Students chase third Australian title

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Graham Croker

Sydney University Football Club will be aiming for a third consecutive Australian Club Championship when they take on Easts of Brisbane at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
Sydney University, the holders of the Shute Shield for the Sydney grade competition, and Cromwell Easts Tigers, the Brisbane grade competition premiers for 2008, will face off for the Australian club title as a curtain-raiser to the Super 14 match between the NSW Waratahs and the Canterbury Crusaders. The match will kick off at 5.15pm, with the Super 14 match to follow at 7.40pm.
After winning the Sydney premiership in 2005 and 2006, Sydney University decided to reinstate the Australian Club Championship, which had been in abeyance for a number of years, by challenging West Brisbane Bulldogs for the 2006 title.
The Sydneysiders duly won that encounter in Brisbane and successfully defended the title last year when they defeated Sunnybank, the 2007 Brisbane premiers.
The matches were sanctioned by the Australian Rugby Union and the NSW and Queensland unions and have been incorporated as curtain-raisers to Super 14 games. Indeed, all players not tied up with Super 14 fixtures at the weekend have been released to play for their clubs in the championship fixture.
It is hoped that next year the competition will soon include the winners of the ACT club competition.
Having accounted for Brisbane Wests 36-5 in 2007 and Sunnybank 24-0 in 2008 and won the past four Sydney grade premierships, Sydney University can lay claim to being the dominant club in Australian rugby. That will be put to the test on Saturday.