to yield results. To do this there has been a focus on the off-field development – coach education and medical staff for every team.

      In 2010 something like 5 of 11 teams made finals, in 2011 7 of 11 teams made finals, 2012, 9 from 11 teams made finals, and in 2013 11 of 12 teams made finals. (Numbers are based on my memory and they may be one or two off, but the pattern is correct),.

      The point is that while the club hasn’t come close to Sydney Uni’s success, it is moving in that direction. I 100% agree with your summation – strong coaching throughout every grade, tight club administration, and a Foundation-like body are the keys.

      While UQ has modelled itself pretty strongly on what works at Sydney Uni, there is a massive difference in the scholarships available. There are very few rugby scholarships on offer (only a couple, and they are through Colleges from what I understand) and all athletes across all sports vie for UQ Sport Scholarships.

      • the other dave

        I probably should have phrased things a little differently, this was not meant to be a dig at UQ, the Hospitals cup seems much more even, and rugby clubs should be for the benefit of players in all grades, and aiming for the club championship is an important measure of club health.

        As an aside, Sydney Uni’s rugby players are on the same scholarship programme as other sportspeople (they publish the list of recipients each year). I think SUSF play a large part in the rugby club’s success, and the rugby model has been applied to varying degrees by their other sports clubs such as aussie rules and basketball.

        • Catriona_A

          It wasn’t taken as a dig at UQ at all Dave – my point was only to highlight the factors that have led to UQ’s growing success. What do you know? They’re the same as Sydney Uni – focus on developing the whole club etc.

          Not at all disagreeing with anything you wrote because I see the same themes across both clubs

  • Purce

    I’m not from Sydney but we hear plenty about this north of the boarder. My impression with Izzy was that he went to SU to learn Rugby at what is perceived as the best club rugby program in Sydney… given that he wasn’t guaranteed a position in the match day 23 for the Tahs originally. I completely agree that it would now be in the best interests of the game for him to be aligned with a club in the west, as it is doubtful he will ever actually play club. At least him being affiliated with one of those clubs, and maybe putting in a bit of ground work around there, will boost the interest in the west.

    Again from an outsiders perspective i find it incredibly impressive what SU have developed into over the past few decades. Clearly the powers that be at the club have seen they’ve something unique to offer and have cashed in on that. Full credit to them… my understanding is that they have worked very hard with the uni to get the best they possibly can for their players who are current students and the ones who are looking at their careers post rugby. UQ up here seems to have been working towards a similar goal over the past number of years and they’re benefiting from this type of mindset as well.

    On club player payments I think it would be unfair to sanction clubs who pay players purely from the players perspective. They train 2-4 times a week, gym 4-5 times a week and commit to games each week. I think it’s fair to receive some sort of reward for the time they commit to their club/to their development… I can see the pros/cons for this argument but this view is just from the players perspective.

    • Alexander Sharman

      Regarding player payments, uni have not ever paid players, it is a policy of the club and part of its by laws I believe. The scholarship advantage that is always mentioned is also not as significant as some people think. Scholarships are something that benefits players between the ages of 17 and 22, and only those players with the grades to get into Sydney Uni. Other players simply choose the club because of its facillities.

      After that players choose to stay at the club because they like it. Perhaps other clubs need to also set the bar higher.

      • Honiball

        Alex you keep reiterating that SU have never paid a player, if I can be the Devil’s Advocate (and I’m in no way disagreeing with anything you have said), how long have you been away from the club? Is it possible things have changed?

      • Andy

        Surely the tuition fees paid by the Uni are greater than player payments at other clubs. Name 1 club that is making significant amounts of money through a “club or bar”. I don’t know of any. All I know is that player payments are piss poor at virtually all first grade clubs.

        Most other clubs run on a very narrow budget which is why most are facing the sink. Not so easy to go and build proper training facilities with no money. That is the clear advantage uni have. They have the Uni budget to pay the best coaches, have the uni facilities to train their players and to top it off provide tuition incentives for players from the Oz Schoolboys.

        Uni haven’t done anything wrong by doing the above and I respect the fact that it was a very successful restructure on their part but the NSWRU has done nothing to improve the competition as a result.

        The biggest shame is that juniors from other clubs that end up being good schoolboys often defect to Uni who put close to nothing into proper Junior development. This must be a massive disincentive for other clubs and ones in Western Sydney, in particular (who produce a lot of great young talent).

        The Dave Dennis story is particularly interesting. A Penrith junior who now plays for Uni. He recently came out and said that it would be great for the Emu’s to have a Waratahs representative on their books yet he never said he would go back and play for the club who developed him. It really is a sad state of affairs.

  • the other dave

    What I’ve also noticed is that some Shute Shield clubs seem to be taking on universities as sponsors, perhaps with a view to establishing closer ties? I remember a similar thing happening with Brisbane Norths last decade, with less than stellar results (mind you, they picked a university that has one oval across two.campuses and a very young alumnus network).

    • Hugh Cavill

      Yeah this is starting to happen. Gordon have aligned with UTS, which is smart, although it won’t give them Uni-like results, for a number of reasons. But it will certainly help.

  • Nabley

    Round the world uni clubs do not always show that well. Usually its because the players (who are students) are young and under developed. Sure some of them are very good, but that is limited to a few. Somehow uni has made its club professional. I would probably be interested in seeing just how many of its top players are in fact students.

    • Alexander Sharman

      True, University Clubs tend to be stronger in underdeveloped countries (such as in South America) but in Europe and the UK university based clubs tend to play at lower levels or in university only leagues.

      Regarding uni, I think the Student Scholarship thing is overrated a bit. Uni only provides scholarships to students who have the grades to get into Sydney Uni. It dosnt provide scholarships for rugby players to go to other universities. So non student players go to SUFC because they are attracted by the facillities and coaching. At an amatuer level there is not much you can do about where people choose to go to play rugby.

