NSW Country Rugby Union

History

Milestones of NSW Country Rugby:


1869. The first reported match in Country New South Wales, in Newcastle on 5 June 1869 between the Volunteer Artillery Team and the United Cricket Club.

1872. The Goulburn Rugby Football Club was formed and began playing intra club matches in 1873[i].

1874. Bathurst and Mudgee Clubs were formed and joined Goulburn as Foundation Members of the Southern Rugby Football Union, St Patrick’s College Goulburn, the first recorded country Rugby school.

1875. Club sides from Sydney began playing in the country and Goulburn and Bathurst played matches in Sydney. The description of Goulburn’s match against Balmain, which went on to win the 1875 Sydney premiership and whose captain, Will Murdoch was a star of the period in both rugby and cricket, is typical of the tightness of these games[ii].

1876. The pattern of games against Sydney Clubs continues, with Wallaroo visiting Bathurst and Sydney University to Goulburn. Consider the arduous nature of these trips. All Saints Bathurst begins playing Rugby under the Headmastership of Edwin Bean and quickly produces two great players (Sir) Charles Wade, to be captain of Oxford with eight Tests for England and James McManamey, later to be President of the New South Wales Rugby Union.

1877–78. The game gathers momentum in the country with notable clubs formed in Newcastle, Maitland, Wallsend, Kempsey, Wollongong and the Monaro. Under the influence of the strong Goulburn Club, we see village clubs being established in Bungendore, Gundaroo, Captain’s Flat, Ginnanderra and Sutton, as well as further south in Bibenluke, which began playing Bombala and Nimmitabel.

The Newcastle Football Club was established in 1877 and played its first intra club match on 22 May 1877 at St Johns Green. The uniform comprised of black and scarlet jersey, hose and cap, the touch lines being marked by pretty flags of the same colour, kindly presented by the ladies of Newcastle who take a great interest in the game”. (Newcastle Morning Herald, 24 May 1859).

On 28 July 1877, Newcastle played Wallsend. After late rain, the game was rather wet, with the cost of many players, whose knickerbockers were at the end of the game certainly not white. The Newcastle team were conveyed by vehicle to Wallsend, but not without disaster, several buggies coming to grief. They were received with great hospitality by the Wallsend team, who did their utmost to make the trip a pleasant one. After the game, three cheers were given by the Wallsend and Newcastle teams respectively and one for the umpires, who watched the game closely and performed their duties to the satisfaction of both teams (Newcastle Morning Herald, 10 September 1877). The strong Maitland Club counts its significant beginnings from this time, along with Newcastle. Their Rugby traditions continue to this day. The earliest detailed report we have of the Maitland Club matches are dated 1877 ‘these matches were played (by Newcastle) against the Maitland Club one at the Albion Ground, West Maitland and the return of the St John’s Green Newcastle. In 1878, the Newcastle Morning Herald reported that the hardest match of the season was against Maitland on 22 June 1878.’

1879. ‘The biggest match of the whole season was played at the Albion Ground, west Maitland’ reported the Newcastle Morning Herald ‘when a combined team from Newcastle and Maitland tried to defeat the crack Wallaroo team from Sydney’ (11 July 1879). This would have to be regarded as most likely the first of many combined representative teams selected from the northern area.

1880. Yass and Binalong enter the scene. To the north we find that Grafton, Clarence River, Glen Innes and Tamworth, all travelling long distances, are introducing this new sport of Rugby to their districts. Such was its attraction that distance seems to have been a side issue.

By this year of 1880, there are reports (which we find difficult to verify exactly) of one hundred Rugby clubs being operational in New South Wales, up to fifty of them in country areas. The sporting press of the time were giving increasing exposure to it, reflecting the widespread interest in this new outlet for improving leisure time. Having thrown off the threat of Victorian Rules, first as a modification of the Laws of Rugby and then as the Victorian Football League game itself, Rugby Union made solid progress in both city and country. The Association game (Soccer) ran into difficulties of its own at this time and also faded, overcome by the popularity of Rugby Union.

