Sydney University Football Club: A Season of Transformation

The past 12 weeks at Sydney University Football Club (SUFC) have been a whirlwind of activity. Our players, volunteers, and coaching team have put in an immense amount of work. The progress made by our young players is evident, with consistent training leading to significant changes in their physique – they’ve become leaner while gaining muscle mass.

Gone are the days of endless running without the ball. Now, we have specific sessions designed around ‘Ball in Play’ game periods. With the help of GPS data, we can monitor the speed and intensity of our players’ training – there’s no place to hide or rest.

Our training combines high-speed running and accelerations with tactical rugby skill development. This is achieved through games, scenarios, and multi-drills, maximising training time and accelerating skill development. Complementing this is some heavy lifting in the gym, ensuring that nothing is done in isolation from the game model.

The results so far have been substantial. Our players are running significant in-game high-speed meters and lifting impressive weights in the gym. It’s quite a sight to see the front row squatting 260 kilograms regularly. As the speed of training has increased, skill levels have diminished, necessitating further development in skill execution. It’s a classic case of stretch-master-stretch-master for the players. Full credit goes to Shane Ball and his strength and conditioning staff, as well as the coaches who are preparing the next generation of SUFC players.

In the midst of all this hard work, we’ve also had:

  • Development Camps at Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange, NSW, with over 100 grade and colts players attending.
  • Australia Day at Wanda sand dunes, where 110 grade, colts, and women’s team members came together as One Club.
  • Scrimmages to understand the new tackle laws.
  • Club Day, a significant day for all players and coaches, which included competition compliance, concussion, media shots, and a 2-hour training session.

As we move into Phase 3, the players are eager to play against opposition other than each other at training. With 3 to 4 trials in the next 6 weeks, we’re gearing up for the season kick-off. There’s still much work to be done, but the anticipation for the season start is palpable. As a young, aspiring group, we will continue to develop and evolve well into the season.

Our players have welcomed the new tackle height law (9.13), which deems dangerous tackling to include tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the sternum. They’ve challenged themselves to master this new law positively. This will require some adjustment, and we all need to work with match officials, as this has been handed down by World Rugby for the foreseeable future.

This law will initially change the dynamic of the game. Research from European competitions that have already implemented the tackle height law has seen more than 40 penalties a game as referees ensure a change in tackle height behaviour occurs. After a 40-minute internal trial, our coaches have projected that a full game will see a lot of stoppages in the early rounds due to both penalties and an increase of 20+ scrums and 25+ lineouts combined between the two teams per game.

The good news is that the sternum tackle height law increased offloads by 65% in some countries and promoted an open and fast game after a settling period.

Our players need your support and understanding as they navigate this game-changing tackle height law. Change is always challenging, but by being proactive and mastering the law, we can’t afford to look back. We invite you to come down to the trials and get a feel for the new laws and how teams are adjusting.

Nonetheless, our young squad is gearing up in every way they can, ready to tackle the 2024 season head-on.


To receive these exclusive rugby insights weekly during the season, become an SUFC member now, click here.