Losing my religion at the schoolboy rugby

Aleks Duric Roar Pro

By Aleks Duric, Aleks Duric is a Roar Pro


56 Have your say

    Related coverage

    I had my first experience with Catholic schoolboys on the weekend… and it was simply thrilling. To be perfectly honest I was probably a little naïve going into the encounter, not really knowing what to expect.

    But after forty odd minutes of stimulation I was completely hooked.

    To say that it altered my persuasion forever is probably a little hyperbolic, but it certainly left an indelible imprint on my psyche.

    To provide some context I’ll freely admit to experiencing extreme disillusion recently. I have put a lot of time, passion and faith in my existing relationship with little repaid. My loyalty has been severely tested, the damage inflicted almost irreparable.

    And so it came to pass on a sunny Sydney Saturday afternoon that I made my way to the oval behind a prominent local Catholic school.

    I was accompanied by two very close friends. Their presence and the ensuing camaraderie should have calmed my nerves and instilled some confidence.

    Rather it only served to heighten by fears and misgivings, adding yet another layer of confusion to a troubled soul.

    What was I doing here? I asked myself this question over and over. Did I really belong? Would I enjoy myself? Or would the more experienced participants see right through me, and immediately spot the imposter, the fraud, the outsider?

    I allowed myself a moment to enjoy a last swig of Heineken, a roadie taken more as an act of self-posturing than a real thirst for alcohol. But the cold brew did serve to drown out some of the butterflies flitting nervously in my stomach.

    As we finally marched onto the oval to join the rest of the group, and I saw my first glimpse of those muscular, athletic, young men, I knew I was in the right place.

    Welcome to schoolboy rugby folks, and the marquee match-up between St. Joseph’s College (Joeys) and Riverview!

    What stuck me first was the size of the crowd. Two grandstands at capacity and the standing area around the fence a least three deep. This was easily comparable to most Sydney NRL matches. Keep in mind the Seconds were still playing, with kick-off still 20 minutes away!

    It wasn’t just the size of the crowd, but the quality of the noise it produced – loud and coordinated. It seemed that they had been studying tapes from ‘English Premier League’s Greatest Hits’, all the way down to belting out a wonderful rendition of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ and ‘Glory, glory’.

    With eyes closed and ears pricked you almost felt transported off to the hallowed grounds of Anfield or Old Trafford… almost.

    Then there were the players. These ‘kids’ looked like pro’s, carrying themselves with a swagger that belied their teenage years. Indeed Riverview’s hulking number 5 looked like he’d been repeating the Higher School Certificate for the past few years in a desperate bid to remain in the fifteen.

    Eagerly anticipating kick-off we spied a rowdy group of fifty twenty-something’s on the opposite end of the field, all resplendent in tuxedos. Was this some secret society, a Masonic initiation, or something more sinister, like the party scene in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’?

    None of the above sadly, just an enthusiastic group of Riverview lads celebrating their fifth reunion come to cheer on their alma mater. Earlier that morning we spotted them enjoying a breakfast of barley, wheat and hops at the Hunters Hill Hotel and by the sounds of it they continued on with that diet of sustenance throughout brunch and lunch.

    The game itself was a cracker, albeit one-sided. The Riverview boys were too big and strong, the aforementioned number 5 making some wonderful runs, busting through tackles and carrying the ball forward like a young Ewen McKenzie. They easily controlled the ruck, dominating both field position and possession.

    Unlike the tepid Wallabies display that same night, Riverview put on a show worthy of the game allegedly played in Heaven, going for tries, not kicking for goals.

    Running rugby with crisp passes out wide and clever off-loads into great hands was the order of the day. Each time Joeys turned the ball over defense swiftly turned into attack.

    Riverview quickly spread the ball out wide and the big winger (number 14) easily brushed off defenders as he speed down the touchline, doing his best Jonah Lomu impersonation.

    In the end Riverview won deservedly, 45-20. Yet despite watching their faithful come up short the home crowd was phenomenal all the way through to the final whistle.

    Our only disappointment was discovering all too late that alcohol was available for purchase. To quote one friend: “Free entry and parking, a great crowd and beer. You’ve gotta love the Catholic education system!”

    Despite the experience I can’t say hand on heart that I’m a rugby convert now. The All Blacks mauling of the Wallabies brought me crashing back to reality. But Joeys vs. Riverview will definitely be part of an annual pilgrimage now.

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (56)

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2013 @ 3:12am
      biltongbek said | August 21st 2013 @ 3:12am | ! Report

      Very welL written piece Aleks. Well done.

      I spend many days at my boy’s school (he is only turning 10) and school boy rugby is the business.

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2013 @ 3:44am
      peeeko said | August 21st 2013 @ 3:44am | ! Report

      how many you think were at the game?

      • August 21st 2013 @ 6:11am
        p.Tah said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:11am | ! Report

        Quite a few by the look of it.


        • August 21st 2013 @ 6:25am
          p.Tah said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:25am | ! Report

          Actually that is last years game, but you get an idea of the atmosphere.

