In a groundbreaking development for grassroots rugby Sydney University Football Club (SUFC) and Central West Rugby Union (CWRU) have committed to an unprecedented affiliation, a landmark agreement not dissimilar to the Penrith Panthers’ partnership with the Western Rams in the 13-man code.
The partnership is primarily focused on junior and senior development along with establishing, nurturing and promoting and identifiable pathway to the top for the region’s up-and-comers, largely through the formation of a junior academy program that will kick-off this summer.
The Sydney-based giant – arguably the highest-profile club in Australia – has also committed to investigating and potentially establishing a priority scholarship to a graduating Central West junior, subject to school results and ability of course.
It is very exciting, having a club with the profile of Sydney University on board for something like this will be massive for our region.
Central West president John Maynard
As an official, branded partner of CWRU, SUFC will also provide a proposed $12,000 in financial support, provide development opportunities and support for players, coaches and officials, investigate trial game and joint training opportunities and host an Intrust Super Shute Shield game in the region year-to-year.
SUFC president David Lyons, a Molong-born veteran of 46 Test Matches for Australia, made the announcement at his club’s Finals Lunch on Friday afternoon alongside his CWRU counterpart John Maynard.
“The country has always been really important to Sydney University, looking at our club now we have a lot of administrators from the country and from the Central West actually and at least half of our first grade players are born and bred in the country,” Lyons enthused.
“But we know how important country rugby is to the sport in Australia as a whole too. As a club we discussed how we could help continue development so this is really exciting, it’s a really exciting partnership that should be really beneficial for both Sydney University and Central West Rugby Union.”
Maynard echoed Lyons’ sentiments, adding the agreement will be particularly beneficial for coaches and officials’ development.
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“It is very exciting, having a club with the profile of Sydney University on board for something like this will be massive for our region,” Maynard said.
“Obviously it will be very beneficial for our players, especially the juniors, but it’s always been quite difficult to fund development opportunities for coaches and officials so that is a big factor too.”
Considering the sheer size of Central West’s catchment it makes sense as a focal point for development, the region boasts more than 3,000 players across almost 40 junior and senior clubs and has produced a handful of the nation’s best.
Along with Lyons the likes of Tim Gavin, Tom Roberson, James Grant, Marty Roebuck, John Williams, Jono Tawake, Don Strachan and Ross Turnbull, among others, have all gone on to represent the Wallabies while five Wallaroos have come from the Central West.
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Although she didn’t play any rugby in the region Australia’s current women’s skipper Grace Hamilton is, of course, a product of Panuara and in clubland is aligned with SUFC, she’ll be acting as an ambassador for the partnership.
Just how many potential Wallabies and Wallaroos have fallen by the wayside due to a lack of pathway opportunities or at least a lack of knowledge regarding them can’t be determined, it did come into SUFC’s thinking though.
“I’m sure there’s been a lot of young players who didn’t see a pathway. There’s been a lot of players from the Central West go on to big things and we’re hopeful this agreement can help a few more do that,” Lyons said.
“When the Wallabies and Wallaroos have been at their strongest there has always been a heavy presence of country-born players so we want to help provide another pathway to the top, through Sydney University.
“As much as it will benefit both Sydney University and the Central West this is about growing the game in general, and supporting the code.”
THE FULL PARTNERSHIP
What Sydney University (SUFC) and Central West’s (CWRU) agreement will entail:
- SUFC will donate $12,000 and become an official branded partner of CWRU’s junior teams
- SUFC will support and provide development opportunities for CWRU’s junior representative coaches
- SUFC will host an Intrust Super Shute Shield match in a CWRU city and provide coaching sessions
- SUFC will provide coaches and senior players to help faciliate off-season junior academy
- SUFC will investigate opportunities for trial fixtures against CWRU’s junior representative teams
- SUFC will investigate joint training and trial game opportunities against CWRU’s men’s and women’s teams
- SUFC will investigate and potentially establish a priority scholarship to a graduating CWRU junior
- CWRU will support organisation, coordination of Intrust Super Shute Shield match to enable maximum impact, participation
- CWRU will recognise SUFC as official partner and promote the club as genuine pathway for players