Shute Shield tapped into something country rugby had all along

Simon Douch Roar Guru

By Simon Douch, Simon Douch is a Roar Guru

 , ,

44 Have your say

    There is something indescribably great about country rugby. The passion of the players in a local derby, the commitment from the volunteers that keep things running smoothly, the true sense of community after the game.

    Whatever it is, it separates our beloved sport from others and is a model for how the game should be played.

    Despite the game’s recent perils, country rugby has been a shining light.

    I’m from a small country town near-ish Yass – or just a bit of a trundle down the Hume and you’ll get there eventually.

    I played from under 10s, debuting for the mighty Emus, then playing with the Yabbies until seniors. Unfortunately, I’ve had to make a coastal change in recent years, but I’ll continue to make the effort to get back for a game with my beloved Yabbies.


    Well firstly, it’s the basis for why we all play and watch sport – enjoyment. Gearing up for your club on a Saturday morning, sussing out the opposition and, if you’re lucky, recording a hard-fought win are fantastic feelings.

    Secondly, the pride I have when donning the green and white of the Yabbies is unparalleled. This sense of tribalism and pride is something that the Shute Shield has expertly tapped into, resulting in a bumper season with large crowds.

    15,000 people witnessed Warringah break their premiership drought in the culmination of the 2017 competition and there was that tribalism feeling from both players and spectators which has been lacking in Super Rugby and Wallabies fixtures.

    The great thing about loyalty is, once you’ve got it, it’s really hard to lose. Unfortunately, our national and Super Rugby sides have lost that loyalty and pride of their fans.

    The secret to the successes of the Shute Shield is hard to attribute to one thing, but when the ARU cut funding to the clubs a few years ago, only the most passionate, dedicated fans and volunteers stood up – just like in the country.

    Country rugby can only survive with the commitment of volunteers, as well as a mutual appreciation from the players, and this is where the Shute Shield really succeeded.

    Actively engaging with the community, letting the fans rush the field after a game to be with their team ensure a passionate, enthusiastic fanbase. It’s a relationship based on mutual benefits – the players are encouraged and perform, and the spectators get to watch the game played at an expert level.

    The Perth Spirit in the NRC has the right idea. The defending premiers have the ‘fill the hill’ initiative, trying to encourage large crowds with free entry. I daresay, especially on the back of the ARU’s infamous decision last month, that this essential sense of tribalism is building out west.

    The Wallabies have some outstanding initiatives with young players as well as the broader community, but there is a sense of connection with club rugby players, a more personal thing, which the Aussie squad can’t replicate.

    The success of the Shute Shield season is proof the game has a future in Australia and that grassroots is the starting point to ensure successes on the international stage.

    I have witnessed, firsthand, the passion and commitment to the game at a local level. Imagine swapping Mad Monday antics for a club working bee to renovate the club house? The Yabbies did it. Imagine driving six hours home after playing three grades of rugby due to player numbers? The Yabbies did it. Imagine the entire town get behind the under 16s, the only team to reach the grand final?

    Country rugby has the essential ingredients the national game needs. Luckily, the Shute Shield clubs took notice. Will the others?

    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 (44)

    • September 6th 2017 @ 5:34am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | September 6th 2017 @ 5:34am | ! Report

      Simon, you have managed to do a rare thing.
      You make a great point about the necessity of tapping into local tribalism as key to reviving the game here.

      Then you inadvertently demonstrate the problem. Please take this comment in the right way.
      “15,000 people witnessed Manly break their premiership drought”
      Why did you make the mistake of calling the clearly distinct Green Rats of Warringah -‘Manly’?
      Dare I say it’s because of decades of Fta and Telegraph bombardment of all things NRL folks from not around the northern beaches make the mistake of assuming that Manly and Warringah are one?

      There’s is not one simple fix for rugby. But the lack of mass awareness, (even amongst fans) of team’s names and territories is just a symptom of the code’s lack of visibility.
      Regarding the country, I am hoping that the rebuild of SFS will allow the Tahs to do what they always should have been doing – going bush. Taking games and even training to the towns and regions of the whole state to take stock of, and add to the tribalism of the game.
      Rugby one thing more than any other thing.
      People, wherever they are.
      Thanks for writing the piece.

      • Roar Guru

        September 6th 2017 @ 8:35am
        Simon Douch said | September 6th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        Thanks mate, yeah, all credibility gone with that one. That’s a fairly accurate assumption I would say.
        Agreed about the Tahs going bush, the Brumbies seem to have a much bigger presence out there. Wasted opportunity.

    • September 6th 2017 @ 6:59am
      RT said | September 6th 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      The manly mistake aside, the Shute shield has certainly seen a resurgence in the last two years. The first reason is because (through no help of the ARU or NSWRU) two blokes picked up the broadcast rights when the ABC dropped them and got them only channel 7. The second reason is in my view a more complex one, and fits closely with your country rugby paradigm. That is the “business” of rugby, particularly at SR level has become far to mercenary. The passion for teams has diminished. When I grew up playing all I wanted was to play for the Waratahs. As a junior now where do your loyalties lie? Five (now 4) “franchises” to play for.
      Club rugby generates club men and camaraderie no longer seen (even scoffed at) in modern professional rugby.
      Playing 4th grade, backing up for thirds and then showering watching the 1’s and packing away the goal pads at the end of a day is a noble and honest way to spend a Saturday.
      I could go on and on but I’m afraid my rant would be too long.
      Suffice it to say the Shute shield reminds me of simpler days and the pure joy of being part of something that gave me something money simply can’t buy.