          • Roar Guru

            August 21st 2013 @ 8:23am
            peeeko said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:23am | ! Report

            thanks, looks about maybe 4k, pretty much the same as back in the 90’s when i used to go to such games

    • August 21st 2013 @ 7:19am
      Johnno said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      A good article. But Aleks you missed the glory days of schoolboy rugby. In the 80’ss and 90’s crowds of 10,000 were common.
      Some great battles, and a lot of future wallabies. Now the comps have been watered down, haven’t evolved enough,and the conferences aren’t as competitive anymore hence a merger is needed.
      And also culturally these schools have lost, the old school rivalry that was so strong in the,50’s,60’s 70’s,80’s,90’s.
      Now religious tensions between anglican and catholic are no longer there, which used to be a big fuel for passion.
      A lot of the boys are no longer 2nd generation kids, by that i mean whose dads went to the school or even granddads so the generation line of school pride is not as strong and connection to past history. Also these schools had a very god,queen,country,english-centric outlook. All that fluff, has gone and no one buys into that anymore due to globalisation, and the internet. So the world is now a bigger place and these schools, little world feels that much decidedly small.
      And the type of students have changed too. The non 2nd generation kids now attend and dominate these schools, and multiculturalism is in full swing which is a good thing, but it further accentuates a lot of the non 2nd generation anglo stuff, that these schools use to have as there demographic.
      And the rise of soccer, and now AFL is diluting these schools talent pool too.
      So all in all the glory days of schoolboy rugby in Australia are over. And also with rugby’s standing dropping in Australia too, and the other 3 footy codes taking over more and more.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 7:46am
        p.Tah said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        You must have missed the Australian Schoolboys knocking off the Kiwis in 2011 and 2012

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:15am
          Johnno said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:15am | ! Report

          That’s 1 game a year. The regular season is what it’s all about. And the kiwis beat us at schoolboys more than we beat them, and they have more depth to, the kiwi 3rd 15 would beat the aussy 3rd 15. And anyway, whatever is going on in the aussy schoolboy rep team doesn’t transcend to the aussy under-20’s coz NZ win that most of the time. NZ has won it 4 out of 6 times, and it is held every year since it started 6 years ago. So something goes wrong after high school in OZ rugby at colts level,and schoolboy rugby is not producing the depth.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 9:22am
            Tissot Time said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:22am | ! Report

            St Kentigerns College Auckland are the reigning World School Champions and had good win over Kings College over the weekend in front of a large crowd.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:18am
          GWS said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          Cherry picking two years. Wbs are a product of this little pond.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 8:35am
            Rob9 said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:35am | ! Report

            It’s not such a little pond when you consider most of these schools have scholarship programs and go fishing in a much larger pond to get much of the best of the best into their small pond.

            • August 21st 2013 @ 9:00am
              Steve said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:00am | ! Report

              Small pond, are you kidding? These schools ponds know no bounds, it’s crazy. It’s like Amdrican college sport. I coach an u/14 rugby league team and I would say out of the best 10 players in the 14’s and 16’s in the local comp 7 of them are attending these types of schools in Brisbane next year and only 1 is non scholarship.

            • August 21st 2013 @ 9:00am
              Johnno said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:00am | ! Report

              only 1 or 2 players per school on scholarships, so many talented players lip through the net or are plying there trade in Harold Matthews or SG Ball rugby league juniors. And some who just don’t get spotted.

              • August 21st 2013 @ 9:08am
                Rob9 said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:08am | ! Report

                Steve, if you read my comment, I’m saying that although GPS rugby is a small pond itself (9 teams), the pond (as you say) knows no bounds. Most of these 9 teams are taking in talent from far and wide. Johnno, I don’t know what the case is in Sydney but in QLD I can assure you there are more than 1 or 2 players in an average GPS school’s first XV that are on full or half rugby scholarships.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 8:13pm
            p.Tah said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:13pm | ! Report

            Wallabies are a product of poor systems after school boys.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 8:10am
      Rob9 said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      Glad you enjoyed some school boy footy. It’s a great experience and Australian rugby in it’s purist form! I got back to my school for a mini old boys day on the weekend but my experience wasn’t so joyful. State High copped a touch up 55-0 from Nudgee. Coupled with the Wallaby loss it was a depressing Saturday arvo/evening of rugby. On the plus side, it looks like Nudgee has some scary good talent that I’m sure will feature on the professional rugby landscape 2 or 3 years down the track.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 8:20am
        GWS said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        If they don’t sign with nrl

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:47am
          Rob9 said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:47am | ! Report

          It’s a concern and a reality given we only have 5 professional structures for rugby talent to move into. The majority of QLD’s GPS talent goes on to the Reds academy or signs with another Super Rugby team. Some don’t. some like Barnes and Tomane go off to the NRL but eventually find their way back home.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 8:38am
      ciudadmarron said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      It’s an interesting thing that happens, that the singing appears to stop the moment these kids step away from the hallowed grounds of their respective educational palaces.
      Was going to say that the amateurism is one thing the schoolboy game has going for it but I wonder just where the no. 5 and 14 came from? Not the leafy lower north shore I suspect.
      The thought of all those old boys reliving the glory days getting drunk at a school event leaves me a bit cold but each to their own I guess!

