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ACT top dog after Vikings rampage


Chris Wilson

Open challenge ... the Tuggeranong Vikings won the John I Dent Cup last year, and want an annual fixture to challenge teams from other states.

Open challenge ... the Tuggeranong Vikings won the John I Dent Cup last year, and want an annual fixture to challenge teams from other states. Photo: Graham Tidy

The Sydney rugby boss who labelled the ACT's John I Dent Cup a "Mickey Mouse competition" is starting to look a little goofy.

The Tuggeranong Vikings have again called for an annual fixture between the ACT, NSW and Queensland to decide the best club rugby team in Australia, having knocked off premier sides from Brisbane and Sydney in the past fortnight.

The Vikings were unofficially crowned national club champions two weeks ago after defeating 2011 Brisbane premier Sunnybank 47-32 at its home ground. Sydney premier Eastwood declined to play.

Tuggeranong then backed that victory up at Bowral on Saturday with a 21-0 whitewash of Sydney University, runner-up in last year's NSW Shute Shield competition and winner of six consecutive premierships prior to that.

Sydney rugby clubs, including Uni, have been critical of the decision by ACT Brumbies coach Jake White to force his contracted players to break links with Sydney clubs and commit to Canberra's John I Dent competition when they are not playing Super Rugby.

Manly's rugby president David Begg has publicly stated that he would challenge the decision via the Australian Rugby Union, claiming it was a "joke" and that Canberra was a "Mickey Mouse competition".

Tuggeranong coach Dan McKellar spent most of his career coaching and playing in Brisbane, while he also respected the Sydney rugby competition.

But the Vikings answered any criticism of Canberra's competition in the best possible way – on the scoreboard.

"Maybe he [Begg] could come down and watch a couple of games in the John I Dent Cup because we don't see ourselves as a Mickey Mouse club, that's for sure," McKellar said. "We run what we think is a pretty professional program here.

"We like to put in a pathway for our players that aspire to play the game at a high level.

"We think we're heading in the right direction and results from the last couple of weeks show that we're doing something right."

Begg said White's decision would be detrimental to Sydney rugby, robbing his club and others of top-class players.

But two of the former Manly players referred to by Begg – Brumbies Robbie Coleman and Anthony Hegarty – are Queanbeyan juniors.

"I don't know the history of Queanbeyan but I know enough to realise those boys are born and bred Queanbeyan players and they're playing Super Rugby now because of what Queanbeyan rugby club did for them, not for what Manly did for them," McKellar said.

White has been assertive about his decision to make players commit to the Canberra Competition. It enables the Brumbies to directly control the development of players, to engage with the community and to develop depth among local juniors.

"People have been saying a lot of things about club rugby in Canberra and what's nice is this is a great boost for us," White said of Tuggeranong's recent results.

"As the coach of this franchise it's great for the players to see that the level of Canberra first grade isn't poor because we can beat those top sides in Sydney and Brisbane."

The Tuggeranong Vikings have unsuccessfully tried in the past to engage with top Sydney and Brisbane clubs to form a club challenge among the three premiers from each competition, even offering to fund it at one stage.

4 comments so far

  • Surely everyone knows that the health and happiness of Sydney Uni, Randwick and Manly is the most important objective in Australian Rugby. Tuggers are not wanted in Sydney precisely because they will field a strong team. These clubs put will always pout their own interests above that of Oz Rugby.

    Date and time
    March 21, 2012, 12:54PM
    • Well said Jack, the attitude of these people from Sydney is something that has to be seen first hand to be believed, it is all about them and nobody else.
      The old adage that Ausrtalian rugby is strong when the Waratahs are strong ia a myth, Australian rugby can only be strong when it is strong in all the major centres and at all levels.
      To their credit the Brisbane comp accepted the Canberra Vikings for a number of years and it cost them a couple of premierships before external forces (from where one might ask) had them removed and entered into the Sydney comp, so they could get their grubby little mits on the players from this "mickey mouse competion" and then kicked them out a year later, once the players were safely back in the Sydney comp.
      While one should concede that we probably did not play their very best sides in these recent games, it is still a remarkable effort given the relative sizes of the player populations in each state.
      Strange how it will be a South African who finally brings some sense and order to Australian rugby by strengthening this "mickey mouse competion" in Canberra.

      Date and time
      March 22, 2012, 7:39AM
      • How can you be labelled the 'National Club Champions" in a competition that only contains 3 states?

        How about the inclusion of VIC, WA at least? You could state the lack of quality isn't there, however the teams will be better for it.

        Rebel Rugger
        Date and time
        March 22, 2012, 7:42AM
        • Manly are the biggest Mickey Mouse team there are. Begg is just having a hissy because Manly went on a poaching spree in 2011 that has come back to bite them. Of the 6 Brumbies squad members that have played for Manly, only Michael Hooper and Dylan Sigg were there prior to becoming Brumbies. Jono Owen was poached from Randwick/Manuwatu, Andrew Smith from Norths, and of course Coleman and Hegarty from Queanbeyan.

          The Sydney and Brisbane club competitions are strangling any growth of the game in this country. 100 years of tradition mean nothing if they are what are preventing 100 more.

          Duck Alaronge
          Date and time
          March 22, 2012, 11:10AM

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