Firstly it is a hearty welcome to all the players, coaches, officials, parents and supporters to the 2021 Positive Rugby Foundation NSW Junior State Championships & the Rugby 1st NSWJRU Girls State Championships.
With COVID-19 causing the cancellation of the 2020 event, it seems like an eternity ago that we have hosted any substantial Representative Rugby carnivals. And the anticipation amongst the Junior Club rugby community is obvious with the 2021 event going to be our biggest ever State Championships(by numbers of teams entered).
We have around 172 teams competing across 7 host venues – 6 of these competitions all taking place over the June Long Weekend plus the Positive Rugby Foundation Junior State Gala for U10 & U11 players is to be held on 3rd and 4th July at Tuggerah. This equates to circa 4300 players, coaches, managers and officials all taking part in these tournaments which is a mammoth total, let alone the spectators and supporters that will also attend which will most likely be another 10,000 people across all venues. By any standard this is a big event.
Events like a State Championships don’t just happen by themselves. We have a fantastic number of host venues that put their hand up to supply their grounds and volunteers to facilitate these championships for you to enjoy. Some of these host clubs have been supporting NSW Junior Championships for over a decade and others such as Dubbo are joining us for the very first time. And it is not only the local rugby clubs that are supporting these efforts – many of the local Councils have come on board to support the efforts to bring large rugby events to their local regions and we thank those Councils for their support. Particularly Dubbo Regional Council, Orange City Council and Bathurst Regional Council (City vs Country) have been very helpful and generous in supporting their local clubs to enable the hosting job to be feasible and productive for both the club and the local community. We encourage all those teams travelling to these regional centres to get out and enjoy the services and attractions that make these centres so enticing.
So please support our host clubs when visiting, support their canteens and if there is a small token charge for car parking please understand this is going back into rugby and enables these clubs to upgrade and maintain their facilities so they may host again in the future. Our 2021 State Champs host venues and host clubs are;
I must also mention the volunteers on the NSW Juniors Committee that put in countless hours to ensure these Championships go off without a hitch. Gary Paton is the official 2021 State Championship Manager (as he has been for many years but this year we have formalized it) and we now have a State Champs Sub-Committee specifically tasked with helping Gary prepare the draws, handle dispensations and eligibility – these committee members are Andrew Hutton, Renee Park and George Roper. Along side this Kerry Brady, Ben Kooyman and myself support with liaising with venues, councils, referees, sponsors etc which is almost a full time job in itself. The rest of the committee will be on the ground over the long weekend at all the various venues – so make sure you say hello when you see them.
Speaking of vital cogs in the State Champs system, our sponsors are another wonderful supporting asset that we simply could no do without. We are blessed to have two great naming rights sponsors for these Championships, The Positive Rugby Foundation for the boys events and Rugby 1st for the girls events. I’d like to thank Peter Murphy, Tina Campbell and Greg Mumm from the Positive Rugby Foundation as well as Angus Stewart and Alex Lyus from Rugby 1st for their support of our Juniors across the state. There are two other sponsors that have understandably stepped back their support since COVID-19 struck but we’d still like to acknowledge them for the support over the past few years in Estilo Travel and Genesis Proprietary Trading. Genesis were our initial sponsor and remained so for many years till they ceased operations last April, so it was particularly sad to see them go (especially since I worked there). Gilbert is back for 2021 and Edstart & Ondeck joins us for the first time – we thank you to you all for your support.
But the biggest thank you of all must go to the Rugby Club Foundation whose most generous support meant that no District or Zone in NSW needed to pay an entry fee for the 2021 Championships, the Rugby Club Foundation covered the lot. This is such a wonderful gesture of support for grassroots junior club rugby that I encourage all of you to show your appreciation in person if you see any of the Foundation members around the grounds or via social media – such generosity deserves recognition.
Our Championships are not only for the players but also hold a place in the pathway for our referees. Alex Richards will take the SSS referees to Orange to officiate the U14s, whilst other venues will lean on local and out of town referees to make sure we have a crew of fair and equitable whistle blowers making our Championships complete.
And for the first time on 2021 your friends and family that cannot make the Championships can keep up with the action via NSW Rugby TV (hosted by Cluch TV www.cluch.tv) – all games on the main oval at each venue will be live streamed (the draw aims to make sure all teams get a run on the main oval). So they need simply purchase a subscription (can be as short as a day pass) which generally is less than a cup of coffee per month and start watching some fantastic live streamed junior rugby.
The last thing I must mention is the 2021 State Champs merchandise – this has been on sale online for the past few weeks and the speed with which we were hit with orders was enormous. We ordered more State Champs gear than ever, but obviously with hindsight having a year off with COVID meant the demand was unprecedented. Our Hoodies sold out in certain sizes almost overnight, as did the rest of the range of State Champs merchandise. Luckily our friends at Sinalli have opened an online shop which you can order from for those that missed out – it now means that nobody is denied the opportunity to purchase your State Champs gear. See the advert in this program for more details.
We wish all teams good luck over the coming days – play hard but more importantly enjoy the experience, make new friends and appreciate all the opportunities that rugby can provide.
Yours in Rugby
President- NSW Junior Rugby Union
Director- NSW Rugby & Waratahs