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SJRU 2023 Competition Report

Ben Gregory, General Manager SJRU

We’re Back! In many ways 2022 was a year like no other – but considering the previous two ‘Covid’ seasons I think it also felt somewhat normal.

We began the year with Sizzling 7s and despite a strong uptake in the Girl’s Sizzling 7s, the nominations of teams for the Boy’s Sizzling wave was not nearly as strong as anticipated. The mid-year survey showed that the clubs as a majority were keen to have some clean air for their pre-season preparations and would only like one or two gala style events in late Feb. The girls on the other hand wanted Sizzling to start in March and not earlier. The 2022 Sizzling wave went right up till the end of March for the boys and into early April for the Girls.

We also changed up the registration offering in 2022 so that boys and girls could register for all the 7s waves in one registration type. This was well received.

The end of March saw the competitions start with our Friday Only Comp kicking off on the same weekend as the first Grading Gala for the Fri-Sun Comp (aka the Sunday Comp).  Unfortunately, we lost quite a few grounds to wet weather over the two Grading weekends – nearly all teams got at least two grading games to give us some date (except the lower grade U13s whom missed out completely). This impacted our ability to grade the competitions correctly and thus we were still regrading up until round 5.

We did hit one of our main goals for the year though and got the draw out early to clubs. It wasn’t quite as envisaged as wet weather dogged us for much of the year, but all in all we had the draw out weeks in advance so teams could plan. The fall of Easter in 2023 gives us a nice window to do the initial draw and then ideally have grading completed by round 3 and a season draw out to the clubs.

The Friday Only comp in 2022 only had an U10 and U11 age group as we didn’t get the uptake for U12s with only 5 teams nominating – these teams moved to the Fri-Sun Comp. Both competitions were un-graded, and we fielded 8 teams in the U10 and 10 teams in the U12. We did lose quite a few games early season to the weather as a number of these clubs simply could not get onto their fields.

The Friday-Sunday Competition saw an increase in the number of older boys’ teams playing this season. We managed to field two grades in the Opens competition but had to run combined AB competitions in some age groups due to the ratio of strength amongst the teams. Our U10 to U12 ages saw a rise in the number of teams choosing to play home games on a Friday night, but geographics curtailed this option somewhat.

Despite the wet weather we only actually lost half a round to washed out games throughout the season. Our Grand final days were spectacular with fantastic weather to boot.

For our Girls the ‘winter season’ saw them partake in the XV’s wave during May and June followed by the Frosty 7s Wave in July & August. Both these were competition waves with finals, and these gave us some good learnings during the year as to which day and format we should be running the girls during winter. Constant clashes (and therefore late withdrawals/forfeits) with other sports or school sports on the Saturday became an issue, as well as the lack of resources on a Saturday afternoon – when every other rugby fixture is also taking place. We will look to integrate these Girls waves into our Sunday offering in 2023. Especially for our XV’s which will move down to U12 and be extended through to end of June.

Spring 7s gave us the opportunity to test the new format options with games moving to Sunday and in a fortnightly gala format. Feedback has been excellent as the teams appreciate more games on the same day, negating travel issues for only a couple of games, but also allowing teams to have a weekend off with no impact to other teams or competitions.       

The 2022 season gave SJRU the opportunity to implement several new strategic measures designed to expand and improve our offering. These include;

  • SJRU Rugby 1st Girls Academy – This was a designated Girls only Academy which was aimed to offer our girls and coaches some exposure to some high-performance training and techniques. Supported by SJRU as well as Rugby AU (Nathan McMahon) and NSWRU (Brit Merlo) we saw several high-profile coaches including Jay Tregonning and Campbell Aitken deliver sessions. Rugby 1st and Harvey Norman were fantastic sponsors of this program.
  • SJRU U12 Development Gala – Having lost two years to Covid the current Under 12 age group completely missed the NSWJRU U10 & U11 State Gala. So effectively with the Under 12 age group reverting to a single team there were many players who missed the opportunity to experience Rep rugby. SJRU implemented a Development Gala specifically for players that didn’t attend the State Champs and it was a smashing success. We will repeat in 2023 and add a Girls U12 Development Gala too.
  • ELMO SJRU Club Championships – The Club Champs model was designed by our GM and sponsored by ELMO. It involved a mathematical formula that multiplied competition points by a ‘Grade’ multiplier and then divided by the number of teams. It was run as a Big Club (6 teams or more) and a Small Club (5 teams or less) Championship. Oatley won the Big Club and Blacktown the Small Club Champs.
  • SJRU vs BJRU Rep fixtures – Through our relationship with BJRU, we re-established the traditional fixtures between SJRU and BJRU for our Sydney U14 Boys and Girls teams as well as our U16 Girls team. Sydney teams flew to Brisbane in September for a day trip and were success in claiming all three fixtures. We will welcome BJRU down to Sydney next September for the same.
SJRU v BJRU at Norths Rugby Club, Brisbane
  • SJRU Girls Tri-Series – To fill what was a void in the calendar for the U11 and U13 girls, SJRU created the Tri-Series which was a series of three gala events for these girls to try a slightly bigger format of the game in 10 aside. Running into the evening using the Dufficy Cup format it was a great initiation into the bigger format of the game. As a result, SJRU will look to run a proper 8 week U12 Girls competition in 2023 (10 per side).
  • Sydney Cups – A new initiative that has been a decade in the making. It is part of the NSWJRU State Champs but gives the Sydney Districts a competition to rival the Country Champs that CRU has run for many years.

Add to all this our work on Minis engagement strategies, Monthly Minis Inter-District Galas and other events like Pasifica Youth Cup, the SJRU team is certainly busy trying to make sure rugby has something for everyone. We are also actively working on strategies to grow our referees and coaches via various scholarship programs that are supported by our friends at The Rugby Club Foundation.

None of what we do can be done without our fantastic sponsors. A massive thanks to Wahu (Elle), Maqro (Conrad and Mark), ELMO (James), BondiQ (Gavin), Rugby 1st (Angus and Alex), Harvey Norman (Samantha), The Rugby Club Foundation (Angus, Lisa & Board)

I’d like to thank the Competition Team for all their hard work this season. John Glen (Youth Manager), Bippy Power (7s Competitions), Andrew Hutton (Draw Contractor + Pres NSWJRU) and Shane Williams (Asst Comp liaison). It has certainly been a big year for us all. As it has been for Hamish McKay who handled referee appointments once Todd Cummins stepped down – certainly was a baptism of fire for Hamish with the first Gala round in March.

Unfortunately, it is not always smooth sailing, and we sometimes need to call in our judicial panel, a big thanks to Andrew Hourigan, Grant Whatley, Anthony ‘Marvin’ Hunt and Linda Hutton for their services to our judiciary.   

The Comp team would like to also thank Chairman George Roper and the SJRU Board for their support and considered opinion. The strategic views coming from the Board will certainly yield fruit over the next few years.

Lastly a big thanks to all the Club and District Presidents and officials for their support over the season. It is certainly a hard job at the coalface and whilst we may not always agree on certain issues, we share your passion for growing our game (and your clubs) and appreciate all your hard work this year.    

See you again in 2023.