ACT top dog after Vikings rampage
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.