Sport

Easts rugby throw on gloves to go from whipping boys to contenders

They've been knocked to the rugby union canvas and were on the brink of being kicked out of the competition, but Easts are throwing punches and fighting to earn back respect to start preparations for the ACT rugby union competition.

In a night dubbed the "Rugby Rumble", Easts have organised for players from every Canberra club except Tuggeranong to put their bodies on the line in a night of punishment on Saturday.

Easts have been the whipping boys of the John I. Dent Cup competition for the past few years, struggling to attract players, thumped by opponents and even forfeiting a game last season.

There were fears for the foundation club's future when they lost 92-0 in a game last year and then didn't have enough players for a game just four days later.

But flanker and boxing hopeful Simon Gillett says the club is starting this year packing new punches and ready to deliver some shock blows to their rivals.

"Sometimes we're thin on player numbers at Easts, you start the day in fourth grade and finish it by sitting on the bench for first grade," Gillett said.

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"But we've got a brand new coach [in former Wallaby John Ross], there's a fresh, new vibe and this will kickstart it. We're getting good numbers, but need more. It's all starting from scratch and there's a resurgence. This is a fresh new chapter."

A dozen of Canberra's top rugby players will go toe-to-toe in a fight night organised by Easts and the Winnunga boxing club.

The expected 1000 fans in Fyshwick is a long way from the bright lights of Sonny Bill Williams' and Paul Gallen's stints in boxing.

Gillett, 24, is adamant there won't be a bloodbath after all boxers joined forces for a "super accelerated" training program over the past month with Winnunga's Ray Lovett.

"It has actually brought us closer together," Gillett said. "Through the training sessions you get closer to guys from Queanbeyan or Uni-Norths ... I think we've earned each other's respect turning up to something out of our comfort zone.

"We're all a bit nervous, but you're locked in there for three rounds of two minutes. It might seem like nothing, but it's a lifetime in there, I promise."

Wests flanker Kyle Baulman considered a permanent switch to boxing after feeling burnt out despite being just 24.

The school teacher has dropped 15 kilograms since starting his boxing training last year and, after past bouts fell over at the final hurdle, he's ready to unleash his frustration.

"Every other fight, guys have pulled out because of injury or fight nights being cancelled ... I'm looking forward to finally getting a crack this weekend," Baulman said.

RUGBY RUMBLE FIGHT NIGHT

Saturday: It's Our Union Fight Night at Winnunga boxing club, Fyshwick. Tickets available online at: http://www.trybooking.com/GUSB

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