1882. An historic year for New South Wales and Australian Rugby when the first intercolonial match was played between New South Wales and Queensland, won by New South Wales. It was historic also for the Goulburn Club and Country Rugby because the New South Wales team included S. Belcher of Goulburn who was the first country based player to play representative rugby while still playing in the country. Joining him in the New South Wales team was James McManamey, a product of Bathurst Rugby, by then a student at Sydney University.

1884. A momentous year for Country Rugby. The first New Zealand team to visit Australia played the Northern Districts team in Newcastle on 5 June and then journeyed to Bathurst to play Western Districts on 11 June. The scores, 29–0 and 11–0 respectively favoured the visitors but the country boys won great respect as evidenced by the repetition of these New Zealand visits in years to come.

1886. The highlight of this year for Country Rugby was a visit from the Queensland team who played Combined Newcastle Clubs in Newcastle on 29 July 1886. Score 16–2 to Queensland. ‘Umpires Grahame and Rorke performed their duties really well notwithstanding the rough play which occasionally took place’ (Newcastle Morning Herald 30 July 1886).

1888. On 9 May 1888, a meeting of representatives of the various rugby football clubs in the Northern District was held in the Terminus Hotel Newcastle to discuss the formation of a Branch of the Southern Rugby Football Union to be called the Northern Branch of the Union. ‘The formation of this Union is a step in the right direction and is likely to do much for this particular pastime’ (Newcastle Morning Herald 11 May 1888). Clubs present were Newcastle, Advance, West Maitland and Ferndale.

This news was the precursor of events and matches in the country of headline status.

First there was the defeat by Newcastle of the strong Queensland team played at Newcastle on 19 July 1888, the scoreline 9–6 to Newcastle. Dancing and great festivities were reported in the streets of Newcastle.

Then came the arrival of the British touring team led by Robert Seddon of Lancashire, the first to tour Australia and New Zealand. They played their first two tour matches in New South Wales Country, one in Goulburn and one in Maitland at the Albion Ground. As part of the hospitality arranged for the tourists, a rowing trip on the Hunter took place, sadly resulting in the drowning of the British captain, Seddon. A memorial to him was erected in Maitland, which has been regularly visited by subsequent British Lion teams. It was decided that regardless of Seddon’s death, the match between the British team and the Northern Branch would go ahead on 29 August 1888 at Newcastle. Admission 1/- (approximately ten cents). Mr Rooke of Newcastle to referee. ‘In an exciting tussle, the tourists won 14–7’ (Newcastle Morning Herald 31 August 1888).

On 21 July 1892, the Queenslanders returned to avenge their defeat by the Northern Branch at Newcastle, which they did 16–4. In this year the Newcastle Morning Herald were reporting the establishment of yet another club in Maitland, the Maitland Pirates. Players fees were fixed at 2/6 (thirty cents) per year. The paper also reported that many rugby games in Newcastle were being played on the Brewery Ground (what a great idea!). This ground was later secured for Rugby and became known as The Union Ground.

1892. This was of course the year in which the Southern Rugby Football Union changed its name to the New South Wales Rugby Union.

1893. Those First New Zealanders must have enjoyed their hospitality in the Hunter, because they were back again on 6 July 1893 to defeat the Newcastle team 25–3. The Newcastle Morning Herald tells us that the local referee was J.D. Miller and that ‘he was fairly successful’!  Teams reported as having played in the Hunter in 1893 were, The Mosquito Island Pirates, Rosedale, Centennial, Advance, New Lambton, West Maitland Pirates, West Maitland, Wickham Albion, Oriental, Carlton, Minmi Rovers, Burwood First, Greta First, Wallsend, Kurri, Carrington, Newcastle First, East Maitland. This will give the reader some idea of how quickly and widely the Game was proliferating in one geographic area.  The one sad note for the year was the death during a match in Newcastle of Alfred Cobb, brother of Australian international Wally Cobb. It was the largest funeral ever seen in Newcastle, with flags from every Club draped on his coffin Cobb’s Club, Centennial, disbanded for the rest of the season. [iii]

1894. For the New England area, this was a watershed year because it saw the formation one of country’s enduring clubs, the Walcha Rugby Football Club. The New England Branch of the New South Wales Rugby Union was formed in 1893, so the new Walcha Club found itself playing its first ever match in the new competition against Armidale, Peter Crittle, President of the Australia Rugby Union and former President of the New South Wales Rugby Union and himself a great rugby historian, asserts that Memories from Scrum and Ruck, the history of the Walcha Rugby Union Football Club written by Graham Croker, is one of the finest Rugby Club histories written anywhere in the world. It begins with a splendid poem by Bill Laycock, the Club’s first Wallaby (1925).[iv]

"And here’s the luck old chap, the golden luck
To garner on the greensward with your peers
Memories as rich as mine from scrum and ruck
To bear your gallant company down the years.”

