2024 Club Update – Round 01

Hale Cobbers & Well Met

Welcome to the Round 1 review and Round 2 preview for 2024 and our upcoming foray to Hunters Hill this coming weekend.

Early morning rain, and a forecast for plenty more, may have put lesser men in a dour mood for the Festivus of the Boot activities of Saturday 20th April 2024. However with the general enthusiasm high for Round 1, and elevated further given the auspicious year, and elevated again to be having Ladies Day to-boot, it was a happy and chatty crew that gathered at Drummoyne Oval from early Saturday morning to assemble the rubic-cube marquee, put out the chairs, stock the fridges and get the BBQ smoking. And so it was that we set the scene and prepared the grounds for the opening round clash of 2024, being our 150th year, against our visiting Colleagues friends from the east.

Before we kick into the game reviews, a quick word on Ladies Day from Organiser Extraordinaire, Christian Vanezi:

“We had nearly 100 ladies brave the conditions to celebrate Ladies Day. And a fantastic day was had by all, thanks in no small measure to the amount of Sew & Sew wine that was flowing. The Ladies certainly didn’t let the weather dampen their spirits, and the party was still going on hours after the rugby was long finished. Thus I think had we not “called it a night” eventually they might have still have been there on Sunday. As with any major event, it wouldn’t have been possible without all of the volunteers; those that helped set up, those on the bar, selling raffle tickets, packing up and everything in between. There were too many individuals who gave their time, for me to name them all and not leave anyone out. But their effort was testament to the calibre and selflessness of the outstanding individuals that make up our club. And so I’ll just say a massive thank you to everyone who contributed to such a fantastic day.”

And so, without further a-do, to the rugby:

Judd Cup (4ths) Drew 0-0

It must be said that with rain tumbling down beforehand, and generally throughout the match, it was an epic encounter to start the day at Drummoyne Oval. Some may look at a score of nil-all and think “Gawd, how uninspiring”. But whilst it was indeed a frustrating game on many fronts, it was on reflection, quite an enjoyable and physical contest framed by tenacious defence with neither side being willing to give an inch.

Comments from Supercoach Stephen were that with plenty of numbers, a sprinkling of talent and a well-managed warm-up, it was a strong and committed Red outfit that charged out onto a soddening Drummoyne Oval to start the days festivities. And from the opening whistle, it was clear this team was committed to the day and each other as they began whacking Colleagues ball-runners about early and so applied pressure from the opening whistle. In deteriorating conditions the team did their best to play enterprising attacking rugby alongside some very robust defence. And through such efforts Tim Balshaw and Charlie Yeomans combined well out wide to create a number of opportunities while Jude Maclean Burke and Stu Hammond led the charge up front. Unfortunately our attacking raids continually came to nowt, be it from a fumble, a well timed Colleagues tackle, or just an over-enthusiastic Referee. And so, despite three good raids that damn-near landed the much chased-after pie, our lads came up empty handed. Against that, the Colleagues never really threatened our line, thanks to some hard hitting and committed defensive efforts. And their one chance to grab some points – a late game shot at penalty goal – sprayed wide and short. Thus the game ended with a paltry 0-0 draw, but with some sore bodies on both sides to validate the enthusiasm of the collisions.

Points for the day were 3pts to first time scrum half Jack Walker, 2pts to Tim Balshaw, and 1pt each to Jude Maclean Burke and Stuart Hammond.

The draw puts the Juddites at 4th spot on the ladder and with Hunters Hill going down to Blueys by 17-8 last weekend and so sitting in 6th, it sets up an opportunity for the lads to begin the season in a “fair to middling” manner.

Whiddon Cup (3rds) Won 24-20

Charging out on the paddock almost before the Juddites had cleared the ground, the Thirsties were clearly up for a run, brimming with excitement, and more than a little ‘charged up’ regarding squaring up for a certain “elbow that wasn’t seen” in last years 1pt semi-final loss against this days opponents. With Callum Boland finally back and refocussed after running marathons and other such frivolities, and with Greg the Frenchman finally making his debut after 4yrs of trying, it was clear that these Whiddon Warriors were here to make a statement. And with more class to burn in the shapes of Tiger Parker, Niall McDermott, Jim Davis and Filippe Labalaba, there was no space left for but three of last years Whiddon crew on-ground. And so it must be said that expectations were high for such an esteemed group to make an early-season statement against perennial middle-grade front-runners Colleagues because of it.