      The residential colleges also provide scholarships in partnership with SUFC, but I know that other clubs also pay for both Uni fees and residential colleges for their own players.

  • Alexander Sharman

    Before giving my point of view, I should admit I am an ex-Uni player, but I also think that Folau for example going to SUFC wasnt the best decision, and I believe that the Shute Shield should be as equal as possible. I was also the “victim” a few times of Super and Rep players coming back, resulting in being pushed down the grades after having played all season.

    I think a bit of context is important. When I started playing for Uni in 1995 Uni had been coming last or thereabouts for a number of years, and were threatened with relegation by the NSWRU. Randick had won the Shute Shield 8 times between 1987 and 1996.

    This led to the formation of the Sydney Uni Rugby foundation, formed by ex-players to try and attract players to the club through mentoring and job opportunities, and secure the future of the club in 1st division, and the establishment of more professional management of the club.

    The revival of Uni really started through the 1st Colts side in 1998, which got to the final against Eastwood, but lost. Players such as Luke Inman, Drew Hickey and Ed Carter moved up to grade rugby, and the following year Uni won 3rd and 4th grade. John Manenti, the current Eastwood coach, also came to the club. With the addition of Dave Lyons and Phil Waugh, who also came through Uni Colts, and Dan Vickerman, Uni won their first Shute Shield in 2001. Based on this success Uni started attracting more players. Randwick experienced this in the 1980´s.

    The percieved advantage that Uni has “through” education and the residential colleges isnt actually as strong as people think. Both SUFC and the residential colleges do offer scholarships, but at my college there were also many players playing for other clubs, some whose Uni fees and College fees were also being paid for by those other clubs.

    SUFC does recieve support from the University, and use its facillities, but not every Uni player attends Sydney Uni (entrance to the university is purely on an academic basis) and not every rugby player studying at Sydney Uni, or living in the residential colleges, plays for SUFC.

    There is nothing stopping another club also joining up with a University. Perhaps promotion and relegation in grade rugby might also be an idea, allowing clubs such as UNSW, with similar facillities to Uni, to move up.

    Regarding the comment that “Sydney Uni has no junior program of substance, nor do they exist in a rugby heartland area”. Most of the students attending the University do not come from the zone, but the University has 50 000 students, and many of the students choose to play for the club a hop skip and jump from their classes at the end of the day. As the oldest rugby club outside of the UK, Uni has been a bastion or rugby for 150 years. This can be seen comparing the Univesity´s League club to the Union club, or by going to an Inter-College or Inter-Faculty rugby match. Sydney Uni is a passionately rugby area.

    While Sydney Uni does has many facillities, other clubs have licensed clubs, and Sydney Uni itself does not even own the cafe or get the profits from food and drink sales within its own grandstand (which is run by a 3rd party leasing from the University).

    At club level, most of the uni players are uni products who have come through Colts, They chose the club they went to before they had contracts. In some cases they chose uni because of a scholarship offer, however, after a player finishes university, at the age of 21 or 22, and starts getting somewhere in grade, they stay at the club because they choose to. Uni does not, and has not ever paid players. Several other First grade clubs at various times have paid players.

    Enough of the context, so what about the problem? I agree that the dominance of one club over others, or winning a final by 50 points with players who havnt played the majority of the season, isnt the best thing in terms of fairness, or for a competative league.

    So what can be done?

    Do you force Super 15 players for be “shared” amongst the clubs, against the player´s own will? Maybe that is a solution, when signing a contract with NSW players could be divided up amongst the clubs. But this may be against the players own will, and wouldnt be relevant for players playing with other franchises.

    Do you not let Super 15 play club rugby, if they have finished the Super rugby season, and are not in the Wallabies? I am living in South America now, and in Argentina they actually did this in 2010. “Professional” Argentine Players in the Pampas XV (which plays in the South African Vodacom cup) were prohibited from playing for Buenos Aires clubs, because the other clubs said it wasnt fair having professioanal contracted players playing against amateurs.

    However the situation that resulted was ridiculous, as players who
    were not in the Pumas, but were amonst the 50 best players in the country, were
    prohibited from playing rugby, and when there was an injury in the Pumas
    the player replacing them hadnt played a game for 3 months!

    The problem really comes from the lack of a 3rd tier of rugby in Australia, and the huge leap between Club and Super rugby.

    With Super rugby lasting til July, and the Rugby Championship lasting
    til the end of September, I cant see how a viable 3rd tier can be

    Without the Wallabies it wouldnt be attractive comercially, and
    it would be hard to base a 3rd tier on the Super teams minus Wallabies, when at times one or two super teams would be missing the majority of their players
    with the wallabies.

    It is a hard question. Maybe the club finals should be timed with the end of the Super 12, so that Super players coming back dosnt effect the club comp, but that would result in a shortened comp.

    • Hugh Cavill

      Thanks for that Alexander, great comment.

      • Nick

        Ta Hugh for raising this issue- it is huge. Ta for your perceptive comments Alexander.

        I don’t propose to have comprehensive answers to this complex, layered problem, but I have a couple of clear suggestions: Firstly, we need as many of the Super players (and Wallabies, if schedule permits) playing as much Shute Shield as possible. We want more bums on seats at the games, better ratings for our dear broadcaster the ABC, and we want all Shute players experiencing the highest quality rugby that is possible. Keeping the Super players out is ridiculous.
        But what about SU with too many Super Rugby players? Well, as much as one wants things to work well without top-down control, in this case, there needs to a draft for Super players. When someone signs on with the Waratahs, he gets drafted to the one of the clubs that needs him most (for the set term of his Waratah contract?). Would this be against their will? Maybe. But surely, these blokes should be able to see that some of their presence at the weaker clubs, would be good for the long-term success of the game. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for fellas who are lucky enough to score a professional contract with the Tahs. If it was the deal for everyone, there’d just be no argument about it.
        Can you imagine the benefits at the grass roots level if Izzy and Dennis, were out there at Nepean for a handful of training sessions and a couple of games each year?

