150 Years on: Sydney University Football Club

Sydney University Football Club is Australia's oldest rugby club - and proof that some things only get better with age. The club has won 7 of the last 8 Shute Shield first grade premierships and the past 9 Sydney club championships. Bruce 'China' Lin shares with us about the experience of playing for a club celebrating its 150th anniversary.

At Ralph’s Café inside the Arena Centre, students eat bowls of pasta before 6.00pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, first years discuss a training program with strength and conditioning coach Tim Leahy and head coach Chris Malone stands on the phone while ordering a coffee. This is Sydney University Football Club, Australia’s oldest rugby club and winners of 7 of the last 8 first grade Shute Shield 1st grade premierships and the past 9 Sydney club championships. The club caters for 4 grade and 3 colts games every week between April and September. 2013 heralds the sesquicentenary – the 150th year of ‘The Students’, a club with players rich in successes on the field and in vocations such as law, medicine, business and academia.  

Down at the University Oval No: 1 a visitor will see the eclectic mix of players, volunteers, officials and great characters who make up the fabric of the club. Raw boned students from far western NSW who are residents of the University colleges, a former Springbok coaching, cauliflowered eared props, a Rhodes scholar fluent in mandarin and a ground announcer who could fill in as MC for the Oscars. Anyone can come down to play alongside their mates or be a part of Australia’s premier rugby club.

After 13 years, Club President, David Mortimer AO, is still “drawn by the quality of the playing that is attracted to the club, the quality of the people who make up the volunteers and professional teams, the positive environment and the quest for excellence.  They keep me going, they keep me enthusiastic!” 

Playing for University and showing perseverance will prepare a player for life after rugby while forging life long friendships.  Winger/fullback Nathan Trist 30, a soon to be medical doctor reflects this. Practising physiotherapy initially, Nathan continued his studies in graduate medicine keeping the HECS office functioning from 2001. Despite a series of serious knee reconstructions which were mended with transplanted tendons, Trist was last rewarded with a minor contracts with the Waratahs last season.

Important to Trist is the social aspect of the club; attending a grand final with a University supporter dressed in a chicken suit or listing Director of Rugby Jack Farrer as an excellent anatomy model are some gems that he recalls.

The thrill of playing in a 150th premiership drives Trist to back up for another season “I think knowing you are a custodian of a jersey that is the oldest in Australia and worn by so many great players generates a unique feeling every time you put it on.”

When Nathan Trist finally decides to hang up the boots and embark on his medical career, there are  players waiting in the wings to take over. Jonny Vaux 18, an elusive utility back from last seasons premiership winning 1st grade colts team is one to watch. The 2nd year Arts/Law student saw Sydney University rugby as having an impeccable coaching strategy to assist players, “One of the most attractive features was the ability to ring up one of the coaches and organise a one-on-one skills session in the middle of the day. It was too good an opportunity to pass down,” said Vaux.

As a cerebral Arts/Law student, Vaux relishes challenges.  You can see him partaking in spatial awareness sessions with his sidekick, the Will Ferrell clone second rower Sam Jeffries, or mastering Chinese so that he can take a date to a Chinese restaurant and order in fluent Chinese. Steamed snapper with ginger and shallots will never sound the same!

Vaux is excited to be fine tuning his preseason training, “There is a lot of momentum coming out of the 2012 season, which everyone has harnessed to create a really electric atmosphere. Pre-season has been especially tough, and so the 150th year is set to be one to remember.”

The emotion surrounding the 2013 season is reiterated by David Mortimer AO, “We celebrate the history of a remarkable club honouring the successes, triumphs and struggles of the clubs history and preparing it for the future in a competitive and ever-changing world.

For any persons interested in finding out more about Sydney University Football Club go to www.sydneyunirugby.com.au or contact the club office on 02 93517963.