Rugby Victoria

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Rugby Victoria
Rugby Victoria logo.png
SportRugby union
Founded1888 (Melbourne R.U.)
refounded VRU
1893, 1909, 1926,
renamed Rugby
Victoria in 2017
 (1888 (Melbourne R.U.)
refounded VRU
1893, 1909, 1926,
renamed Rugby
Victoria in 2017
RA affiliation1949 (founding member)

Rugby Victoria, formerly the Victorian Rugby Union, is a member and founding union of Rugby Australia. Within the state of Victoria, it is the governing body for the sport of rugby union.

Rugby Victoria manages competitions for males and females in several age groups and divisions, and involving clubs from metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Rugby union was founded in Melbourne in 1888. However competition lapsed and was twice re-established during the first twenty years, and again after the first World War when the present governing body was founded in 1926, then known as the Victorian Rugby Union, or VRU.[1]

In December 2017, the VRU was re-branded as Rugby Victoria.[2]


Early years: 1888 to 1945[edit]

The Melbourne Rugby Union was established in 1888 and the first two clubs were founded in that year.[1] Later that season, a Victorian team was selected to play the British side known then as the "English Footballers" but now recognised as the First British Lions team.[3]

The visitors won the match, 9-3. Melbourne's club competition ceased in 1890 but a new administrative body, the Victorian Rugby Union, was formed in 1893. The Victorians played their first inter-colonial rugby match in 1894, beating South Wales by 3-0 at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Competition lapsed again after the Victorians were defeated 30-0 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) by the British Lions in 1899, but the Victorian Rugby Union was re-formed in 1908. Australia played Victoria at the MCG in August of that year, on their way to Great Britain for what became known as the First Wallabies Tour.

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 the First World War and recommenced under a re-established VRU in 1926.

The subsequent decade later became known as the Golden Years of Victorian Rugby and included the selection of the first Victorian-born player to represent Australia, Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop, in 1932. Dave Cowper, who played for the Melbourne Rugby Club and represented Victoria in the 1930s became Victoria's first, and so far only, Wallaby captain in 1933.

In 1939, four Victorian players were selected in the Wallaby side to tour Europe: Andy Barr, Max Carpenter, Stan Bisset and George Pearson.[4] However the tour was prematurely ended by Britain's declaration of war on Germany just two days after the team arrived at Plymouth on 2 September 1939, with all sport in Britain cancelled.[5]

Amateur rugby: 1945 to 1995[edit]

Logo until late 2017

In 1958, the first test match in Victoria was staged at Olympic Park Stadium, with Australia hosting the Maoris.

Modern era: 1996 onward[edit]

The Victorian Rugby Union (VRU) bid unsuccessfully for the fourth Australian Super 14 licence, which eventually went to the Western Force prior to the 2006 season. However, New South Wales gave up a fourth franchise for the Australian Rugby Championship, allowing Victoria to field the Melbourne Rebels in that competition.[citation needed]

In November 2009, SANZAR announced that Australia had won the 15th Super rugby franchise licence, and the Australian Rugby Union awarded it to the Melbourne Rebels consortium led by media magnate Harold Mitchell.[citation needed] The VRU did not initially own or run the Melbourne Rebels.

On 27 June 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 transferred 100% of their shares to the Victorian Rugby Union.[citation needed] 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. Jonathan Ling became the chairman of the Melbourne Rebels, replacing Harold Mitchell.[citation needed] Peter Leahy was appointed General Manager of Community Rugby to oversee the operations of local competitions and all Victorian Community Rugby activities.

Current competition[edit]

Victoria has twenty-five senior rugby clubs as of 2018. Senior player numbers have grown from 1,400 in 1998 to well over 2,200 in 2012. Teams in the competition have grown from 4 in 1909 to 173 in 2013.

The nine teams that play for the Shield in the domestic Premier 1 Division are:

As of 2018, Rugby Victoria has seven teams in their senior women's competition.

Representative teams[edit]

link=File: Victoria Country Barbarians

The Victoria Country Barbarians team competes in the NRC Division 2 tournament.[6] From 2000 to 2008, the Melbourne Axemen played in the Australian Rugby Shield.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "About VRU". Archived from the original on 18 January 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  2. ^ "A new chapter begins for rugby in Victoria". 4 December 2017. Archived from the original on 16 March 2018.
  3. ^ "IRB Hall of Fame 2013 Induction: "The British & Irish Lions and Australia"" (PDF) (Press release). International Rugby Board. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  4. ^ "For England: Rugby Players Leave". The Age. Melbourne. 20 July 1939. p. 6 col. 5. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Rugby Union team returning". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane. 6 September 1939. p. 11, col. 4. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  6. ^ "NRCII tournament comes to Adelaide". Rugby Union SA. 5 September 2019. Archived from the original on 24 September 2019.

External links[edit]