        • Alexander Sharman

          The complicated thing with a draft nick, is that you never know which Super players will be with the Wallabies, and which going back to club land.

          So you spread out the Super players through all the clubs, when they are contracted, or at the start of the year, and maybe while one club´s super draftees are on Wallaby duty, another club´s return to clubland for the finals, and help win the final against their mates and the team that developed them!

          I dont think there is any easy answer,

          Personally, for the sake of fairness, I think I would prefer a 1st grade club season which finished without Super players coming back, maybe finishing in July, and then with a separate 3rd tier or clubs with super players comp to follow.

          In the early 2000´s the club format was like this, in first grade, with the shute shield played for the first half of the season without any super players, and a second comp when the super players returned. The other grades played a full 20 rounds.

        • Nick

          Granted; that could be an issue, but I don’t think it would be insurmountable. If the schedule was considered carefully in advance, all tahs players could be required to play a set number of club games (5?) and wallabies to also have to play some (3?)?

        • nomis

          Is the SS really the answer? It hasn’t worked from a broadcasting perspective for some time now. I don’t think it bridges the gap between club and SR even with all the SR players. Consideration also needs to be given to the Qld club comp and also Perth and Canberra and Melbourne club comps. They need their SR players to lay the foundation beneath the franchises now. Clearly a tier between club and SR is needed. But that is not a problem easy to solve.

        • Homer J

          They try this in the ACT and it is unfair. Uni/Norths was allocated Tomane and Alexander who never played while East got about 7 players who were mostly available. Not to mention Tuggeranong which is the ACT version of Uni and is killing the sport there through financial and political weight and manage to grab all the best young players who also see that club asa stepping stone to higher honours with outstanding facilities.

  • #Hollowvictory

    Tuition fees are payed into players bank accounts. What they do with it up to them.

    • Alexander Sharman

      Dosnt work like that mate … SUFC is a non-profit club which is essentially operated to pay operating costs. It dosnt have a huge bank account with millions to pay players. Among other things through it´s by laws a current student has to be
      treasurer of the club, overseeing all financial aspects of the club. and
      the paying of players is prohibited. The no pay for play idea is also a key principle of the Friends of Sydney Uni Rugby foundation.

      The benefits that SUFC can provide players, such as Scholarships to the University, and Scholarships to the Residential Colleges are actually benefits in kind that SUFC dosnt control. In other words neither the Colleges or the University give SUFC this money, or deposit this money in the bank account of SUFC or the players.

      As a member of the Sydney Uni Sports Union, SUFC has the abilty to nominate a number of proespective players that it is aiming to attract (other clubs such as swimming, taekwondo etc do the same). The SUSU can then approve these nominations, which are sent to the University itself, and subject to the student successfully gaining academic entry to the university, the student is absolved of paying fees. They also get free gym membership, physio etc from SUSU, and membership of SUFC. Other clubs have paid the University fees of players.

      In terms of the residential colleges, they offer scholarships to rugby players and other sportsmen, some combined with SUSU scholarships and some separate. These a not monetary scholarships, they simply involve being allowed to live in the colleges without paying fees, Other rugby clubs have also paid for players to live in the residential colleges.

      Ask any Sydney Uni player, no one
      has actually been paid to play for the club. Many other grade clubs, at
      one time or another, have paid players, to the detriment of the club financially financially.

      • SuckerForRed

        ‘In kind’ support may not be cash payment but it certainly makes life easier for both player & club. Not having a go, but be careful hanging your hat on the fact that the club has not made cash payments to players but has facilitated or been lucky enough to be in the position that ‘in kind’ benefits are available to players. If other clubs choose to play their players tuition or college fees that is their decision, but even you must admit that Uni is at an advantage if some of their players have fees waived and the club does not have to pick up the bill.

        I think that the bigest pull for Uni is the facilities, management administration & access to a captive market. But don’t underestimate the benefit that the club recieves from the structures that allow for ‘scolarships’, full or part, to be present.

        • the other dave

          I’m fairly sure that tuition fees (I.e. HECS) still need to be paid. In the face of strong budgetary pressure, handing out tuition-free education without academic merit just wouldn’t fly.

        • SuckerForRed

          “The SUSU can then approve these nominations, which are sent to the University itself, and subject to the student successfully gaining academic entry to the university, the student is absolved of paying fees. They also get free gym membership, physio etc from SUSU, and membership of SUFC. Other clubs have paid the University fees of players.”
          Just going on what Alexander said. I should have also included residential college fees. As a person who, through geography, had to leave home to be educated at high school as well as uni I fully understand how much the exercise costs.
          My point is, that the scolarships offered to players who play at Uni actually benefit SUFC because the player doesn’t have to fork out & neither does the club. It is a form of payment, like it or not, just not in cash terms.

