For Melbourne University Rugby Football Club, unlike the students’ clubs in the other major capitals, Sydney and Brisbane, the glory days are dust-covered from the sixties.
It is a foundation club of the Victorian Rugby Union and the only such club remaining in the Victorian Premier Division since 1909. The club fields five teams in the Premier Division, including a Colts (U20) team, and a team including Over 35’s.
But with personnel changes and new blood the Melbournians look positively at the coming championship.
G&GR interviewed the students’ General Manager and Head Coach Jason Jones ahead of the 2015 Dewar Shield season, which opens for his club on March 21st against the reigning champions, Harlequins.
Jones spoke about the three years plan at the club and the exciting additions to the coaching an playing staff. As for the Dewar Shield in 2015:
We are not here to make up numbers.
“In the pre-season we had a lot of changes at the club” said Jones, “this year we have formed the high performance group: we have recruited Brad Mika, former All Black, a great addition to the club, and Tia Suemai, who is a former Samoan international, as my forwards and backs coaches.
All Black Brad Mika (cousin of Will Skelton) – forwards’coach
With Josh Philpot, from the Rebels now on board as High Performance Manager they would have a more organised structure, to handle the increase in players.
“We have more depth”, said Jones, ”last year we were a very young side, as all the University teams are, but this year we have much bigger bodies: we are a stronger side”
The area for improvement:
“We are trying to establish our brand, what sort of rugby we want to play, we have to improve in a couple of positions, it would be good to have a bit of height, but we are in the same boat as many clubs in this regard”
Expectations for 2015:
We had a thee-year plan: in the first year the goal was stabilising the club; last year was about getting the right programme in place, and this year is about winning: we are not here to make up numbers.
Starting the season against Quins will be tough admitted Jones, “but it is a good place to start. It is good to measure yourself against he reigning premiers: it will give us a baseline on where we are tracking”
Players to watch:
“I’m reluctant to name names at this stage, there are many guys that came across from New Zealand, they’ll play very high standard, capable to make the jump in the Rebels’ programme”
Impact of Rebels/Rising collaboration on your club:
“It is obviously important, because there is a pathway, there is a direct correlation between Dewar Shield, NRC and Super Rugby.
Jones said this may attract players from New Zealand, Brisbane or Sydney: they will realise that they can come to Melbourne, play well in first grade and be on the radar for the National Rugby Competition.