Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 10 February 2005
Page: 99


Ms ANNETTE ELLIS (4:30 PM) —I would like to use my time this evening to bring to the attention of the House an injustice that has been committed against Canberra schools, namely their exclusion from the New South Wales Waratah Shield rugby competition. The Waratah Shield is the premier schoolboys rugby competition in Australia. Players like Roff, Gregan and Giteau are just some of the many great players who first demonstrated their talents competing for the shield against New South Wales teams.

In the past 21 years, St Edmund's College has won the Waratah Shield no fewer than 14 times, including the last eight years in a row. Of the remaining seven years, Marist College has received the shield three times, with the Scots, Oakhill, St Stanislaus and St Patrick's colleges winning the competition for New South Wales in the remaining four years. While all Canberrans can be proud of our students' achievements, and many senior members of New South Wales Schools Rugby Union see the advantage of playing against such talented teams, there are those who seem to want to curb the quality of the competition to appease their own egos.

When St Edmund's College beat Randwick Boys High School in last year's Waratah Shield final, it appears that they raised the ire of some members of the New South Wales rugby fraternity. Despite New South Wales Schools Rugby Union voting to keep the ACT schools in the New South Wales competition, some of the smaller minds on the Combined High Schools Waratah Shield Committee were so determined to stop St Edmund's taking a 15th shield that they voted to kick all ACT schools out of the competition.

Contained in an article in the Canberra Times Sunday edition published on 6 February this year, titled `The Road to Exclusion', were the following milestones. In April 2004 New South Wales Schools Rugby Union asked ACT schools to `show cause' as to why they should stay in the Waratah Shield competition. On 13 September St Edmund's College beat Randwick Boys High to win their 14th Waratah Shield. Two months later, on 14 November, New South Wales Schools Rugby Union voted to keep the ACT schools in the New South Wales competition. In January this year the Combined High Schools Waratah Shield Committee decided that they were a higher power than New South Wales Schools Rugby Union with the right to change the structure of the competition. On 24 January, New South Wales Schools Rugby Union informed ACT Schools Rugby that the Waratah Shield committee planned to move to exclude the ACT schools. The motion to exclude Canberra schools from playing in future Waratah Shield competitions was passed four to one on 4 February 2005.

Since then there has been a chorus of protest from within the ACT and NSW. While I would expect the ACT schools to voice their discontent about the decision, as they rightly should and want to, it is especially encouraging to hear that some of the more level heads within New South Wales Schools Rugby Union, as well as many past players, have called for the reinstatement of ACT schools in the Waratah Shield competition. The President of New South Wales Schools Rugby Union, Colin Murray, and the New South Wales Schools Rugby Union delegate on the Waratah Shield committee, Geoff Melville, both deserve special praise for their support for the inclusion of Canberra's teams.

To exclude Canberra's teams for winning too much does not just smack of jealousy; it sends the wrong message to every school student in Australia. St Edmund's and Marist are not the only Canberra colleges in the Waratah Shield. The New South Wales teams list comprises more names than Scotts, Oakhill, St Stanislaus and St Patrick's colleges. Many colleges that will never be named as Waratah Shield winners still benefit greatly from their participation in the competition.

The Waratah Shield presents an opportunity for students to play in the best schoolboys rugby competition in Australia. The bonds of friendship and good-natured rivalries that are formed through competition will stay with these boys for the rest of their lives. Taking a successful club out of the competition cheapens the experience in ways that cannot be easily measured. The removal of a high-standard competitor degrades the competitive experience for everyone. Kicking a team out for winning sends the wrong message that a team name etched in the tin holds more significance than the experience of playing with the best. I implore the members of the Waratah Shield committee to remind themselves of their own experiences playing rugby at school and to think about the experiences that will be denied the next generation of players if they do not reverse their decision.