Victorian Rugby Union
1926, 1909, 1893
The VRU manages competitions for males and females in several age groups and divisions, and involving clubs from metropolitan Melbourne, regional Victoria, and Deniliquin in New South Wales.
Rugby union was founded in Melbourne in 1888, but competition lapsed and was twice re-established during the first twenty years, and again after WWI when the present body of the Victorian Rugby Union was founded in 1926.
The Melbourne Rugby Union was founded in 1888 and the first two clubs were founded in that year, prior to selecting a Victorian team to play the British tourists, now known as the first British Lions, with the Lions winning the tour 9-3. Although formal competition ceased in 1890, a new Victorian Rugby Union was formed in 1893 and inter-colonial matches resumed in 1894, the year in which New South Wales was beaten 3-0 by Victoria at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Competition lapsed again after the Victorians were defeated 30-0 at the MCG by the second Lions in 1899, but the Victorian Rugby Union was reformed in 1908. Victoria went down 26-6 at the MCG in August of that year to what were soon to be known as the First Wallabies, who were then en route to Great Britain. Of the seven clubs comprising the new Union in 1909, Melbourne, East Melbourne, South Melbourne and University were the first to compete for the Dewar Shield, a trophy which is still awarded today to the premier first grade team. Competition ceased during WW1 and recommenced under the present Union in 1926, ushering in what were later to be called the Golden Years of Victorian Rugby and which included the selection of the first Victorian born player to represent Australia, Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop in 1932.
To date, Victoria has produced one Wallaby captain- Dave Cowper. In 1939/1940 four Victorian players were selected in the Wallaby side to tour England: Andy Barr, Max Carpenter and Stan Bissett and George Pearson. In 1958, the first test match in Victoria was staged at Olympic Park. The Maoris defeated the Wallabies 13 – 6.
Current Victorian Competition
Victoria currently boasts twenty-five Senior rugby clubs. Senior player numbers have grown from 1400 in 1998 to well over 2200 in 2012. Teams in the competition have grown from 4 in 1909 to 173 in 2013.
There are currently 7 Women's teams competing in the VRU competition.
The nine teams that play for the Shield in the domestic Premier 1 Division are:
- Melbourne Rugby Union Football Club (based in Prahran)
- Power House (Albert Park)
- Melbourne Harlequins (Ashwood)
- Melbourne University
- Box Hill
- Endeavour Hills
- Southern Districts (Frankston)
The Melbourne Rebels
For an in-depth description of their SANZAR bids see:Melbourne Rebels
The Union un-successfully bidded the fourth Australian Super 14 licence, which eventually went to the Western Force. The NSWRU gave up a fourth franchise for the Australian Rugby Championship that allowed the VRU to field the Melbourne Rebels in that competition.
In November 2009, SANZAR announced that Australia had won the 15th Super rugby franchise, and the ARU awarded the licence to the Melbourne Rebels consortium led by media magnate Harold Mitchell. The VRU did not own or run the Melbourne Rebels, however on June 27, 2013, the Rebels announced that foundation shareholders Harold Mitchell AC, Bob Dalziel, Lyndsey Cattermole, Alan Winney, Ralph D'Silva, Gary Gray, Paul Kirk, Leon L'Huillier, David Ogilvy and Michael Bartlett had signed a term sheet dealing with the 100% transfer of their shares to the Victorian Rugby Union.
As part of the transfer of ownership, Melbourne Rebels Chairman Harold Mitchell AC passed on his legacy to new Chairman, Mr Jonathan Ling.
The two organizations combined operations as a result of the transfer with Ross Oakley concluding his tenure as CEO of the VRU once the transfer was made. Rebels CEO Rob Clarke took responsibility for both organizations. The Rebels appointed Peter Leahy as General Manager of Community Rugby to oversee the operations of local competitions and all Victorian Community Rugby activities.