From the opening exchanges it was clear this was to be a grinder of a match, with leads exchanging almost as often as poor execution stopped another try. And added to that, we were having a poor day off the boot and not saucing the pies we did grab. However a late match change of a fresh-legged Tom Sidegreaves for Jim Davis created some space around the ruck, triggering a remorseless march downfield. And not long after, from successive pick & drive work in the very shadow of the goalposts, I do believe it was Niall McDermott who finished off the good work and landed the match defining pie, leaving Nic Scully to squirt the sauce that sealed the deal and set the scene for stories to be told and lies to be pedalled long into the evening.

Points were awarded as follows with 3pts to two-tries Callum Boland, 2pts to the rampaging Gregoire Oubrier and 1pt to Tom Benson.

The win sees the Whiddon Warriors at 2nd on table, behind Waverley whose +20 points differential over Mosman earned them top ranking for this week at least. With the Hunters lads at 2nd last on table after their whacking from Blueys, again this weekend shapes as an opportunity for the Thirsties to start building a good early-season block of confidence.

Barbour Cup (Colts) Won 14-12

For the Colties, well you never quite know what you’re going to get until Round 1 actually kicks off. But from the early look of it, this gaggle of lads, ably led by the capable Nick Long, seems to have a certain look of success about them. And I look forward to what the season will bring.

Comments from Supercoach Rowdy were that, after letting Colleagues score an easy first half try in the wet and slippery conditions, the lads decided to ‘turn it on’ and began to fight hard into the wind. By doing so they firstly clawed their way back, and then went past their better-dressed opponents, with not just one pie but two, both with sauce squirted in all the right directions. And one of those a likely contender for ‘try of the year’. Thus with 14 points to the Colleagues 5, they had enough on the board to hold on despite the Colleagues late pie and sauce to record a cracking season-opening win.

Points went to Ned Greenwell (3) in his comeback game after knee surgery, Aidan Whipps (2) who filled in at loose head prop on short notice and dominated, and Beni Saurara (1) who had a great game at fullback, halfback, wing and even Referee at different stages. Special mention has to go to Nick Baksa who played his first game at hooker, and clearly loved it, and is now to be regarded as a fully-fledged member of the Front Row Club now, with his admission to the Fronties Forum to be considered a mere formality.

The win sees the Red Barbourians at 4th on ladder with next weeks opponents Hunters at outright 1st with a bonus point 5pts courtesy of their 29pt whacking of Colts perennial strugglers Blueys. So it’s a Top4 clash next weekend and an opportunity for our Red Men to right a few recent wrongs on the scoreboard Against our neighbours ‘over the way’.

Burke Cup (2nds) Lost 16-8

With such a run of success laid on throughout the morning and midday, leading up to the higher grades, it must be said that expectations for the Burkies to set about their season in similar manner were high, both inside the dressing shed and outside it. Accordingly, after a good warm-up, it was with gusto and anticipation that Captain Corey Griffin led his lads out through the tunnel and onto the hallowed turf to begin their tilt. However the rugby gods decided to turn their face away from Drummoyne oval for a spell there, and alas the day turned dark.

Comments from Supercoach Fisher were that, simply put, we were beaten in every aspect of the game in the first half and that basically cost us the match. Colleagues started the game with far greater intensity, they consistently carried and recycled the ball past the line of contact, and kicked purposefully with a strong wind advantage to pin us in our own half. Supercoach continued and acknowledged that, to be honest, our Burkies defensive effort was close to superb to only concede one try, given the quality of the Colleagues execution. To add to the woes, on the few occasions when we had possession in the first half, we were frequently dominated in the tackle zone, and without front-foot ball our kicking game was under-pressure and so pretty awful.

That said, the second half was much improved, with good character on display, to ‘win’ an abbreviated second half. In-fact, if the game didn’t end 12 minutes early, Supercoach felt we may even have gone close to (perhaps undeservedly) even winning. As such, one may wonder what may have been had many players not been at the ground for some 7hrs beforehand, no doubt doing good work for the club but nonetheless getting fatigued. But regardless, congratulations must be offered to the Colleagues lads who, on a wet and windy day, handled themselves better and set up the win via a powerful and accurate first half.