(A relatively small and isolated community, Walcha Rugby Union Football Club has produced twenty two New South Wales Country representatives, seven Waratahs, one Australian under twenty one player and three Wallabies, including a New South Wales and Australian Captain, Peter Fenwicke).

The President of the New South Wales Rugby Union, J. J. Calvert, in presenting his Annual Report, 7th March 1894, commented on the great growth of the game in the country:

The Central Southern Branch, with Goulburn as its headquarters, the Mudgee Branch Union, the New England Branch Union headquartered in Armidale and the South Coast Branch Union, having Wollongong as its base, were all established in this past year. And as these Branch Unions already have a good list of clubs on their rolls and the older Branch Unions such as the Northern Branch based in Newcastle whose rolls also represent and increase in the number of clubs, it shows that the game of rugby football is becoming very popular in the Country Districts and auguring well for the future of the game of Rugby Union.

To illustrate the President’s point, the New England Branch listed its Member Clubs in 1894 as, Uralla, Armidale, Gunnedah, Hillgrove, Quirindi, Tamworth and Walcha. What is so impressive about all of this is that given the limitations of communication and transportation of these early years, the New South Wales Rugby Union found, through the dedication and enthusiasm of its Country Clubs, a system of organization and devolution so effective, that the game was able to spread its appeal over great distances. Study of it demolishes the statement by a former President of the Queensland Rugby Union in endorsing an academic history of early Australian Rugby that ‘Rugby was controlled by a narrow based elite within Sydney Society.’

1894 saw a claim made by the Northern Branch that with 28 Clubs it was the largest affiliate of the New South Wales Rugby Union and that it had signed a contract to establish its own home ground in Newcastle, to be known as the Union Ground. This new ground was officially opened on Saturday 12 May 1894. In this year the Branch also established its own Referees Association, the first to be formed in Country New South Wales. (see separate note on Country Referees).[v]

In 1894 Maitland was boasting four Rugby Union teams, with three players chosen to represent the Northern Branch against New Zealand, Charlie White (later to become a Wallaby), Sep Cummins and Bob Norman.

1895. The Newcastle Morning Herald on 16 May 1895 tells us that ‘by way of illustrating the amount of interest taken in the most popular winter pastime in this district, it may be mentioned that no less than 1066 names of members have been submitted by Clubs affiliated with the local union.’

But 1895 was to be especially significant to this history for an event which was to become an institution in Country Rugby, a footballing festival to be thereafter known as COUNTRY WEEK. Held in Sydney, each branch union was to send a team to the Country Carnival, with the concluding match to be between the leading players in Sydney and a combined country team. All expenses were shared between the participating unions and the State body. COUNTRY WEEK continued in this form right through until 1914 with only two years missed due to drought. Regrettably to date we have not found detailed carnival records.

1897. At the beginning of this season, which followed the formation of the Metropolitan Rugby Union to manage the Sydney competition, the Country Branch Unions met with the Executive of the New South Wales Rugby Union to negotiate an increase in the number of country delegates to Council. This was concluded amicably, together with even more autonomy devolved. What was clearly acknowledged was the differing needs of Country Clubs to those in the city.[vi]

1898. In much the same way as New South Wales was playing tour matches in country Queensland centres such as Toowoomba, the Queensland side this year visited Armidale, Newcastle and Bathurst.

1899. This year was to see the first official visit of a British Team representing all the four Home Unions, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, now known as the first British Lions to tour Australia and New Zealand. They played four matches against New South Wales Country sides:

14 June: British Lions 11 v Central South 3 at Goulburn
25 July: British Lions 6 v New England 4 at Armidale
27 July: British Lions 28 v Newcastle  0 at the Newcastle Union Ground
9 August: British Lions 19 v Western Districts 0 at Bathurst
In this year 1899 we see the first Club formed on the Central Coast at Gosford.

