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SJRU Chairman’s Report 2023

George Roper, SJRU Chairman

After the last two years of Covid interruptions it was extremely pleasing to get a full season of junior rugby in Sydney during 2022.

The year in review started with the 2021 Spring sevens competition which saw a record number of teams participating for Boys and Girls sevens, because of players wanting to get back into junior rugby after the Covid interruptions. This was followed by a successful Sizzling sevens competition, that was hosted at the start of the 2022 calendar year.

SJRU vs BJRU at Norths Rugby, Brisbane

The weather patterns experienced in Sydney in 2022 made for a wet and muddy winter season, and provided some challenges with ground availability, but thanks to the efforts of our Competition Management Team only one round was treated as washed out for most age groups. SJRU again offered a Friday night XV’s competition for U10 to U12 and a Sunday XV’s competition for U10 to Opens. The Sunday XV’s competition commenced with two gala rounds played on 27 March and 3 April. These gala days were unfortunately impacted by field closures due to rain, but most teams still played in at least one gala round. These games provided valuable insight to aid in competition grading. The SJRU also put in a huge effort to measure heights and weights of players at these gala days in accordance with the Rugby Australia Size for Age policy. 

In 2022 SJRU introduced a new girls academy to promote 15’s rugby for U14 to U18 girls, which saw more than 150 girls register. For younger age groups a new Tri-series event was created for U11 and U13 girls.

Minis Footy Fest at Drummoyne in November

It has been amazing to see how much effort so many people have put in to promote Junior Rugby across Sydney. I would like to acknowledge and thank everyone that contributed to a hugely successful year for the Sydney Junior Rugby Union. A special thank you to the following people and organizations:

  • the SJRU Competition Management team lead by our SJRU General Manager, Ben Gregory, as well as John Glen and Bippy Power, for their outstanding efforts throughout the year.
  • Mark Green, the General Manager NSW Community Rugby for all his support and assistance.
  • All the SJRU Directors for their support and contributions to governance, oversight and strategic direction at the SJRU.
  • Thank you to our SJRU Sponsors: The Rugby Club Foundation, Maqro, Elmo Software & BondIQ
  • All the SJRU affiliated Clubs and Districts and their respective committees.
  • Thank you to all our referees for the, often thankless, task that they perform at all our fixtures, without them there can be no games.
  • thank you to each and every rugby club volunteer that assists with getting our junior players on the field every weekend. This includes coaches, managers, ground marshals, AR’s etc.

One of the highlights in 2022 was the introduction of the Maqro Sydney Cup, which was contested by all SJRU Districts at the State Champs for under 14’s and older age groups. There have been some learnings from the format, but the concept was very well received and will be continued in future years.

Spring 7s action

Congratulations to all the boys and girls that were selected in SJRU representative teams this year. Our SJRU teams made us proud at the annual City vs Country Carnival that was held in Bathurst at the end of July. In this year we also reintroduced the fixtures between Sydney Juniors and Brisbane Juniors. In September our Sydney u14 Girls and Boys and u16 Girls teams visited Brisbane to play against the Brisbane Juniors teams. All three our Sydney teams came home with very comprehensive wins.

Although the SJRU competitions officially start at under 10 age groups, during 2022 we have identified the targeted growth of minis players as one of our main strategic objectives. There has been a recent decline in minis player numbers across Sydney. Although this trend is in line with most organized junior sports, post covid, the SJRU acknowledges that the minis are our future junior players and will therefore look to increase support for clubs and districts to attract minis players to our great game of rugby union. In addition to our annual inter district minis gala day, next year the SJRU will host minis gala days across Sydney on the last weekend of every month during the rugby season.

During the 2022 XV’s season we were faced with some referee shortages, which were exacerbated by last minute game changes because of inclement weather. The SJRU is allocating resources and working with the various referee associations to actively address this for next season. 

A major rugby community highlight in 2022, was Australia being confirmed as hosts for the Rugby World Cup for Men in 2027 and the Rugby World Cup for Women in 2029. This means that some of our boys and girls currently playing in SJRU competitions can aspire to represent the Wallabies and Wallaroos at a Rugby World Cup on home soil in a few years’ time. These events will also have massive impacts on the growth of our game in Sydney.

Finally, I would like to thank each and every junior player and parent for supporting our SJRU affiliated clubs over the last year. Thank you for your contribution to making Junior Rugby Union in Sydney a unique and special sporting community.