Rugby union in New South Wales

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Rugby Union in New South Wales
Waratahs vs Brumbies at ANZ 7 2012.jpg
Waratahs vs Brumbies at ANZ Stadium, 2012.
Governing body New South Wales Rugby Union
State team New South Wales Waratahs
First played 1860s
Club competitions

Rugby union is one of the leading professional and recreational team sports in New South Wales. Rugby football began to be played in Sydney’s schools in the early 1860s.[1] In the more than 150 years since, the game in New South Wales has grown to include more than 100,000 participants and the Rugby World Cup Final has been hosted in Sydney.[2][3]


Reports of folk football being played in the Colony of New South Wales date from at least as early as 1829.[4] Games were occasional and included matches played by soldiers at Sydney's barracks or against the crews of visiting ships. The rules were variable and negotiated by the players before each game.[5]

Rugby beginnings[edit]

Football played under versions of the Rugby School rules was brought to Australia by Old Boys of the English public schools.[1] Some settlers would have been familiar with earlier forms of the game even before it was formally codified at Rugby School in 1845.[6] The Rugby code was introduced to schools in Sydney from the early 1860s.[1] Players familiar with the game from the Sydney schools, along with increased arrivals from England and elsewhere, soon led to organised club football commencing in Sydney.[1] Rugby games were being played at Sydney University in the 1860s.[7]

The first ‘inter-club’ rugby match took place during July 1865 between the Sydney Football Club and a team from the Australian Cricket Club.[8][9] The game was intended to be played over three Saturdays but the newspapers of the time only report on the first two.[10][11] The game was postponed after the second Saturday when the Sydney FC held a lead of two goals to one,[12] but no record has been found of the final result.[8] Newington College is credited with having a rugby club as early as 1869.[7] From 1872 onwards there was a rapid growth in the formation of rugby football clubs.[8]

At a meeting of Sydney clubs on 22 June 1874, the Southern Rugby Football Union was formed as the governing body for rugby in New South Wales,[13] and it was later renamed the New South Wales Rugby Union in 1892.[14]

New South Wales Rugby Union team, ca. 1883
New South Wales team, ca. 1883

New South Wales state team[edit]

Waratahs colours

The New South Wales Waratahs team is the representative team of the NSWRU. The Waratahs have competed in the transnational Super Rugby competition since the start of the professional era of rugby in 1996.


Super Rugby[edit]

Main article: Super Rugby

The New South Wales Waratahs play in the Super Rugby competition against other professional teams from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.[15] The Waratahs team won the Super Rugby title for the first time in 2014,[16] after having previously reached the final in 2005 and 2008.[17]

National Rugby Championship[edit]

New South Wales has three teams in the National Rugby Championship:

Shute Shield[edit]

Main article: Shute Shield

Premiership Rugby is contested in Sydney across four senior grades and three colts competitions. Club Championship trophies are also contested on overall results.The Shute Shield is the trophy for the first grade premiership competition, and the twelve clubs currently competing for the premiership are:[18][19]

Over the many years of competition for the NSW premiership, a number of formerly notable clubs became defunct. Some of the early ones include: Glebe (Australian Club Champions in 1908),[20] Pirates,[21] The Sydney Football Club (est. 1865),[1] and Wallaroos.[21]

The Tooheys New Cup, which was the other recent first grade competition, ran from 2002 to 2006. An abbreviated Shute Shield competition was played in the latter part of the season during those years. When the Tooheys New Cup competition was disbanded, the Shute Shield competition was expanded again for the 2007 season.[22]

Suburban rugby[edit]

Below the NSWRU grade competition is the New South Wales Suburban Rugby Union (commonly known as Subbies). With over 6,000 players and 55 clubs this is believed to be the largest centrally organised rugby union competition in the world.[23]

Country Rugby[edit]

Cockatoos colours

The New South Wales Country Rugby Union is affiliated with the NSWRU and administers game in the majority of non-metropolitan areas of NSW. The union is split into nine zones with 100 clubs and over 16,000 players. NSW Country is represented by the New South Wales Country Cockatoos team.[24]

Women's Rugby[edit]

Club competitions for women's 15-a-side teams are run in Sydney and Newcastle.[25] A representative team from Sydney is regularly selected to play the NSW Country Corellas and the Australian Army women's team.[26] The NSWRU also sends women's 15-a-side and 7-a-side representative teams to the ARU National Championships each year. The six clubs in the Sydney women's competition, as of 2014, are:[27]

Schoolboy Rugby[edit]

Main article: Waratah Shield

The Waratah Shield is a rugby union knock-out competition for high school teams from New South Wales, Australia. First contested in 1963, it is organised by New South Wales Rugby Union in conjunction with NSW Schools' Rugby Union and NSW Combined High Schools and attracts around 100 entries each year.


  1. ^ a b c d e Fagan, Sean (18 November 2013). "Sydney University FC – Australia's first rugby club". Saints and Heathens. Retrieved 6 May 2014. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Rugby participation in NSW hits all time high". New South Wales Rugby. 12 December 2012. Archived from the original on 11 May 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Football: Four games, one name". Australian Bureau of Ststistics. 12 December 2012. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Hickie 1983, p. 14.
  5. ^ Mulford 2005, p. 1.
  6. ^ Horton 1990, p. 44.
  7. ^ a b Hickie 1980, p. 14.
  8. ^ a b c Fagan, Sean. "NSW Rugby History". Saints and Heathens. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Football". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 July 1865. p. 5, col. 6. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "The Sydney Monthly Overland Mail". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 July 1865. p. 5, col. 5. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Notes of the week from the 30th June to the 7th July". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 July 1865. p. 3. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "Football". Empire. Sydney. 29 July 1865. p. 4, col. 5. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Mulford 2005, p. 22.
  14. ^ Mulford 2005, p. 20.
  15. ^ Mulford 2005, p. 242–244.
  16. ^ "Waratahs beat Crusaders to win Super Rugby title". Rugby Week. 2 August 2014. Archived from the original on 2 August 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "New South Wales Waratahs". ESPN scrum. 6 June 2014. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  18. ^ "Magners Shute Shield". New South Wales Rugby. 2014. Archived from the original on 6 April 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  19. ^ "NSW Premiership". Australian Rugby. 6 June 2014. Archived from the original on 15 May 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  20. ^ Mulford 2005, p. 42.
  21. ^ a b Mulford 2005, p. xv.
  22. ^ "Stage set for new season of Sydney Club Rugby". ESPN Scrum. 16 January 2007. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  23. ^ "Annual Report 2005" (PDF 1.1 MB). New South Wales Suburban Rugby Union. 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 May 2013. 
  24. ^ "All About Us". New South Wales Country Rugby Union. Archived from the original on 26 May 2014. 
  25. ^ "Women's Rugby". New South Wales Rugby. 
  26. ^ "2014 Rep Program". Sydney Women's Rugby. 10 April 2014. 
  27. ^ "Sydney Clubs Women Rugby Draws & Results". Sydney Women's Rugby. 2014. 


  • Hickie, Tom V (1983). The Game for the Game Itself; The Development of Sub-District Rugby in Sydney. Sydney Sub-Districts Rugby Union. ISBN 978-0959194104. 

External links[edit]