  • Razz

    One of the key take-outs from both this article and from the new 3rd tier program is that in order to enhance Sydney club rugby, we need to diminish the strength of Sydney Uni (SU).
    Are we seriously thinking that the best way forward for club rugby is to handicap the most successful team, wow how insightful and innovative. If only we could handicap AFL, A-League and Rugby League as they continue to take our market-share, junior participants and advertising revenue.
    We also seem to have short memories. Between 1977 and 1996 (20years), Randwick played in all but two grand finals. They won 14 grand finals in this period including a period of five in a row and six in a row. In 1979 and 1980 they won both Grand Finals by a combined score of 75 – 6. This is a far greater dominance the current SU era. We will hardly look back upon the Randwick era whereby they dominated the amateur game with such disdain, so why are we treating SU with such animosity?
    As previously pointed out, SU were in a poor financial state and were about to be relegated. As the game went professional, SU used the best resource they had, its network, and devised a plan to be successful in the modern era. Former players and businessmen alike created the Friends of the SUFC and the SUFC Foundation and the club aligned themselves with the Sports Union and the University. So now they have great facilities, coaches and a secure financial platform.
    Quite simply they adapted to the professional era by treating their club like a business and attracting new players by having the best facilities and resources. They used their network to set these up successfully. Every rugby club has past and present players with business acumen and much of what SU has done can be replicated with a bit of hard work and in conjunction with the ASF. Rather than pull them down, why doesn’t the ARU/NSWRU help clubs push themselves up and aspire to be successful?
    While Rugby is trying to maintain its relevance in the saturated and competitive football market, handicapping one of the success stories of recent times is not the solution. Instead of writing (easy) articles bashing their success, why not write about how they achieved it so we can actually learn something and improve our game. Rugby needs all the help it can get!

    • Alexander Sharman

      Agree completely mate, instead of penalising a club that has adapted, the other clubs need to follow their example, or do it even better.

      When I started playing for uni in 1995 they were the no hopers of the comp and were about to kicked out. 6 years later, thanks to a new generation of players who came through colts, we won the Shute Shield for only the second time since the 1930´s.

    • Hugh Cavill

      How is this article bashing their success? I didn’t take one shot at Uni, I merely stated their strengths, and the natural advantages they have over other clubs.

      Like a few others, you have missed the point. It is very easy to say ‘well why can’t other clubs learn from Uni and improve’. And yes they should. But some things Uni does simply cannot be replicated by Sydney clubs- build world class gym, physio and aquatic facilities, for example.

      I think Sydney club rugby is healthiest when you have multiple teams competing for titles in each grade. At the moment that just isn’t happening, and I think a discussion about Sydney Uni’s vast array of advantages is well within bounds for discussion.

      • Razz

        “The success of Sydney Uni is killing Sydney grade rugby”..

        • Hugh Cavill

          It is- that wasn’t meant as an insult to Uni, or their success.

        • MrMouse

          Why not “the lack of support for Third Tier rugby from NSWRU and the ARU is killing Sydney grade rugby” or “the inability of clubs to learn from Sydney Uni or adapt the way they work is killing Sydney grade rugby”?
          It was a value-laden way to address it, it was hyperbolic and it was most certainly bashing their success.
          For the record, too, the Sydney Uni gym is far from world class, the pool is simply a pool and any club that doesn’t have access to physios should be out of business.

  • AB

    *Norwegian exchange students. But yes.

  • Not club affiliated

    I’d like to point out that both UNSW and Macquarie uni both have the same facilities/colleges/Swedish babes ect as sydney uni but are both below 1st division subbies. The real issue is uni catching the best 18 year olds at school boy level with the offer of Ivy League education. In addition to most GPS/CAS blokes having the financial backing of parents to attend uni and play some rugger whilst there

    • Mum

      I would like to point out that entry to ANY University is based on results attained at school, whichever school a student attends, the Sporting Clubs and there are several at Syd Uni, DO NOT offer academic places based on Sporting ability. Also once enrolled in a Degree course, the student still needs to apply themselves to study, plus whatever extra curricular activities they are involved in, and extra curricular activities are not just Sport. There are plenty of people who leave school as sporting stars who do not make it to the Big Time, some people are just not able to cope with all that it takes to be successful.
      The fact that Syd Uni has several players that are contracted to SR is not something that should be pilloried, maybe, just maybe, everyone should praise the individuals for the effort and commitment that they put in, because you only get out what you put in.
      The other point I would like to make is that the facilities at Syd Uni are not there just for the Rugby Club, all of the Sporting clubs have access to these wonderful facilities as do the general public.
      Please everyone think about what you want to destroy, there was some great Rugby played on Saturday, right through the grades and Eastwood played in every grade against Uni, I don’t think I have heard anyone complain or denigrate Eastwwod.

      • Hugh Cavill

        1. No-one is pilloring the Uni players, they all work very hard and deserve their success.

        2. Yes the facilities aren’t just for the Rugby Club, I never said they were. But the Rugby Club certainly has almost unlimited access to these facilities.

        3. No-one is denigrating Eastwood because Eastwood have not won 8 of the last 9 titles. They have had a good year, sure, but it was just a one-off. Sydney Uni’s extended run of dominance means that certain issues now require discussion, and possibly action.

        • Mum

          Hi Hugh,
          Re point 1 – I refer to FIZZA’s comments. Re point 2 – SUSU&F has some 40 clubs all have access to the facilities via the Sports Union. Re Point 3 – Eastwood, like Manly the previous week and Souths played great Rugby.
          We need as a group to pressure ARU etc so that the Wallabies play great Rugby.

  • Jimbo

    Eastwood, Randwick, Manly, Southern Districts, Northern Suburbs, Warringah, West Harbour, Easts, Parramatta, Penrith, and Gordon are ruining club rugby. They need to get their act together and field better teams so the Shute Shield can be more competitive

  • sheekabout

    This is a complex issue, although it shouldn’t be in reality.

    I’ve long been bemused that when the then Metropolitan (NSW) Rugby Union went to an eight (8) club district system in 1900 in order to make the game more popular to the general public, Sydney University was the exception.

    I’m even more bemused that everyone else was okay with this (or so the historians tell us). Successful private clubs like Wallaroos, Pirates & Waratah were disbanded, while successful suburban clubs like Randwick, Gordon & Burwood were despatched to the shires comp.

    You look at the winners list from 1874-99 & all these clubs are represented on the premiers board (as well as SU).

    I guess there are two primary reasons for why Sydney University was “allowed” to exist in a district comp. One was the fact many of those of the MRU who made this ‘district’ decision had strong affiliations with SU.