Points went as follows: 3pts to Cory Johnstone, 2pts to new comer Ben Austin and 1pt to the ever solid (have you seen his arms?!) Tom Warr.

The clubs sole loss of the day sees the Burkies tumble to 7thon the table, or 2nd last depending on your preference, whilst Hunters sit in 4th given their 3pt scrape-in against Blueys. Whilst indeed that does make for ordinary reading this week, it is but Round 1 and so the opportunity awaits to right the ship this coming weekend.

Kentwell Cup (1sts) Won 17-6

With a healthy crowd, increasingly vocal and lubricated, anticipation was running high for a quality premier match and an exciting start to the year. Furthermore, we were all excited to be welcoming in five debutants in Benjamin Faavae, Visesio Junior Amituanai, Peter Johnston, Ben Newall and Liam Doyle to the fold. As such, the stage was set for a cracking final match of the day.

And from the kickoff, the lads did not disappoint. The forwards exhibited a dominant display, showcasing exceptional scrummaging skills alongside accurate and aggressive cleanouts at the rucks, setting a strong foundation for the team’s performance. While the same sort of positive language cannot be said about the lineouts as yet, the team demonstrated a solid defensive performance, with very few missed tackles, indicating a well-coordinated defensive effort with plenty of productive chat. Added to that, despite the slippery field conditions, the backs combined and attacked effectively, culminating in the only try of the match early in the first half to Ropate Labalaba. As such, oranges were called with Drummoyne holding an 11-6 lead.

Fortunately, the team continued its momentum in the second half. And while the only points coming were another two squirts from the reliable boot of Ben Halmarick, nonetheless the lads held shape, played constructive rugby, and came away with a solid 17-6 win. Points went to Benjamin Faavae (3), Alex Connolly (2), Peter Taylor (1).

Surprisingly, closing the day out with such a great win only landed the Kentys in 4th spot on the ladder given Mosman, Forest and Blueys all posted bonus-point wins. That said, a win is a win. And a win against one of our proverbial stumbling-block opponents is a good win at that. So what is done is done and so all eyes turn forward to Hunters this weekend. With the Blueys 28-17 whacking Hunters last weekend in their grand final replay, that will surely mean our friendly neighbours over the bridge will be busting their proverbial bits to get out on the field, in front of what will surely be a motivated crowd enjoying their brand new digs, and get stuck in. So we gird our loins and look forward to meeting the Middle Harbour Buggers head on.

So there we have it. There was a great win to 1sts & Colties, an epic character-filled win for Thirsties, a ‘shoulda woulda coulda’ loss for Reserve Grade and a hard fought nil-all draw for the Fourthies. And given recent history, that’s not a bad day against the lads from the Woollahra sand pit.

I don’t think I need to remind folk that this week is ANZAC. For those visiting players unaware, on 25 April 1915, some 16,000 Australian and New Zealand stormed ashore in the Dardanelles area as part of a larger Allied forlorn attempt to break open the entrance to the Black Sea and thus open sea lanes to support Russia in the war against Germany. By the end of the day, some 2,000 of them were dead. And by the time the lads pulled out over 19-20 December 1915, the Australian casualty bill was over 26,000. It was a period that played a big role in forming the national identity and its impact on Australian culture, society and politics ever since has been profound. For some localised flavour, more directly related to our own club, a bit of research has discovered a reference citing that by December 1915, less than 18mths after the Great War started, our own Glebe/Drummoyne rugby club had seen some 69 players volunteer to fight, of whom 27 were killed and 29 were so seriously wounded as to not play again. Imagine that? Imagine going to training one night to discover 12mths later that four teams of club-mates were gone to fight overseas, and three teams of them had been rubbed out.

And the madness still had 3yrs to go (until the next time).

So observe the Dawn Service with reverence. Spin some coins, have a laugh, buy/wear a Legacy badge with pride. But always remember, this is a commemoration – not a celebration. If you need inspiration, I’ve often reflected on this bit of poetry:

A beer for those who serve.
A rum for those who fought.
A whisky for those who fell.
And a prayer for those who were left behind.

Lest we forget.

Boire le vin.