Sydney University are back in rugby league.
Sydney University are back in rugby league.

Incredible return of rugby league outcasts

WHEN it comes to rugby league, the Sydney University story makes for tough reading.

Take their wooden spoons.

All 12 of them.

Or that run of 42 straight losses, which even today remains an NRL record.

And some feat considering this pioneering NSWRL club - a mob established in 1921, before even St George - would spend just 18 winters playing the likes of South Sydney, Eastern Suburbs and a Dragons franchise which today boasts 16 titles, including eleven straight.

But University?

Well, they made the decider just once, in 1926.

And even then, beaten by the Bunnies 11-5.

 

The 19260 Sydney Uni amateur rugby league team.
The 19260 Sydney Uni amateur rugby league team.

"But our history," says club president Chris Kintis, "it's a real source of pride".

And why?

"Back in the 1920s, all our players were amateurs," Kintis continues. "Every other club paid its players, but ours, they were all students.

"And they played tough.

"Around that time too, the idea of switching from rugby union to league was really frowned upon by the university.

"It meant our earliest officials, guys like 'Doc' Evatt - a law student who went on to become both a High Court Judge and UN General Assembly president - they had to really rebel against the system.

"And because of that, they became outcasts.

"So there's a toughness existing right throughout our club, a toughness the club is built on, and we're extremely proud of that."

These blokes were the league rebels of their day.
These blokes were the league rebels of their day.

And now wonderfully, they're back.

Over 30 years since they last competed in the old Metropolitan Cup, and 80 years since they were withdrawn from what is now the NRL, rugby league's most enduring outfit is set to compete in the Sydney Shield competition.

Only last week, NSWRL officials signed off on the historic agreement that not only sees University returning to Sydney footy, but part of a pathways program involving fellow suburban icons Glebe and Newtown.

As part of the new arrangement, the Uni boys will act as a feeder team to Glebe Burwood's Ron Massey Cup squad.

 

Myles Fowler, 23, Jackson Garlick, 24, and Brock Peligra, 19, at Sydney Uni. (David Swift)
Myles Fowler, 23, Jackson Garlick, 24, and Brock Peligra, 19, at Sydney Uni. (David Swift)

The Dirty Reds, who themselves only reformed last year after 87 years on the scrapheap, also act as a feeder team for the Newtown Jets Intrust Super Premiership squad.

Elsewhere, University is also looking to schedule games alongside its new partners - including a 'Festival of Football' at Wentworth Park on February 17.

And so continues the proud history of a club which, folding briefly in 2013, has most recently played in a tertiary competition.

A student mob who, during its brief stint among Sydney's elite, produced a dozen NSW representatives and two Kangaroos - Ray Morris and Jim Craig.

Yet in was at the end where things got a little, err, ugly.

With University winning only two games in four years, which included that losing run of 42 straight - still an NRL record 82 years on.

"But our club is about carrying on, no matter the circumstances," Kintis says. "Which is why this (comeback) is so important.

"It's important Sydney University is always competing at the highest level possible."



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