The state of Rugby in Victoria has never been healthier according to participation data released by the Victorian Rugby Union (VRU) and Australian Rugby Union (ARU) last week. Participation in the state has increased 38 percent in 2016, to nearly 16,000 participants, through 15-a-side Rugby, Sevens Rugby, VIVA 7s and Game-On primary school development program.
Highlighted by a 22 percent growth in Junior Rugby and the establishment of two new Rugby Clubs in 2016.
“Last year was a very exciting year for Rugby Union in Victoria with significant increase in participation numbers, higher quality Rugby and excellent representative performances through juniors, schools, women and senior programs,” according to VRU President Tim North.
The 950 plus rugby clubs across Australia continue to be the most important caretakers of the game, and the ARU is committed to strengthening clubs by supporting them to engage new participants. Already, Sevens, VIVA7s (non-contact rugby) and Game On (a five-week rugby program delivered in primary schools) are bringing more people into rugby clubs, and making rugby more accessible by expanding beyond the traditional male private school channels. In 2016, more than 60 percent of the primary schools that ran Game On were government schools.
This growth is encouraging as these formats are attracting new and more diverse participants to the game, which is a key focus for Australian Rugby as it looks to create a sustainable participant base for the future.
An increase in the U6-U11 age groups can be traced back to the successful roll-out of the five-week school rugby program ‘Game On’ which was delivered to nearly 26,500 primary school students in 2015, prompting a 3.5 percent uplift in U6-U11 junior rugby club registrations in 2016 across the nation.
Along with a growth in participation, the state enjoyed unprecedented success at a national and international level.
History was made when Victoria’s first two home-grown players Sione Tuipulotu and Rob Leota made their Super Rugby debuts for the Melbourne Rebels against the Reds (Round 3) and Crusaders (Round 16) respectively.
The pair, along with Ikapote Tupai (Melbourne Unicorns), Jordan Uelese and Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano represented the Australian U20s team at the 2016 World Rugby U20s Championship in Manchester, England.
Josh Coward was selected in the Australian Seven’s program; Sunia Finefiuaki, Hunter Paisami, Hinkley Halo-Vaovasa and Cullum Kent were picked for the Australian Schoolboys and Australian Barbarians; and Oneata Schwalger (Melbourne Unicorns) was selected in the Australian Wallaroos.
Domestically, Victoria recorded its first ever U20s victory over New South Wales when the Rebels U20s scored a 39-26 win en route to the inaugural grand final of the 2016 Super 20s Championship.
While the Victorian U18’s Schoolboys finished fourth at the National Schoolboys Championships after they defeated Queensland 1 for the first time in the pool stage of the competition.
Victorian Rugby’s impact on the national stage has already received a boost in 2017 with a record six locally contracted Rebels with Tupai, Uelese, Tuimalealiifano and Fereti Sa’aga joining Tuipulotu and Leota.
Melbourne Rugby Club will field teams in U6, U7, U8, U9, U10 Green & Gold, U11 Green & Gold, U12, U13, U14 and U16 Teams in the VRU Pathway Grades and Junior Competition Grades in 2017 and the Season starts on Saturday April 22.
Source: Melbourne Rebels Media Unit