It is hard to believe that another rugby season has just flown by - and what a season it was! The national landscape for junior rugby changed again in 2019 and this has certainly created a whole new range of opportunities (and challenges) for NSW Juniors and our affiliate unions of Sydney Juniors (SJRU) and NSW Country Juniors (CJRU). Plus, we have also once again worked closely with NSW Schools Rugby (NSWSRU) in 2019 to promote and facilitate the growth of rugby and pathways in NSW.
In 2019 we continued our prime objectives to provide substantial and vibrant club competitions and pathways to representative rugby for our player base of over 20,000 junior club players across the state. Both SJRU and CJRU ran very healthy club competitions across the age groups of U10 to Opens (U18) as well as providing a fantastic introduction to the game our youngest players via their mini rugby programs. The SJRU inter-district minis gala days were a superb new introduction for the minis.
I’d like to congratulate both SJRU & CJRU on successfully running their various club competitions across the state, which culminated in Grand Finals across August and September to anoint this year’s premiership teams. As always this is an immense task and not without its challenges, but the hard work of SJRU President Tony Cooper and his team, and CJRU President Mick Melino and his team have helped make this another stellar season of club rugby.
One of the features of the season has been the growth of the girl’s game, which continues to thrive as we establish more and more competitions and opportunities for them. The SJRU Frosty and Sizzling 7s are just one example of growing regular competitions for our female players and this only adds to the fledgling Rep programs we have been growing for a few years now via SJRU &CJRU. NSW Schools have also been active in this area with such programs as the CHS Girls and PLC Pymble tournaments.
One of the most important aspects of the 2019 season was the assistance we received from our fantastic sponsors at NSW Juniors. I’d personally like to thank Nick Scarf from Genesis Proprietary Trading, Steve Tulevski and Dean Michniewicz from Estilo Travel, Greg Mumm from the NSW Positive Rugby Foundation and Adrian Skeggs, Angus Stewart and Alex Lyus from Rugby 1st. The support and assistance that you have all given to junior rugby in NSW is greatly appreciated and we are extremely grateful and proud to be associated with you and your companies. I’d also like to acknowledge the support we received from Gilbert, Sinalli, Central Coast Council and Orange Regional Council in making the 2019 season a successful one.
On the Representative side of the equation it has been a big year of change. In 2019 Rugby Au moved to the Academy model for the Open (boys U18) age group which opened the pathway to ALL players in Australia that are under 18 (not only those in schools). This has meant that for players in NSW that the new pathway to make the Australian Schools & U18s team was via the NSW Gen Blue Academy. The U18 Gen Blue Academy was essentially made up of the NSW Schools I & II team, the NSWJRU U18 team and certain elite players that were identified along the pathway. This squad was then narrowed to the Final Gen Blue U18 team which played Qld & ACT for the chance to be selected in the Australian Schools & U18s team. So essentially the initial priority for players is to get into the GEN BLUE Academy via whatever pathway they can.
See below diagram for explanation of the road map for U18 players in NSW via both the club and school’s pathway.
Congratulations to the following players whom made the final NSW GEN BLUE U18 team
NSWJRU State Championships
One of highlights of our calendar is the Positive Rugby Foundation NSW Junior State Championships and the Rugby 1st 2019 Girls NSWJRU State Championships. This year we managed to avoid the usual weather issues and our hosts were (as per usual) amazing in providing fantastic venues for a wonderful weekend of representative rugby across multiple venues. I’d like to thank all our State Championship hosts and their wonderful volunteers. I’d also like to congratulate this year’s State Champions in each age group. For the record this year’s host venues and champions were;
June Long weekend (8th – 10th June, 2019)
· U12 – Camden Rugby Club, Camden Rugby Park at Camden – State Champions = Penrith
· U13 Boys – Maitland Blacks Rugby Club, Marcellin Park at Maitland – State Champions = ACT Brumbies
· U13 Girls – Hunters Hill Rugby Club, Boronia Park at Hunters Hill. Finals at Wests Juniors, St Lukes Ovals at Concord – State Champions = Two Blues / Eastwood
· U14 – Orange City Rugby Club, Waratahs Sports Club at Orange – State Champions = Gordon
· U15 Boys – Wests Juniors, St Lukes Ovals at Concord – State Champions = Penrith
· U15 Girls – Hunters Hill Rugby Club, Boronia Park at Hunters Hill. Finals at Wests Juniors, St Lukes Ovals at Concord – State Champions = Brisbane Juniors
· U16 – Narrabeen Tigers Junior Rugby, North Narrabeen Reserve at Narrabeen – State Champions = Warringah
· U17 Girls – Hunters Hill Rugby Club, Boronia Park at Hunters Hill. Finals at Wests Juniors, St Lukes Ovals at Concord – State Champions = West Harbour
· Opens (U18) - Narrabeen Tigers Junior Rugby,North Narrabeen Reserve at Narrabeen –State Champions = Hunter
This year saw a slight change to the State Championship format where we moved the under 11 age group to join the Under 10’s on their own dedicated Rep weekend. The Positive Rugby Foundation NSW Juniors State Development Gala was held at the new Tuggerah Sports Complex and it was a smashing success – 7 ovals running non-stop for two days. The complex was ideal and the vibe over the whole weekend was exactly what junior rugby should be all about.This is now my new favourite event and will quickly become one of our most iconic and signature events – a weekend away on the Central Coast that will be booked into calendars for years to come. Thanks to Central Coast Juniors and Central Coast Council for their assistance in helping get this event started.