    The other was that SU was the oldest surviving rugby club in Australia, claiming a start date of 1863. On both these counts perhaps everyone else simply shrugged their shoulders.

    The problem with Sydney University today is that if you are seeking to make rugby more popular to a wider audience, then SU simply doesn’t cut it. SU represents no district, no suburb. No chance of building community, of tribalism.

    Unfortunately however, it represents to the wider public everything that is reprehensible about rugby – an elitist, snobbish sport.

    Of course, another question that perhaps doesn’t get much of a run is how SU exists in the Shute Shield, but not University of NSW or Macquarie University (they both once were), or even University of Western Sydney?

    And why is only Queensland University in the Hospital Cup, but not Griffith University or Bond University?

    And why is ANU in the Dent Cup, but not University of Canberra? And so on and so on for Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

    The argument that our domestic structures have sustained us well are not supported by history. The Wallabies didn’t start winning more than 50% of its test matches until the 1980s.

    The Wallabies probably didn’t hit the black in overall progressive test wins until the early to mid 1990s.

    Therefore to say our domestic structures have sustained us well is simply not supported by the facts. Our structures are in fact inefficient.

    What Australian rugby has relied on is a “golden generation” at infrequent intervals to lift the Wallabies out of their usual ordinariness.

    The last great Wallabies golden generation began unravelling in 2003 – that’s 10 years ago!

    The truth is that while Australian rugby has produced many fine individual players, it has produced very few great Wallabies teams.

    Moving forward, any national comp cannot have any University club in it if it wishes to appeal to a wider demographic.

    No major sport in the word, be it the US major leagues, or European premier leagues, or wherever, has a University in its national comp.

    Australian rugby requires a national comp for two reasons:

    1. To provide strong, regular, national competition (about 8-10 clubs) that nurtures & funnels talent towards the Wallabies.

    2. To attract new fans & have something to put up against AFL, NRL & A-League.

    Regrettably, I see no place for Sydney University, Queensland University or any other University in such a structure.

    To do so will guarantee Australian rugby’s continuing mediocrity.

    It also goes without saying, that by continuing to do nothing to change our domestic structures, Australian rugby is guaranteeing to remain mediocre.

  • Ottawan

    Easily the development that’s most going to level the playing field is that Super Franchises can now dictate where their players play club rugby. So all the Uni players who play for the Rebels, Force or Brumbies will have to play in the premier grade of Victoria, WA, or Canberra. If that takes place alongside the evening out of where the Waratahs players go (as will likely occur with restrictions on player payments) within the Shute Shield and within Australian club rugby things should become more competitive.

  • Paul

    Balmain should be promoted. They seem to attract good players. Quite seriously if uni is dominating simply because they got their act together, a comp full of individual clubs that have their act together would create a third tier.

    • Hugh Cavill

      But you have missed the point. Uni aren’t dominating ‘simply because they got their act together’. They have certainly got their act together, but they also have countless natural advantages that no other club has. That is one of the big reasons why they are dominating.

      Balmain aren’t quite ready for the big time just yet (their club championship results in Div 1 were good but not great), but in another couple of years I can see it happening.

      • Ben

        Balmain are actually the Syd Uni of subbies rugby to be honest. They pay their players in a true amateur competition. This shouldn’t be allowed.

        • Hugh Cavill

          They are hardly Robinson Crusoe there.

        • Marlins Tragic

          The funny thing is that Balmain are one of ONLY two clubs that Sydney Uni are responsible for at a district level, so the “we pay players in an amateur” comp seems to be the done thing!

        • FIZZA

          Hey Marlin Tragic, we have 3 junior clubs, u forgot Canterbury. We also have two 1st grade players come thru the juniors from Petersham and Canterbury. One of those being Tolu Latu who recently went to Argentina with the Waratah Barbarian side and scored a great try in the GF.

  • nomis

    Wasn’t there a suggestion not so long ago to promote more unis to have a new 3rd tier made up of universities. If Syd uni has so many advantages because it’s a uni, then why couldn’t other uni’s emulate that. Could have uni of west Syd and UNSW as the NSW reps, two unis from Qld, one each from Perth, Canberra and Melbourne. SR players to be attached to a uni in the area of their franchise. It would give an automatic supporter base similar to a school, with past and present students (at least) as potential fan bases. An automatic tribe if you like. Because lets face it, the SS is not the answer to the 3rd tier. We now need SR players to return to lay the foundation beneath their franchise in their state. And choosing only a select few SS teams will be more exclusive of most of the traditional club rugby fans (who’s team gets the cut) than having greenfield teams. I might post this in the forums.

  • SuckerForRed

    My 50 cents worth from an outsider perspective.

    Sydney Uni is lucky enough to be in the position that they can attract the colts level players because they are an education facility and the students who go there to get an education, outside of the Sydney club catchments, are likey to play for the university as they have no allegences to any of the other clubs. I would then expect that these players would remain with the club due to loyality.

    University clubs around the world are in a different situation to SUFC. Because of well developed professional competions that sit above the ‘amateur’ level, once a player moves on from uni, and are good enough, they earn money playing for other clubs hence leave the university club. Hence, I really don’t think that we can really compare the SUFC case with universities in other countries due to the differences in the commpetion structures.

    The ‘problem’ as I see it is that SUCF is a semi-professional club playing in a amateur competition. But, all the other clubs in the Shute Shield competition are the same. Aren’t they?

    As many people have said before in these comments, an ‘officially’ professional competition needs to be encouraged. And I say ‘offically’ because I think that the club competitions around the country wear the badge of ‘amateurism’ but are not entirely so. Professionalism is need for the good of the code generally. Now if this competition included existing clubs or not is a whole other debate.

  • ben darwin

    Not sure how it would work but i know some of the university sides in nz, have offset the dominance by fielding 2 teams in the first grade comp. Theoretically uni could do this all the way down the grades as they have enough cattle.

