23.05.2008 – Graham Croker

Sydney University Football Club will have provided half the members of a very exclusive club when Phil Waugh leads the NSW Waratahs out for their Super 14 semi-final clash with the Sharks at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday night.

Waugh, 28, will join Matthew Burke, Chris Whitaker and fellow Sydney University, NSW and Wallaby back-rower David Lyons as the only four players to have made 100 appearances for the Waratahs.

Waugh and Lyons, who brought up his century a month ago, made their Super rugby debuts against the Stormers at the SFS eight years ago.

Both were Australian Schoolboy representatives before going through the Sydney University Colts program and progressing to NSW and Wallaby selection. And both missed much of the 2007 season with injury.

Waugh is more concerned about winning the semi-final against the Sharks, than notching up his ton for the Waratahs, but he is very proud of the milestone.

As is NSW coach Ewen McKenzie, who lauded Waugh’s rare achievement.

“It’s a very difficult task to play so many games, particularly for a bloke who plays the hard rugby he does on the ball,” McKenzie said.

Waugh took over the captaincy of the Waratahs on the retirement of Whitaker last year, at the same time as signing a new contract.

He had displayed his captaincy credentials on the Wallabies Spring tour of Europe in 2006 when he led Australia in the Test against Wales at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. One month earlier, Waugh spent the final quarter of the Tooheys Cup grand final helping Sydney University hold out a rampaging Randwick to win the 2006 title.

He said taking over the captaincy of his home state in 2007 was the realisation of a lifelong dream.

“I grew up watching the Waratahs, I never wanted to play anywhere but with the Waratahs, so to have re-signed and to be named captain is a massive honour,” Waugh said at the time.

“Looking at the calibre of people that have had the honour of captaining the Waratahs in the history of NSW Rugby, it is very humbling to join such an illustrious group.

“It’s a job I relish but also one that comes with a lot of responsibility, and I’ll be doing my best to live up to the expectations my team-mates and every Waratah supporter out there.”

It would be fitting if Waugh’s 100th for the Waratahs produced his 101st in the Super 14 final.