Saturday & Sunday 20th-21st July, 2019
· U10’s – Central Coast Regional Sporting & Recreation Complex, 20 Lake Road, Tuggerah
· U11’s – Central Coast Regional Sporting & Recreation Complex, 20 Lake Road, Tuggerah
After avoiding the wet weather for the long weekend, we were hit hard over the regionals weekend with ovals closing everywhere due to the wet grounds. Blacktown Rugby club stood up and hosted us at Grantham Oval. Many thanks to Teki Tuipulotu and his crew for hosting a great weekend. These games are primarily trials for the respective Sydney and Country teams in the U14, U15 & U16 age groups. This carnival is always one of the most enjoyable with high quality rugby and further selections opportunities adding to the drama.
As this is predominantly a selection tournament the results are somewhat secondary but for the record the MWZ U15 and NSWJRU U16 Pres XV both went through the tournament undefeated.
Sydney vs NSW Country
Due to the nature of this year’s representative calendar the U18 Sydney vs NSW Country game was played on a Saturday night at Chatswood Oval following the Shute Shield game. It was a cracking match with spots in the NSW Juniors U18 team up for grabs for the players and the winning coaching team would also get the coaching gig for the NSWJRU I team. So "sheep stations" were up for grabs (not sure if 'Haddon Rig' or 'Egelabra' but definitely some prime pastoral land).
Sydney won the game meaning the coaching team of Mark Houston, Brett Fawcett & Mark Rechner assumed the NSWJRU I role for the second year running with the NSW Country crew taking over the NSWJRU II team.
Sydney U18 vs NSW Country U18
· U18 (Michael Brial Cup) SJRU 24 defeated CJRU 18
Following the game the NSWJRU U18 teams were selected and to prove how tight selections were 12 players from NSW Country making the team from the losing side. These NSWJRU teams then went on to play against AAGPS Blue and White at St Josephs College, Hunters Hill. The NSWJRU II team went down 12-40 to AAGPS White but the NSWJRU I team turned the tables to score a convincing 38-10 win over AAGPS Blue.
From here the final NSWJRU I team was selected and they became part of the NSW GEN BLUE Academy – the entire team also got to travel to Perth to represent the Academy against the Western Force Academy. Both teams scored 5 tries on the day (Liam Dalibozek scored all 5 from NSW) but goal kicking was the difference going down 41-25. From here FIVE of these players made it to the final GEN BLUE team.
Our final CJRU and SJRU U16 teams were selected following the Regionals and they competed in the NSW Invitational at Narrabeen. This is a selection trial for the two NSW teams that would compete in the U16’s Nationals on the Gold Coast in late September. The Sydney vs NSW Country game was postponed within this carnival so that it could be scheduled for the City vs Country.
The City vs Country games were played at No.2 Sportsground at Newcastle, with Wanderers hosting. We had some cracking games of rugby on show – all were live streamed as well which is a terrific addition to the program. We also had our first U15 girls clash with the new Shield being named after Mahalia Murphy.
City vs Country results
· U14’s (Tim Gavin Shield) SJRU 48 defeated CJRU 7
· U15’s Girls (Mahalia Murphy) SJRU 15 defeated CJRU 5
· U15’s (Steve Tuynman Cup) SJRU 27 defeated CJRU 17
· U17’s Girls (Grace Hamilton Shield) SJRU 46 defeated CJRU 5
· U16’s (Ella Cup) CJRU 40 defeated SJRU 29
Following the City vs Country game the two NSW U16 teams were announced as well as the GEN BLUE U15 teams. I am pleased to say our teams did very well and a number of lads were selected into the two NSW teams and the U15 GEN BLUE. These selections are a great validation of the junior club pathway, congratulations to all the lads.
Rugby Au Schoolgirls and U18 Nationals
On 11th to 13th of July Rugby Australia ran a Schoolgirls and U18s Nationals at the Narrabeen Academy of Sport. Sydney Juniors (SJRU) and NSW Country Juniors (CJRU) both entered teams into this tournament alongside teams from Brisbane Juniors, Melbourne Rebels, ACT Schoolgirls (Blue & White), Rugby WA and Rugby SA. The two NSW teams performed admirably with both of them making the final - SJRU taking out the trophy. A number of these girls then were named in the Australian Merit team at the end of the tournament (pictured). Congrats to all the girls involved.
Off the field there has been a lot of progress made too. The new NSWRU governance model has begun to take effect enabling a better vehicle for all the various parts of the game to work together for the growth of the game. NSW Juniors offered “State Champs” merchandise for the first time and will continue to improve this offering. And the new NSW Juniors website (www.nswjuniors.rugby) has been phenomenal – take a look at the “news” section for more in depth stories and photos on this year’s events. Add this to our new Facebook profile and Twitter means that NSW Juniors has been communicating as good as we ever have.
There are always so many people to thank, and I apologize if I miss anyone, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the efforts of Kerry Brady, Tricia Waters, Gary Paton, Tony Fisher, Chuck Ardron, Luke McCormack, Kate Page, Stuart Burke & Kym Knight for their continued dedication to junior rugby in our state. I’d also like to especially thank our affiliate Presidents and NSWJRU Vice Presidents, Tony Cooper (SJRU) and Mick Melino (CJRU) whom did a wonderful job with their own unions. From NSWRU Andrew Hore, Mark Green, Tim Rapp, Matt Evrard, Andrew Hill and Andrew Cleverly have been very supportive of our representative programs and club competitions. And lastly Adrian Thompson from Rugby Au whom has continued to help NSWJRU find a pathway in the U18 space. Many thanks to you all for your commitment and dedication to the game of rugby in NSW.
We have some exciting times ahead of us in 2020, we know we still have issues in certain areas, but I am confident that we have the right people and plans to address these moving forward. Hopefully 2020 will be the biggest and most vibrant rugby season yet.
Go NSW and the Tahs!
President NSW Junior Rugby Union
Director NSW Rugby Union