  • Field of Dreams

    Lets just see what the ARU, NSWRU and SRU come-up with for 2014. There is more lather here then in a soap commercial.

  • sheekabout

    I don’t know why no-one has directly responded to my post, unless I’ve asked/made too many ‘awkward’ points?

    Sydney University deserve credit for turning their fortunes around in the past 20 years, while most other district clubs deserve a rocket up their backside for allowing their brand name to be thrashed (however small that brand may be). Not that they were ever an Australian household name.

    Go to a non-rugby fan & three club names will immediately spring to mind – Randwick, Brothers (Q) & SU. And that’s about it to be honest. And Brothers because they exist in both league & union.

    If you want a third tier, forget about elevating Shute Shield or Hospital Cup clubs. They have never had the same “gravitas” as a South Sydney or Eastern Suburbs or Collingwood or Essendon.

    The ARC model was sensible in that it added an entire floor to the existing domestic structure, which is the only fair way to go.

    The concept of the ARC was sound, but the implementation poor.

    Firstly, everyone has to buy into the idea.

    Secondly, as many leading players as possible must participate.

    Thirdly, start small, build slowly. Eight (8) clubs to begin with.

    Fourthly, in 2007 Fleet, Rams, Rebels & Spirit were good concepts. Rays, Tornadoes, Aces & Vikings less so. Give the teams historical & traditional relevance.

    Fifthly, avoid poor decisions. Playing (East) Sydney Fleet ay North Sydney Oval & North Shore players at Central Coast was incredibly dumb. No-one bought it.

    Sixthly, start will small grounds first & also perhaps midweek games so as not to clash with AFL/NRL on key weekends.

    There are ways & means to make it work. But to lift SU, QU, ANU, Sydney Souths, Balmain, Eastwood, Sunnybank, Tuggeranong, etc into a national comp simply because they can best bankroll themselves is not a wise long-term decision.

    Primarily because some of these clubs simply have no wider appeal. Anything predicated totally or mostly on only money is doomed to long-term failure.

    Plus it will create a civil war with those other premier rugby clubs who miss the cut.

    Go down this path & kill Australian rugby. Well & truly…..

    • Ratty

      G’day Sheek, I’ll largely agree with you. If you connected those ARC entities more directly to the districts they represented, and they played at the traditional venues, and you started by making it just Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra to cut down travel costs, then you have something workable. As I posted above, if the old Stingrays split their home games between Rat Park and Manly Oval, for example, and combined the coaching staff and playing squads of the Marlins and Rats like a rep side does, then you would consistently get crowds of 3-8,000 at those games. Back in the day, Rats were often getting 10-12,000, so maybe those numbers are possible again. You add travel costs, but no extra costs for players or staff that way, and you have no problem about your gate takings exceeding the ground hire like you did with the bigger venues that the ARC played in. The district juniors would see a pathway, and the locals would get behind it big time.

    • Marlins Tragic

      I agree with you Sheek, the ARC concept was great, look at how many players came though the ranks later on to play for SR teams, I doubt they would have got a look in at club level.

      Also, putting “east” games on @ NSO & Rays games up the central coast was a waste, I know that many Manly players ended up at the Rams as they dint want to travel up to the CC, although Parra Oval may as well have been just as far in Sydney traffic!

      Without a doubt though, I will guarantee you that SUFC will try & scupper any moves to have them combined with any other teams for the new 3T comp, mark my words.

      Make the SUFC players from 1st grade down to 4th grade colts all go back to their original clubs to be in a position to compete for a squad spot in the new T3 amalgamated teams & DO NOT allow SUFC to be part of the T3 comp.


    I’ve been reading these comments for 3 days now, and i’d like to clear up a few things mentioned by numerous guests.
    I’ve been at SUFC for 16 years now as a coach/manager and club statistican the past 12 seasons.
    First of all in 1991 Uni had no teams grade or colts make the semi’s, not that long ago.This was after two stints in 2nd Division.
    Prior to our 2001 Premiership we won the comp in 1962, some 39 seasons without success, so it hasnt always been good.
    Randwick made the Shute Shield grand final 17 years in a row, SUFC currently on 9 in a row. Randwick also made the grand final 21 times between 1971 till 1996, thats 21 times in 25 years.
    They also field 12 Wallabies in a grand final in the early 70’s, last Saturday Uni had 3 Wallabies in there win over Eastwood.
    Randwick also had 2 players picked from 2nd grade to play for the Wallabies, we have never had that happen.
    As far as Cannon. Folau are concerned, you haven’t had to attend uni to play with SUFC since 1968.
    Scholarships aren’t new, it’s not something we started up last year. Anyone can do it and some like Randwick, West Harbour and Gordon have been doing it for a few years now.
    To the readers out there, we dont know that as a 16 year old Nick Phipps is going to be a Wallaby in 6 or 7 years time. In fact Phipps and Tim Davidson were graded in 3rd grade Colts first year at Uni.
    Even better example is John Langford and Bob Egerton played 4th grade Colts first year at Uni.
    We dont know Davidson, Carter and Trist are going to be still playing with the club in 12 years time.
    Dave Dennis was from Richmond not Penrith.
    The Best coaches go to uni, well we have ex players coaching, they were already here. If fact our 2nd and 4th coaches, ex players had there first year in coaching in 2013 and Malone had only one year in 2nd grade last year before taking on the 3 o’clock team.
    Uni has had 93 Wallabies and 20 Australian rep players, between them they have 966 test matches. In fact since 2000 we have had 20 new Wallabies of which 15 had come thru our colts system.
    We have had 233 Watatahs, who have played 3070 for NSW and 1181 games in supa 10,12,14 or 15’s.
    It appears people dont like winners, but their are many better examples then Uni last 9 years, e.g. St.Joseph’s College Hunters Hill 40 odd premierships, New Zealand All Blacks over 100 years domination, Queensland State of Origin 8 years in a row, St.George Rugby League 1956 to 1966 eleven years in a row, Bradman decades in top, America Cup over 100 years again and even Black Caviar 24 races in row.
    So maybe its SUFC time to shine in the sun, cause who knows there maybe another 39 years wait around the corner.