      • August 21st 2013 @ 8:48am
        Two Bob's Worth said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Wrong both are second generation and live on the lower north shore.

        Its Riverview not Newington.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:54am
          ciudadmarron said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:54am | ! Report

          Maybe Two Bob – it was the description of the winger being Lomu-like that made me suspicious – but even so, they’ve had their fair share of imports over the years and can’t hold the moral high ground.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 10:14am
        Steve said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:14am | ! Report

        What an amazing comment, so the location of a school dictates where the student body comes from. The Tongan royal family has had a long association with both Newington and MLC Burwood.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 10:42am
          ciudadmarron said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:42am | ! Report

          Well it does and it doesn’t. Not sure you have understood what I was getting at there Steve (although re-reading perhaps you are responding to Two Bob?) Anyway, the bulk of riverview day students have always come from the north shore, unless they are boarders OR have been granted some sort of scholarship… ‘oh, you play rugby? what good luck…” I’m sure Newington are quite happy to have the association you mention. Don’t forget that these are schools which hire directors of the various sports – sometimes with a little teaching thrown in – gym experts, all the rest. The players might not be paid (unless you consider a scholarship payment of some kind), the rugby might be of the purer running variety, but it’s not all clean cut “we’ve got a decent team this year” jollies.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 8:55am
      Will Sinclair said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      Great piece (I particularly enjoyed the thinly veiled homo-eroticism).

      Full disclosure – as an old Riverview boy myself (albeit one not good enough to get near the 1st XV) I’ve long been a fan of GPS rugby. There is something romantic about these young men playing for nothing more than the jumper and their mates, and I think it shows in the quality of rugby on display.

      And you’re right that the style and standard of rugby is incredibly good – all the teams are eager to run the ball, to offload, and to play directly.

      Maybe the question we should all be asking is: why doesn’t this translate to the higher levels of rugby in Australia? Is it being coached out of our young players?

      • August 21st 2013 @ 9:05am
        Johnno said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        agreed I liked (I particularly enjoyed the thinly veiled homo-eroticism) as well, it was good for a retro old laugh, to the days of boys developing there masculinity , and an exploration of masculinity on the footy field, which as we know is one of those thinly veils of masculinity and toughness, getting tough on the footy field, and showing off and trying to be strong in the group, and masculine youthful expression, as you develop your body in all sorts of parts you didn’t know was going on, kinda 1970’s retro where did i come from.
        The standard is not good, i am a product of the 80’s and 90’s. And standards have slipped since the halcyon days.Back then players wore cotton jumpers, and just played running rugby, as Bill Pulver has tried to modernise the term “smart ,creative,running rugby”, standards were better back then. Maybe i am out of touch, but do they now have gym programs, and high performance programs, or is it still back in the day, the good old days” when we’s just do all as a team props ,wings,locks,breakaways as we called them, a lap of the oval, and 20 push ups and situ-ups all the squad, no position programs for different positions , just hit up and run. And running rugby. Maybe Im the dinosaur and out of touch, but the halcyon retro days seemed more fun, were standards higher i don’t know i haven’t watched school boy rugby since the 90’s, as i said i am a product of the 80’s and 90’s, cowabunga dude, or radical dude, as lines we’d we would say. And i remember gatorade, we drank staiminade for most of the 90’s.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 9:20am
        Daz said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:20am | ! Report

        Have to agree Will. Some of the best games of rugby you’ll see occur at school boy level. There’s no shortage of enthusiasm and structure and running rugby and often no place for the faint hearted. I know a lot of the best young talent is lost to the NRL but I wonder too why the skill levels on display don’t seem to percolate up to the higher levels.

      • Roar Pro

        August 21st 2013 @ 9:30am
        Aleks Duric said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        Thanks Will. Great question re: why doesn’t this translate to the higher levels. I’m not sure if it’s coaching, or maybe just the uber-athleticism in the pros makes the running game redundant because the defenders are just to quick and strong. Either way this was the most enjoyable rugby game I’ve seen in an age.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 9:32am
          Johnno said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:32am | ! Report

          (I particularly enjoyed the thinly veiled homo-eroticism) being with your retro 70’s haircut, which is why you liked it as as well lol

          • Roar Pro

            August 21st 2013 @ 9:35am
            Aleks Duric said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:35am | ! Report

            Thinly veiled!!! I take offense to that. This had a thicker blanket of homo-eroticism draped over it than the beach volleyball scene in Top Gun

            • August 21st 2013 @ 9:44am
              Johnno said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:44am | ! Report

              ha ha classic, true, i’ll go and watch boogie night now dude lol.