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Club rugby's jewel ignored

Date

Daniel Lewis

Spectacle with too few spectators ... the stands at Concord Oval yesterday.

Spectacle with too few spectators ... the stands at Concord Oval yesterday. Photo: Mick Tsikas

At one end of Concord Oval yesterday were the might, tradition and privilege of the University of Sydney. The Students were in their eighth straight Shute Shield grand final and aiming to take their 47th Sydney club rugby title. University trace their origins to 1863 and boast they are the world's oldest rugby club outside Britain. They enjoy recruiting the cream of the GPS system by offering university scholarships, plus networking and mentoring courtesy of their affluent old boys.

The club's president, David Mortimer, AO, has just stepped down as chairman of Australia Post.

At the other end were the suburban battlers Southern Districts. The Sylvania Waters-based Rebels, formed out of crisis 23 years ago through an amalgamation of St George and Port Hacking - and no strangers to the wooden spoon - were in their very first grand final.

Sydney University players celebrate after scoring a try against Souths. Click for more photos

Uni claim Shute Shield

Sydney University win their seventh Shute Shield title in eight years with narrow win over Southern Districts. Photo: Mick Tsikas

The club mostly relies on locals, organises players apprenticeships and sells beers to help pay salaries. Its president, Nev Shooter, admits University are simply the best club in Australia and if they had offered him a scholarship when he was younger ''you wouldn't have seen me for dust''.

There is great rivalry between the clubs and the Rebels' local MP, Scott Morrison, told federal Parliament on Thursday: ''It was only five years ago that their opponents … sought to have the Rebels ejected from the Sydney rugby competition. So we will have the opportunity to settle that score this weekend.''

However, the clubs' two presidents agree on a few things: this year's Shute Shield competition produced some sensational rugby, but even some traditionally strong clubs are struggling financially and changes are needed to improve the health of Sydney's venerable competition.

For the record, Uni won 15-14.

In recent weeks, fears about the future of club rugby have been fuelled by speculation that the Sydney competition would lose its bible, the Rugby News match program, as well as its television coverage on the ABC.

While Rugby News is set to continue next year to celebrate its 90th birthday following a deluge of support, talks continue between NSW Rugby and the ABC over television coverage.

Mr Mortimer said he was particularly frustrated that club rugby did not get the publicity it deserved.

''Dare I say it, it's often much more entertaining and enjoyable than the Super stuff and, indeed, some of the Wallabies stuff,'' he said. ''I think [better promotion] will bring crowds back, which will bring revenue to the clubs. The story needs to be told.''

He believes the publicity would come if another competition pitted the top Shute Shield clubs against the top clubs from elsewhere in Australia.

Mr Shooter said the Wallabies and Australia's Super Rugby franchises did not give back enough. ''It's expected that the clubs develop the players, but there's just nothing given back to the clubs. It seems like there's a hell of a lot of money spent at the top and the bottom of the pyramid gets very, very little.''

At the grand final yesterday, Matt Brown, 45, of Ashfield, said: ''The standard of play is good but I don't think there is enough support of the competition. The crowds are really low.''

Just as Southern Districts was born through an amalgamation of survival, Mr Shooter added that other club amalgamations might be needed to make club rugby more viable and attractive.''We think we did the right thing [by amalgamating]. This year has vindicated it.''

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Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU vs LIO 17:35QBE Stadium
RED vs WAR 19:40SS
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BUL 02:05FSS
STO vs SHA 04:10DHL Newlands
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Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs BLU 17:35FMG Stadium
FOR vs REB 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs LIO 14:30AMI
HIG vs WAR 17:35FBS
RED vs BRU 19:40SS
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO vs CHF 00:00DHL Newlands
CHT vs SHA 02:05FSS
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Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG vs HUR 17:35FBS
REB vs LIO 19:40AAMI
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs CHT 17:35AMI
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs FOR 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs CHF 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
WAR vs BRU 16:05AS
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Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs REB 17:35WS
RED vs LIO 20:00SS
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
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Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
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Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
BUL vs RED 00:00Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
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Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
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Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
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Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
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Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
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Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
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Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
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Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
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Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
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Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
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Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
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Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
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Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
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Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Brumbies 4 3 1 0 59 15
Chiefs 4 3 1 0 28 14
Stormers 3 3 0 0 26 12
Cheetahs 2 2 0 0 7 9
Hurricanes 3 3 0 0 47 13
Rebels 3 1 2 0 -5 6
Highlanders 3 2 1 0 4 9
Sharks 3 1 2 0 3 6
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