1900. This year marked a division in the game in the Hunter Valley with The Hunter Valley Rugby Union, headquartered in Maitland, spinning off from the Northern Branch, which continued to be based in Newcastle. The impression one gets is that Newcastle were not all that thrilled with this development but the two branches continued to grow and lived together until the league disruptions of 1911, when they joined forces once again.[vii]

1903. Another great milestone year for Country Rugby as we see the First New South Wales COUNTRY TEAM representing the whole of Country New South Wales chosen to plan the first official All Black team. The match was played at Sydney University Oval on the 19 August 1903. The visitors had two lead up games in the country before this, on 22 July v Combined Western Districts at Bathurst Sports Ground and Combined Northern at the Albion Ground in West Maitland on 12 August.

1904. The second British Lions were back down under to enjoy country hospitality. On this tour they played Western Districts at Bathurst winning 21–6, Combined Northern Branch and Hunter Valley at Newcastle 11–3, then New England at Armidale 26–9.

1908. Here we find an interesting but short lived innovation. A combined country team was selected each week to play the Sydney team with the bye (second round only). This did not continue because of costs but did demonstrate the respect which Country players enjoyed and the flexibility of the New South Wales Rugby Union executive in trying new approaches. Conservative they were not. In 1908, following the highly successful United Kingdom tour of the First Wallabies, the Great Britain team returned the compliment so impressed were they with Australian Rugby. They played two matches against Country representative sides. They journeyed to Bathurst to play Western Districts who stunned the rugby world by winning 15–10. There were great scenes of jubilation in Bathurst at this victory over what was regarded as one of the top teams in the rugby world. Bathurst was struggling to hold its players against the new professional game and the win worked wonders in the district.

1910. To counteract the impact of league snaring thirteen of the First Wallabies and the signing of the great Union star ‘Dally’ Messenger, the New South Wales Rugby Union embarked upon a round robin series of matches involving invited international teams, the New Zealand Maoris and American Universities (where the game was strong), who played against our branch unions. As the scores indicate, these were mostly pretty tough contests reflecting the resilience of Country Unions in the face of ‘pay for play’.

8 June 1910: New Zealand Maoris 6 drew with New England Branch 6 at Armidale
11 June 1910:  New Zealand Maoris 6 drew with Northern Branch 6 at Newcastle
22 June 1910: New Zealand Maoris 12 beat Western Districts 8 at Bathurst
28 June 1910: American Unis 10 beat Hunter District 6 at W. Maitland
6 July      1910: American Unis 11 beat Central West 9 at Orange

1911. The Australian Military College (RMC) was established at Duntroon in Canberra in 1911. Very quickly, rugby Union emerged as the dominant sport played by cadets and staff. The importance of Duntroon to rugby in the whole of the Monaro was highlighted when, as a cost cutting measure in the Great Depression, the RMC was moved in 1931 to Sydney and little rugby was played in the district until the College was moved back to Duntroon on 1937. That year of l937 is regarded as the beginning of Australian Capital Territory rugby with Duntroon as the spark. We look separately at Australian Capital Territory Rugby later in the story.

1912. This was a year of upheaval in the fortunes of the Northern Branch which, as we have learned took a major initiative in establishing their own home, the Union Ground. This was a time of struggle against the professional league and the New South Wales Rugby Union was doing everything possible to retain leases of key grounds such as the Newcastle Sports Ground and Showground. This resulted in the Branch Union overextending itself, believing they would be recompensed by the New South Wales Rugby Union at a time when they were doing major improvements on their own ground, the Union Ground. All of this occurred when the New South Wales Rugby Union were themselves stretched to the limit with the purchase of their own home ground in Sydney, the Epping Racecourse (see chapter ‘A Tale of Two Grounds’). Both ventures had to be abandoned, both the Union Ground in Newcastle and the Epping Racecourse in Sydney, resulting in the collapse of the Northern Branch. Much of this set back can be attributed to the pressure mounted in the press by Joynton Smith, backer of the professional game and owner of Smiths Weekly.  