    • Hugh Cavill

      But again this neglects the point of the article. Simply palming this article and the comments off as ‘people don’t like winners’ only serves to exacerbate people’s resentment of the club.

      No-one is doubting Uni are incredibly good at fostering talent, developing both players and coaches alike. But you don’t address the issue as it currently stands- it is simply not a level playing field for Shute Shield clubs.

      In the examples you cite at the end (Joeys, Black Caviar, etc) all competitors are on a roughly even footing- they all have the same facilities at their disposal. In the case of the Shute Shield, the case of Uni is similar in some ways to running Black Caviar in the Saturday maiden class- the horses are OK but ultimately you have group 1 nag competing against low-level nuffies.

      I congratulate Uni on their many successes, but I wish more of their supporters would look at the results on Saturday and see that this isn’t necessarily the best thing for our game.

      • Hillsy

        Here here HC, Uni only a Muse in this particular article to highlight the failings of the competition.

    • SuckerForRed

      Hey, Fizza, genuine question. You said –

      “Scholarships aren’t new, it’s not something we started up last year. Anyone can do it and some like Randwick, West Harbour and Gordon have been doing it for a few years now.”
      Does the SUFC actualy have a cash outlay for these scolarships? I.e. do they physically/actually pay the university or what ever the funded fees are for the players they have on scolarship?
      I am curious as there is a few different models floating around.

  • Joel

    Simply put a limit on how many contract/professional players you can have on each Shute Shield side – a max of 4-5 and spread them across the teams…if they dont agree (the player) then maybe their contract with the Super Rugby Franchise needs to be looked at.

    • Field of Dreams

      Joel, Would love your ‘crystal ball’ could you let me know what stocks to buy now which will be superstar stocks next year!!!! Why would a player leave a club because he / she has become successful, that’s like your super fund selling its best investments……..think about it!

      FIZZA – thank you for the facts. You forgot to mention the dominance of the Australian Cricket team not to mention the West Indies getting even when Aus had Thommo and Lillee. Perhaps, Shute Shield Rugby needs a Kerry Packer?

  • Croc

    I believe the ARU should oversee the establishment of a University Rugby Club in every Australian University.

    Australian universities have infrastructure and organisational structure that is well-established and can support the establishment or the strengthening of their University Rugby Club. This support includes the capacities and capabilities of the sports body i.e. Sports Union/Sports Association, theavailability of ovals for training and fixtures, as well as the attraction of players to the clubs via supportive correspondence during enrolment, sporting scholarships and general university support.

    University rugby clubs are (should be) different from other rugby clubs in that they represent an institution. It is for this reason that for Colts teams, membership of university rugby clubs must be restricted to those who are eligible to represent the institution (i.e. the University):

    Currently enrolled students at that particular university
    Graduates of that particular university

    A university is a community and the attraction to represent that community can be overwhelming. Currently enrolled students should not be denied the honour of representing that community because someone, who has no connection with the community, has been allowed to take his/her place.

    While currently strong university rugby clubs will disagree with this, weak clubs or
    clubs yet to be established will see it as inspirational. It will force University Rugby Clubs to concentrate on their designated market and, with the support of the University and the University Sports Association, create innovative opportunities such as those offered by Sydney University’s Special Entry Scheme and Elite Athlete Program and Melbourne University’s Elite Athletes and Artistic Performers Entry Scheme.

    To create or strengthen a university rugby club, the efforts of the following entities should be coordinated and active ina united way:

    Australian Rugby Union
    Australian Universities Sport
    Australian Universities Rugby Union
    Each State Rugby Union
    The University Sports body e.g. Sports Union or Sporting Association
    The University
    The University Rugby Club

    With these entities contributing, every university in Australia will be able to have a competitive Rugby Club and Australian rugby will be stronger for it.

    The attraction for university students and graduates playing for a university club is strengthened by the opportunity to participate in:

    Australian Universiies Rugby
    Australian Uniroos
    Summer Universiades
    World University Championships

    • Harpoon Harry

      Croc…..I agree that your comments need wide and vigorous debate, in this context…….It serves no long term interest of any human pursuit, be it a game or an industry, to have “Category Killers” which stifle true and balanced competition and bring about structural imbalances, to the detriment of stakeholders, widely defined. The congealed capabilities of Institutional Clubs, when implemented as effectively and obsessively as Syd Uni, are a great example of this.
      Why is Uni of Qld doing so poorly, then, by comparison with Syd Uni?
      I Captained the first Uni of Qld side since the War not to make the Finals (like we came 2nd last) and it made no difference whatsoever to the great mates I made in my overall wonderful University experience.

    • sheekabout

      Hi Croc,

      Establishing a rugby club in every Australian university has merit to a degree, but exactly what are we trying to achieve from this long-term?

      How does a university-centric comp grow the game to a wider audience?

      Not even the English, the most elitist of cultures, has a university-centric comp underpinning its national team.

      A university-centric comp will please the well-healed, leather-patch brigade, but how does this grow the game into new frontiers?

      I’ve heard & read great Australian rugby folk argue that we don’t need to change our structures because they have served us so well in the past.

      A look at the history books shows this is not supported by the facts. The 70s was the first decade before the Wallabies won more tests than they lost.

      The 90s was our high water mark & it was probably the early to mid 90s before the Wallabies’ progressive win-loss ratio moved into the black.

      Our domestic structures have been good in producing wonderful individual players, but we have produced very few great Wallaby teams.

      Today, Australian rugby is struggling on several fronts. Our leading Wallabies exhibit poor basic skills which is endemic through the 150-odd professional players in the country.

