Universities celebrate centenary match

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Graham Croker

The black and blue and the blue and gold – aka Melbourne University Rugby Football Club and Sydney University Football Club – will do battle at the University of Melbourne on June 6 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first match between the two universities in 1909.
The match – to be played between two President’s XVs on University Main Oval – is also part of the Melbourne University club’s centenary celebrations.
The 1909 match, won 15-3 by Sydney University, was the second trip for the New South Welshmen that year. Earlier in 1909 Sydney University was the first football club of any code to visit New Zealand, playing Otago University in Dunedin. Otago had visited Sydney University in 1908.
But the significance of the visit to Melbourne was noted in SUFC’s annual report for that season: “This was the first Rugby contest with Melbourne University, and with the object of making this a permanent fixture, conferences were held in New Zealand with representatives of the New Zealand University as to the advisability of admitting Melbourne University to participation in a triangular series of contests. It is to be hoped that before long such a programme will be arranged.”
As Tom Hickie notes in A Sense of Union: A history of the Sydney University Football Club, Sydney University also met and defeated a Victorian State team on the 1909 tour. “A second visit took place in 1911 with Sydney University defeating Melbourne University 22-5,” Hickie writes. “Unfortunately, the dream of an Australian University Rugby Competition did not develop, and by 1914 even the matches with New Zealand had to be cancelled.”
While SUFC was well established, having been founded in 1863, it was battling the advent of rugby league and professionalism in 1908 at the same time as a group of students first created a rugby team south of the border. The MURFC was officially formed in 1909 and gained affiliation with the University, despite protestation from others in favour of the rights of Australian football. Sydney University had been visiting Melbourne to play Australian football since 1888 and rowing eights were also regular visitors to the south.
The MURFC joined a local competition in 1909 competing against teams from Melbourne, East Melbourne, South Melbourne and St Kilda for the Dewar Shield. While it was battling with the Australian football club for student numbers the SUFC was battling with rugby league to maintain its ranks.
So it was no surprise when MURFC began inviting SUFC south to establish intervarsity matches to boost the popularity of the code. MURFC went on to have boom periods during the 1920s and the 1950s and early ‘60s, while SUFC is presently enjoying its most successful period in 146? years.
Festivities for the 100th anniversary match include welcome drinks at 5
;30pm on Friday, June 5, a curtain raiser between Ormond College and Trinity College at 1.1:00pm on June 6, followed by the main game – a Barbarians-style exhibition match – at 2:30pm, and a commemorative dinner at University House on Saturday evening.
The SUFC team, coached by Greg Mumm, is a mixture of Colts, grade players and former grade players. It is epitomised by a front-row including freshman Macarthur Rutledge, a loosehead prop who played Australia A Schoolboys last year, hooker Ben “The Bell-Ringer” Daly, who amassed over 100 games for SUFC before playing with clubs in England, Scotland, Italy and Wales, and tighthead Jason Reilly, long retired but with Australian Schoolboys, Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs credentials in his CV.
The Sydney University team is:

1. Mac Rutledge
2. Ben Daley
3. Jason Reilly
4. Lachlan McCutcheon
5. Mark Avery
6. Jordon Brown
7. Josh Ellice-Flint
8. David Haydon
9. James Helliwell
10. Angus Sinclair
11. Chris Chapman
12. Trevor Walsh
13. Tom English
14. Callum Fryer
15. Alex Rokobaro
16. Tom Wallace
17. Josh Daley
18. Will Drabble
19. Matt Walker
20. James Corcoran
21. Joseph May
22. Jack Freeman
23. Greg Mumm – Coach

The Melbourne University team (Students & Colts in red) is:
1 Adrian Garvey
2 Tomm Twinn
3 Dave Fitter
4 George Bradley
5 Matt Giddoes
6 Pete McMahon
7 Tai Talaia
8 Mike Lau Leong
9 Taumafai Komiti
10 Rick Caliguiri
11 Matt Komiti
12 Jared Van Heerden
13 Sione Uhi
14 Shannon Ah Wong
15 Ryan Carmichael
16 Luke Fryer
17 Chris Bolton
18 Christian Brown
19 Alex Mika
20 Mike Penman
21 Doug Ellinger
22 Jeremy Welton
23 Adam Nicholson, Matt Beissel – Coach
24 Matt Beissel – Coach