The Northern Branch quickly reconstituted as the Newcastle Branch under the skilled guidance of J.A. Forgie, for many years the country representative on the New South Wales Rugby Union Management Committee.[viii]

(In 2001, Hunter Valley Clubs were invited to compete in the Newcastle Competition and the name was changed to the Newcastle and Hunter Valley Rugby Union).

1913. In spite of the smallpox epidemic which was raging, the New Zealand Maoris were back again playing the Northern Districts at Tamworth 29–8, then the Western Districts at Bathurst Sports Ground, 11–8. All players in these representative matches had to have smallpox vaccinations prior to playing.

1914. Prior to the outbreak of World War 1, two New South Wales country matches were played by the visiting All Blacks, the last for six long years because the New South Wales Rugby Union decided to discontinue all senior games for the duration and to give maximum support to the war effort. (In contrast to the professional game which continued to play at all levels). On 15th July 1914, New Zealand beat Central West at Wade Park Orange and on 25th July of that year New Zealand beat New England at the Armidale Sports Ground. The ultimate finale for pre war rugby union in New South Wales and New Zealand then took place when, at the half time break in the match New Zealand v Metropolitan, the announcement went up on the scoreboard from the Prime Minister Andrew Fisher that we were at war with Germany and its allies. (Sydney Sports Ground). Recruiting for the 1st A.I.F. began in earnest early in 1915. Rugby Union players volunteered in great numbers. One hundred and fifteen were killed at Gallipoli alone, including eight Wallabies.[ix] Country Clubs answered the call. Walcha Rugby Football Club for instance lists seventy two players who volunteered for service in World War 1, with nine killed. The Carrington Club in Newcastle listed seventy one volunteers with eleven killed.

1919. June of this year saw the return of the famous 1st A.I.F. Rugby Union Team which defeated New Zealand in the King’s Cup following the Armistice in France. There was a great public clamour to see this great Australian team, the bulk of whom came from all over New South Wales, with only three Queenslanders. In spite of Rugby League having the stage to themselves while the war raged on, interest in Rugby Union stayed high and our wartime hibernation forgiven. The 1st A.I.F. toured both New South Wales and Queensland. Their New South Wales Country matches were ‘sell outs’.

16th July 1919 1st A.I.F. 36 v New England 6 at Armidale
30th July 1919 1st A.I.F. 52 v North Western Branch 0 at Inverell.

1920. Many Rugby Union Clubs were struggling to re form; some did not make it again for a number of years (Queensland went right out of business from 1919 to 1929). Players and Club officials had either been killed or wounded. But we could count on the redoubtable New Zealanders to help us get firing. They were back again in 1920 and, for the first time we find Taree hosting an international team. The score over the Manning River District, 70–9, was the least of the locals worries; giving their visitors a marvelous reception country style was what mattered.

The onslaught of the professional game was at its most noticeable in Country New South Wales. League had picked up not only the limited number of ground leases but, by being the only code playing throughout the war, the bulk of young men leaving school but not going to the concluding moments of the war. As Country Union Clubs disbanded in country towns, the League Club simply took over. (This was an instructive lesson for the New South Wales Rugby Union, who, in World War II kept the semblance of a structure alive for the duration of the war).

Yet Country Rugby survived these years of League momentum. Country schools continued to be at its heart and New Zealand teams continued to visit, bless them. One of these days someone should write a tribute to how much we owe New Zealand Rugby. They thoroughly understood the battle we were facing with League.

1925. It took the previously strong Northern Union/Newcastle Branch Union six years to get back on its feet with a whole new generation of players and officials supporting their stalwarts who were determined to restart the game. They began with a bang… Clubs from Morpeth, Newcastle, Carrington, East Maitland, Kurri, Cessnock, Singleton and West Maitland competing for the Earp Shield. The year concluded with a match between the All Blacks and a New South Wales XV at the Newcastle Sports Ground.

1927. The governing body of the New South Wales Rugby Union advanced to the Newcastle City Council the sum of 750 pounds for the enclosure of the Newcastle Sports Ground.[x] This marked the resurgence of the Newcastle Branch and the return of great enthusiasm for Rugby throughout the country areas. Syd Malcolm was chosen to tour with that incomparable team, the 1927/8 Waratahs, the only player from New South Wales Country.

