Taking over the presidency of Sydney University Football Club (SUFC) after the 15-year David Mortimer reign was never going to be easy, but Angus Stuart is modestly pleased with the on- and off-field achievements in 2016.

Mr Stuart said the club was grateful to be able to start the 2016 season at the Sydney University Football Ground, a new home after 153 years at No.1 Oval.

“With a purpose-built grandstand, a world-class gymnasium, a function centre and a proper football square, it was wonderful to kick-off with a 46-29 win over Eastwood,” he said.

“The Shute Shield was one of the most closely contested for many years, with the top eight sides all well matched on their day.

“Working with a very young squad, the coaches and players did well to win the minor premiership and make it through to the Shute Shield grand final. But Northern Suburbs were too good on the day, running out 28-15 winners and breaking a 41-year drought to collect the 2016 title. Congratulations Northern Suburbs.”

Sydney University Second Grade dipped out of contention in the semi-finals, but Third Grade collected the Henderson Shield with a 20-12 result over Warringah and Fourth Grade secured the Henderson Cup with a 24-10 win over Eastwood.

In the Colts grand finals played at Forshaw Rugby Park, Sydney University First Grade defeated Northern Suburbs 26-21, Second Grade went down to Randwick 34-27, and Third Grade defeated Eastern Suburbs 25-5.

Sydney University also won the Women’s Premier grade grand final with a 25-24 win over Parramatta at Waverley Oval, making it back-to-back titles.

With a new season came some new faces. Mr Stuart said he enjoyed working in his first year in the role with a new general manager in David Haigh and a new head coach in Tim Davidson, who juggled coaching with his full-time employment.

“We made a conscious decision to ensure we were as efficient and effective off the field as we were hoping to be on the field. We had to think of ways we needed to work as a team off the field to help win games and help produce quality young men and women,” he said.

“I think we’ve worked really well together and it’s been very fulfilling trying to implant a new approach in the wake of David Mortimer’s long legacy.”

Mr Stuart said that while the new structures were being established, they hadn’t forgotten the need to provide cutting-edge training programs to maintain the on-field impetus. “It’s important that our infrastructure is stronger than ever at the grassroots,” he said.

General manager Haigh was also happy with the way the club has progressed.

“It was a start-up year for all of us and a chance to re-set the club,” he said.

“We had a strong foundation to work with and capitalise on and we were able to look at the club with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. Despite losing in the Shute Shield grand final, coach Davidson was pleased with the efforts of the club across the board.

“We were club champions once again, we were minor premiers in First and Third grades and First and Second Colts, and we won premierships in Third and Fourth grades and First and Third Colts,” he said.“ That’s a strong season.

“It also says something about the good culture that’s been maintained at the club over a long period. It’s easy to get carried away with one premiership or one club championship, but the culture here has been able to keep a lid on that. Celebrate the success, but look to the next challenge.”

Meanwhile, SUFC’s Tom Robertson became capped Wallaby 898 when he took the field in the 60th minute of the Test against Argentina at NIB Stadium, Perth, on September 10th.

And there might be another SUFC capped Wallaby by the time of going to press, with Tolu Latu in the Wallabies squad for Rugby Championship matches in South Africa and England.

Still on the representative front, SUFC provided 22 players for Australian sides in the Super XV Rugby competition. They included Bernard Foley, Israel Folau, Henry Clunies-Ross, Will Skelton, Paddy Ryan, Nick Phipps, Tolu Latu, Dave Dennis, Dean Mumm, Jeremy Tilse and Brad Wilkin with the NSW Waratahs; Tom English, Mitch Inman, Sam Jeffries, Nik Stirzaker and Laurie Weeks with the Melbourne Rebels; Sam Carter and James Dargaville with the ACT Brumbies; Nathan Charles and Ben McCalman with Western Force; Sam Talakai with the Queensland Reds, and David Duling with the Sharks in South Africa.

SUFC players Pat McCutcheon, Ed Jenkins, Tom Kingston and Greg Jeloudev were members of the Australian Sevens squad which contested the 2015-16 World Rugby Sevens Series. Ed, Pat and Tom also represented Australia in Sevens at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Ed captained the team in both events.

Mr Stuart said it was important to maintain and build on the Club’s strategies to make it possible for players to further their careers. “SUFC has such a great system of volunteers, supporters, sponsors, parents and past players who help keep the club going,” he said.

“That support network is now more important than ever with the pressures on the code. While we might be the fourth code in Australia revenue-wise, we’re the leading code internationally. “It’s important that our infrastructure and support network is stronger than ever to help the club turn out fine young men and women and national representatives.

“With that support you celebrate the wins along the way and keep improving.”

Bring on season 2017.

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