      Why this is so I’m not at all sure.

      The premier rugby comps below the super rugby provinces are not doing their job of providing sufficient quality players to displace those in the provinces & provide keener competition for eventual Wallaby positions.

      Australian rugby is further struggling with an image problem of being the last refuge of the elites.

      Across a wide range of indicators – player participation numbers, top-end game-winners, live match fans, TV audiences, corporate sponsorship & cross-media interest, Australian rugby is running fourth out of four football codes.

      To get out of this continuous-loop rut, we need to change our structures and our culture.

      One of the first things we need to get into our heads, is that there is no place for University teams in any kind of national comp.

      And neither are Shute Shield or Hospital Cup clubs the answer for a national comp.

      Australian rugby, administrators, fans, stakeholders, we need to change our thinking and our culture.

      • Croc

        Hi Sheekabout

        My view is that there are too many people who play rugby at school and then DO NOT go on and play club rugby. Having a rugby club in every university in Australia would assist in getting more of these school leavers playing rugby as 18, 19 and 20 year olds. I think that some of these new clubs could just be for Colts teams and for whatever reason if they don’t need or want to become a club with open teams, could be feeder clubs to the established open clubs. This means more people are playing rugby after school and more people get access to and perhaps opportunities with:

        Australian Universiies Rugby
        Australian Uniroos
        Summer Universiades
        World University Championships

        • Croc

          What I haven’t, as yet, detailed are how much more the structure of university sport, in this case rugby, can play in further strengthening Australian rugby. This is true for 15’s, 7’s, male and female rugby. This is particularly so for Colts rugby, the important bridge between School rugby and
          Club rugby.


          With 40 to 50 universities in Australian this annual 15 player competition can become a HUGE rugby spectacle. No doubt there would need to be divisions and “Australian Universities Rugby Teams” could be picked from each division and “rep” games could be organised. For the best team from this carnival, games could be organised against New Zealand, South African and Argentinian similar teams.

          Australian Universities Games

          This is where 7’s rugby is played. With 40 to 50 universities being represented, this too will be a great spectacle.

          Australian Universities Rugby

          This is a long established body that is now called Australian Universities Rugby Union. There is so much more that this body can do but in the past Australian Universities Rugby teams have toured Japan three times, toured New Zealand, toured the United Kingdom, played international touring teams in Australia and has a regular game against Australian Services and sometimes against New Zealand Universities. There are so many opportunities here, each of which would contribute to the strengthening of Australian rugby. Various teams can be selected as Australian University Rugby Teams:
          * Enrolled students who play for a University Rugby Club·
          * Enrolled students who play for any club·
          * Enrolled students and graduates who play for a University Rugby Club·
          * Enrolled students and graduates who play for any Club·
          * Enrolled students who attend inter-varsity

          Australian Uniroos

          The Australian Uniroos is the team identity for all Australian University Sport high performance teams representing Australia on the international stage at either a World University Championship, Summer or Winter Universiade.

          Summer Universiades

          The 2013 Summer Universiade was held in Kazan, Russia from 6-17 July, 2013. The 2013 Australian Uniroos were repesented in the following sports: Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Beach volleyball, Canoe Sprint, Diving, Fencing, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Judo, Rowing, Sport shooting, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball
          and Waterpolo.

          18 countries participated in the Rugby 7’s competition but not Australia.

          World University Championship

          World University Championship (WUC) events are held every two years in an alternate sequence to the Universiade’s under the banner of the International University Sports Federation (FISU). There are currently 29 WUC sports in the FISU calendar which are staged in various cities throughout the world.

          Australian University Sport selects teams to represent Australia in World University Championship events in consultation with the relevant National Sporting
          Organisations (NSOs). Following communication with the Australian Rugby Union the decision was made that Australia would not be selecting teams to compete in the 2012 World University Rugby 7’s Championship.

          University rugby clubs can play a significant role in the further strengthening Australian rugby but there must be more of them and they must stick to their designated market – if you are not a student nor a graduate, you should not play for a university club.

  • Snort

    I’m a former University player and a University supporter. I was on the end of some hidings when I played, and kept going to support the club in the mid-90s, when most weeks, First Grade lost by fifty points. So, I feel no shame in being able to enjoy the Club’s success now – I’ve earned it.
    The overall point Hugh makes is right. It isn’t healthy to have one club be so dominant for so long.
    The question is, how to fix it? And the answer isn’t, I believe, to devise rules intended to weaken University. The answer should be to create opportunities for other clubs to raise their standards. Hugh is right that there are limited opportunities to emulate University’s model – although those clubs that are now linked to other Universities should be able to do better. But every club has needs that, if satisfied, would help to lift its standards. As far as I can tell, this year Parramatta has improved its standing with minimal outside help, but a heap of willpower and hard work. What if Parramatta were (say) given additional coaching support, or provided with access to better strength and conditioning facilities? I admit I’m not across the detail of what each club’s needs might be, but I’d like to see the ARU/NSWRU fund clubs in way that didn’t involve payment to players, but did enable each club to make itself more attractive to recruits and better able to prepare top-line players. I know the scholarships are attractive at University – but where the real appeal of the club lies is that new players know that the coaching and conditioning teams will give them every chance to be prepared as well as they can be for a representative career. That isn’t something beyond the reach of other clubs, if they have the right support. And I also think that funding the game at this level will pay far better dividends for the ARU than pouring money into the black hole of an artificial “third tier”.
    Oh, and Folau? He played precisely zero minutes of Shute Shield, so his choice of club didn’t count for much, except symbolically, I guess.

  • simmo green

    The real story in this article is not Sydney Uni, it’s the indolence of the NSW and the ARU in relation to western Sydney


A pretty average writer and an even worse player. Subbies struggler, supporter of the 2014 Super Rugby Champions.

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