1929. After a lapse of 15 years, COUNTRY WEEK was back on the Rugby map. It was a celebration soon to be dampened in September of that year by the spectacular collapse of Wall Street’s share and bond markets, leading rapidly to the Great Depression. In hindsight and in relating on the history of Rugby in the period from 1909 to 1939, a case can be made that the Depression had a more corrosive influence on Rugby Union than did the professional game. Young men just could not spare the time for an amateur pastime, they were so involved with supporting their families. This was of course particularly so in the bush, with rural product prices spiraling down. Nevertheless, the All Blacks were here again in 1929 playing the Newcastle Branch at the Newcastle Sports Ground on 27th July, winning 35–6, then New South Wales COUNTRY, the Combined team from all Country Branch Unions at Armidale Showground 27–8.

1930. Another upset occurred at the Newcastle Sports Ground this year when the British Lions, after a superb series against the Springboks, were defeated by the New South Wales Team 12–17. Massive celebrations in Newcastle.

1933. A modified Country Week was held in June in Sydney. Modified by the restrictions of life in the Depression. The Northern Union was reporting a strong resurgence, following their re-establishment in 1925, with five hundred players registered for the season. The Merewether Carlton Club was having an outstanding season, defeating Maitland in a spectacular grand final. The Newcastle XV added to its victories over Queensland with yet another solid win, the third time in a row. Newcastle’s Syd Malcolm was chosen as the Australian Vice Captain for the 1933 tour of South Africa by the Wallabies.

1936. Here again we find an interesting innovation. For the first time in Australian Rugby, a triangular series with three states competing. Two New South Wales teams with eighteen Country players competing with Victoria and Queensland. It was promoted as a Carnival of Rugby.

1937. The great Springbok team, which was beaten only once on this tour (by New South Wales), played Newcastle Branch in Newcastle.

1939. Surely the unluckiest of Wallaby teams was chosen this year to visit the United Kingdom. The team arrived in London just days before the outbreak of World War II and had to turn around immediately for home, although quite a few of them enlisted immediately in England.

J.D. Kelaher from the Federal Capital Territory was Country’s only representative. The diminutive ‘Jockey’ was like many of his teammates, at the peak of his career and lost forever the chance to again represent Australia in Rugby.

1940–1945. The New South Wales Rugby Union quietly announced that Rugby would continue in a structured but semi formal way. In the country, we find the Newcastle Branch sanctioning grade matches with Clubs arranging their own programs, mostly at reserve grade level. School matches were widely supported in all areas of the country. In this way Rugby Union held its being together through the dark war years. It was minimalist but sufficient to give the Revivalists something to build upon in 1946.

1956 Beat Metropolitan 17–8 and went down to touring Springboks by six. Seven Country players in Sew South Wales team; Burke, Halter, Stanbrook, Bailey, Connolly, Harris, Gahan.

1957 New Zealand in Newcastle. All Blacks de3feat Country but only one try scored. Richardson Shield first presented.

1958 Outstanding Waratah, Wallaby and Country star Terry Curley retires from Rugby to enter the Marist Brothers.

1960. North West Zone reforms and attends Country Carnival.

1961. Kiama Rugby Club re-established; Illawarra now has eight clubs.

1962. Central West tours Southern States. Eight Country players in New South Wales team to tour New Zealand.

1963. Cobar Club undertakes six match tour of New Zealand North Island.

1964 Combined Country plays two draws with Queensland fourteen all with Queensland Country and sixteen all with Queensland.

1965 Country New South Wale’s Junior Organisation reports two hundred and ten Junior Teams.

1966 Visit to Queensland. Draws with Queensland 6–6 and beats Queensland Country 31–5. Epic struggle with British Lions at Manuka Oval, Canberra Losing 3–6.
 
1964 Hunter Valley Zone formed. Rugby is now played in every town on the New England Highway between Newcastle and the border.

1970 Country wins the Wallaby Trophy. Country Clubs Cobar, Lismore and Singleton establish their own grounds.

1971 New clubs formed, Bowral, Coffs Harbour, Toronto. For the first time, the Country Carnival held at the Millner Field Eastwood is televised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

1974 Country’s Annus Mirabilus. Tour of Canada, United States of America and New Zealand. Thirteen wins out of fifteen. Won United States National Tournament in Monterey, California. Beat Counties and Waikato in New Zealand. Won Waratah Trophy, beating Victoria, Sydney and Queensland. (No Australian Capital Territory player in Country Team).

