Sydney University Sport, one of Australia’s pre-eminent sporting bodies, will farewell its Executive Director Mr Greg Harris at the end of the month after 16 years in office.

During his tenure, Mr Harris has been involved with many initiatives, including the establishment of the Elite Entry Athlete program which now offers over 200 sporting scholarships annually, the $6.5 million redevelopment of the Sports and Aquatic Centre, the amalgamation of the Sports Union and the Women’s Sports Association and a Memorandum of Association with the NSW Institute of Sport.

And during that time the SUS’s budget increased from $3 million in 1992 to $14 million per annum.

SUS fielded 20 athletes at the each of the past two Olympic Games, leads the way in cricket and rugby union in Sydney grade competitions, has one of the most successful rowing clubs in the country and competes nationally in men’s and women’s water polo and women’s basketball. And during 2007, SUS provided captains of Australian teams in rugby union, rugby sevens, men’s water polo and women’s cricket.

Mr Harris said any regrets he has leaving the University are far outweighed by the opportunities he has had to help develop SUS, the fond memories and the lasting friendships he has made along the way.

“It was a fantastic opportunity when I was appointed in 1992 to have the freedom and flexibility to guide and develop SUS,” he said. “The results and performances of our athletes and teams speak for themselves on and off the field.

“I’m leaving the University very proud of what I’ve been able to achieve. Paramount to delivering these results has been the assistance I’ve received from the President of Sydney University Sport, Mr Bruce Ross, and for the past 10 years, the University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gavin Brown. I’d like to thank those two gentlemen for their support.”

Mr Harris said after negotiating the redevelopment of the Sports and Aquatic Centre, which provided SUS with an income stream and facilities to develop its programs, one of the other big initiatives during his tenure was signing off on a formal association with the NSW Institute of Sport, which offers athlete recruitment and research facilities.

“We then negotiated and developed the Elite Athlete Entry program with the University Academic Board and the University Senate to provide for discounted entry to the University and a flexible approach by academics to athletes studying at the University,” he said.

“That coincided with the establishment of the Athlete Services Unit, which now oversees over 200 scholarship athletes across over 20 disciplines.”

Mr Harris said SUS now has 42 affiliated sporting clubs and the most progressive athlete support and management program of any university in Australia, along with a comprehensive recreational sports program covering intramurals, social sport, school sport and sporting camps.

“SUS today represents an organisation combining core business activities with sound commercial performances, a unique alumni support network and the Blue and Gold Club, which assists sporting clubs,” he said.

“The establishment of a number of foundations – for the rugby, rowing, cricket, soccer and hockey clubs – have also been of assistance to University sport and helped in the University of Sydney winning the Australian University Games on seven occasions.

“Complementing these programs are unique strategic alliances with key national sports organisations and government sports bodies such as Swimming Australia, Rowing Australia and the NSW Institute of Sport.

“In 1997, a High Performance Swimming Program was established under Sydney and Atlanta Olympic coach Brian Sutton, with national representatives Chris Fydler, Scott Miller, Malcolm Allan and Stacy Gartrell recruited to the program. Other world-class swimmers in the program included Phil Rogers, Brett Hawke, Elka Graham, Michelle Engelsman, Geoff Huegill, Carl Probert and Jonathon Carter.”

Mr Harris said the Water Polo Club, through its junior development program, has produced more national representatives in recent years than any other club in Australia, including Thomas Whalan, Robert Maitland, Nathan Thomas, Daniel Marsden, Trent Franklin, Sam McGregor, Elise Norwood, Yvette Ball-Gow and Amanda Russell.

“The Boat and Rowing clubs have produced national representatives at all levels under the guidance of coaches Marty Rabjohns, Alan Bennett and Phil Bourguignon. As well as winning many State and National championships, many rowers have competed successfully at international level, including Fergus Pragnell, Francis Hegarty, Chris Clyne, Katie Foulkes, Kyeema Doyle and Yasmin L’Estrange.

“Both the Rugby and Cricket clubs have recorded imposing records competing at the highest district level. The men’s and women’s Cricket Clubs have numerous current and former national and state representatives, including Stuart Clark, Stuart MacGill, Greg Matthews, Kate Blackwell and Lisa Sthalekar, while the Football Club has produced national representatives in Phil Waugh, David Lyons, Dan Vickerman, Brendan Cannon, David Fitter, Al Campbell, Al Kanaar and Luke Inman (Sevens).

“It might be remembered that the Football Club fought its way out of Second Division in the 1980s to its present position, while the Cricket Club was faced with relegation in the 1990s.”

Another initiative during Mr Harris’s tenure was taking over the franchise of the Flames team in the Women’s National Basketball League in 2003. “They have been runners-up on three occasions and supplied Australian Opals in Trish Fallon, Belinda Snell, Natalie Porter, Alicia Poto, Kristen Veal and Michelle Musselwhite, while Sarah Stewart has played in the Australian wheelchair basketball team.

“There have been a host of other individuals from SUS representing at State and National levels in many sports during the past 15 years,” Mr Harris said. “I hope the evolution of the high performance programs, the sports scholarship program, the establishment of an outstanding sporting capital infrastructure and the recruitment of top class coaches and support staff have contributed to this success.”

An arts graduate of the University of Sydney, Mr Harris taught economics and mathematics at Sydney Boys High School for 11 years and was Football Development Manager with the Sydney Swans for two years prior to his appointment to the then Sports Union at the University.

A schoolboy Australian Football prodigy, he took up rugby union at Sydney University and went on to represent the University First XV, Australian Universities, Sydney, in their 14-10 win over England, Australia B and Australian Barbarians.

He switched to rugby league in 1978 and played first grade for Cronulla-Sutherland and the following season returned to Australian Football with the East Sydney Australian Football Club which took out five premierships, including three under his reign as captain-coach. He also coached and captained the NSW representative team during that period.

Following his retirement from playing, Mr Harris coached the Sydney Swans Under 19s and was later appointed Chairman of Selectors of the Swans. He was instrumental in signing Tony Lockett to the club.

During his time at SUS, Mr Harris has also been Chairman of the National Rugby League Education and Welfare Committee, a member of the Education and Social Work Faculty Advisory Board, a member of the Advisory Committee for Sports Knowledge Australia since its inception, Chairman of Australian Sports Events with Australian University Sport, a member of the advisory panel for Waratah (rugby union) club structure, a member of the Carbine Club and Chairman of Australian University Sport Voluntary Student Unionism committee.

As well as his many achievements at SUS, it was leading the fight against the introduction of the VSU legislation by the Howard government in 2007 that Mr Harris will long be remembered.

After 12 months of intense lobbying, Mr Harris was disappointed to see the legislation pass by one vote – from Family First Senator, Stephen Fielding.

“The VSU effectively cost us $3.2 million annually and making up that shortfall will be the big challenge for Sydney University Sport in the years to come,” Mr Harris said.