1975 Undefeated
V England, Won 14–13
V Japan, Won 97–12
V Sydney, Won 22–20 (J.J. Davoren Trophy) “Tap Five”
V Victoria, Won 37–12
V Sydney, Won 31–10 Wallaby Trophy

Australian Capital Territory Rugby separates from New South Wales Country Rugby Union to affiliate with Australian Rugby Union.

1976 Beat Sydney 12–7 for the J.J. Davoren Trophy Beat Fiji 13–11.

1977 Twelve match tour of Fiji, Hawaii, United States of America, Canada and New Zealand. Win 7–12

1978 TESTIMONIAL DINNER FOR HARRY IVIMEY to mark his remarkable service which began in 1953 as Honorary Secretary to the Advisory Council. He became President of the New South Wales Country Rugby Union in 1962 and Chairman from 1965–78, managing representative teams in 1954/57/62/63/66–1970. In 1966 he was made a Life member and is now the Patron of the New South Wales Country Rugby Union. he served on the Council of the new South Wales Rugby Union from 1954 to 1982 and was elected President in 1988. he was involve din the inauguration of many Country Clubs; Parkes, West Wyalong, Cootamundra and West Wyalong, Rylstone and Wagga City. In 1974 he became a Life Member of the New South Wales Rugby Union.

Southern Tablelands Rugby Union disbanded due to the expansion of the Australian Capital Territory Rugby Union’s ‘sphere of influence’.

1980 Tour to New Zealand.

1981 Most country districts suffered a very severe drought in this year which restricted Country Rugby’s program extensively. Tour to New Zealand.

1982 Kerry Packer sponsors the first Povincial Carnival. There was a Southern States Tour, beat Victoria 15–9, Tasmania 42–3, lost South Australia 1 point 11–12.

1983 David Codey, John Coolican and Declan Curren, Wallabies.

1985 Tour of Europe and United Kingdom.

1987 Peter Fenwicke, New South Wales. New South Wales Country and Australian Captain from the Walcha Club passes away.

1988 The Country Welfare Committee established under Presidency of Peter Dunlop to assist injured players.

1989 Matthew Stocks appointed Australian Union–21 Captain.

1990 Another great Country stalwart, Walter Richmond McManus, long serving Honorary Secretary of Country and President of the New South Wales Country Rugby Union and the New South Wales Rugby Union.

1993 Difficult times. Severe drought but all clubs and zones survive.

1994 Defeated by Ireland but scoring 3 tries to 1 enjoy moral victory.

1996 Full time Executive Director Appointed and the name The COUNTRY COCKATOOS adopted.

1997 Tour to Ceylon, winning Singer Cup in Colombo.

1998 Passing of another country great, Angus Campbell. Probably the most loved, honored and revered man of Country. Angus was Secretary of Country for seven years and managed many Country XV’s. Life Member of Country. Fluent in French, he was the natural choice of the Australian Rugby Union to accompany visiting teams from France.

1999 Tour of Canada … see full report under “Tours”.

2000 50th Anniversary of the Caldwell Cup held at Emus Rugby Club, Orange.

2001 The Country Cockatoos win the inaugural Australian Rugby Shield, undefeated.

2002 Defeat Canada at Bathurst. Win Australian Rugby Shield again.

2003 Each zone now employs its own development officer.

2004 The Country Cockatoos again win the Australian Rugby Shield, undefeated.


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[i] Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 24 August 1875
[ii] Newcastle Morning Herald, 20 July 1893
[iii] Coker, G. Walcha Rugby Club
[iv] Newcastle Morning Herald, 14 May 1894
[v] Minutes of the New South Wales Rugby Union, 1895–1898
[vi] 100 Years of Newcastle Rugby
[vii] Newcastle Morning Herald, 11 September 1912
[viii] New South Wales Rugby Union Annual Report, 1915
[ix] Minutes of the New South Wales Rugby Union, 1925–1927
[x] Bathurst and Western Mail, August 1908


The above material is copyright © 2005 New South Wales Rugby Union and was researched by John G. Mulford & may not be reproduced without permission.