    • Roar Guru

      September 6th 2017 @ 8:19am
      Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      The first reason is because (through no help of the ARU or NSWRU) two blokes picked up the broadcast rights when the ABC dropped them and got them only channel 7

      That’s not true.

      The ARU stumped up the cash in the first year.

      • September 6th 2017 @ 9:14am
        RT said | September 6th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

        Yep noted ARU did drop some money in $300k was it?
        $300k into Shute shield rugby.
        What’s the CEO salary?
        What’s the wallaby top up for Folau, Genia the underperforming Moore or Cooper.
        With respect the ARU pays lip service to the Shute shield and even less to qld premier rugby.

        • Roar Guru

          September 6th 2017 @ 9:16am
          Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          $300k more than any other amateur competition in Australia.

          Why should Shield Shield be special?

          Why should an amateur competition even need funding?

          • September 6th 2017 @ 10:23am
            concerned supporter said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

            You are wroing for the thousandth time. The SRU stumped up AUD $25 k for the first year only,.
            $nil for the next 2 years.

            • Roar Guru

              September 6th 2017 @ 10:29am
              Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report


              Nah. As I have repeatedly supported, I’m not.

              This is from October 2016.

              The Australian Rugby Union is baulking at paying $500,000 to bail out the Sydney Rugby Union on a deal with Channel Seven for the Shute Shield to be televised free-to-air next season.

              It is understood that the five-year deal, which is only entering its third year, has been a disaster since it was signed, with the ARU forced to step in this year to bail out the SRU to the tune of $300,000.

              • September 6th 2017 @ 1:53pm
                Jock Cornet said | September 6th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

                10s of millions wasted on the rebels and the only thing you achieved is the spoon. Spending 800k on Genia for another spoon. Surely this TWAS model is unsustainable. It will surely die by 2020. TWAS suck it up the rebels are gone it is only matter of how quickly.

              • Roar Guru

                September 6th 2017 @ 2:39pm
                Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

                You’re right.

                The future is a bunch of clubs in Sydney that have all gone broke competing in an amateur competition…

            • September 6th 2017 @ 10:34am
              concerned supporter said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

              Correction AUD $ 250 k.

          • September 6th 2017 @ 10:32am
            Rt said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

            Who provides the pro rugby players?

            • Roar Guru

              September 6th 2017 @ 10:35am
              Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

              Schools, village clubs, junior rep programs and now the NRC.

              Once upon a time it was Shute Shield and Hospitals Cup teams.

              • September 6th 2017 @ 12:15pm
                Jock Cornet said | September 6th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

                Bs 90% of the rebels are Shute shield or brissy comp players , stop lying. Everyone who has held the rugby World Cup the same and every wallaby coach. So stop with the bs.

              • Roar Guru

                September 6th 2017 @ 12:18pm
                Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

                No they aren’t.

                Not even remotely true.

              • September 6th 2017 @ 2:53pm
                Wozza said | September 6th 2017 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

                Gee TWAS Some convenient omitting on your part. How uncharacteristic. Allow me to outline how Shute Shield teams, clubs if I’m to be more precise, fit into this pathway.

                Schools, Shute Shield club Junior teams, Shute shield club junior rep teams, Shute Shield club Colts/grade teams, NRC

                After all, the NSW NRC teams are drawn SS clubs i.e.
                Rays – Manly, Warringah, Gordon, Northern Suburbs
                Rams – Eastwood, West Harbour, Parramatta Penrth
                Country Eagles – Uni, Easts, Randwick, Souths, players who originate from the country.


              • Roar Guru

                September 6th 2017 @ 3:01pm
                Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

                Except very few players do development in these teams now.

                For example Ned Hanigan was an Australian Schoolbody in 2013. He played for Randwick in 2014 but by 2015 was in a Waratahs Wider Training Squad and NRC team and Aus Under 20s.

                Did he come from Randwick where he likely played a handful of Shute Shield games before he was in the Waratahs system in 2015? Or was he developed by school rugby, the state and aus Schoolboy programs, state and Aus 20s programs and NRC and Waratahs program?

                There are cases that truly are Shute Shield developed. Like Caydern Neville and Jordy Reid, who weren’t in rep programs and went from club rugby to Super Rugby programs in their 20s.

                But they are anomalies now.

                Recruit state and Australian Schoolboys is not developing talent.

              • September 6th 2017 @ 4:53pm
                Rt said | September 6th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

                Sure some of that may happen but how good is the talent identification?

                SR teams sign some kid out of school and suddenly there roster is full. No room for players who develop at 24-26. Just dumb. And if you choose wrong you’re throwing money at some early developed schoolboy prop who has never had to pack a real scrum.

              • Roar Guru

                September 6th 2017 @ 4:58pm
                Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

                Yeah there is room for them

                But it’s generally through the NRC system now.

                But again. These are the rarity.

                Late bloomers do occur and that’s what a system like the NRC is for.

                But very few players who were not Australian Schoolboys, or at least State Schoolboys (obviously excluding cases of injuries) actually make it professionally in any way.

                Again, these are the anomaly, not the norm.

              • September 6th 2017 @ 4:49pm
                Rt said | September 6th 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

                village clubs??

                C’mon shute shield and qld premier rugby account for the overwhelming majority of SR players.

                And what do they get in return?

                Club rugby may have its faults but your dismissive attitude towards it is endemic of the supporters of the current ARU regime

              • Roar Guru

                September 6th 2017 @ 4:56pm
                Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

                No they don’t Rt.

                I assure you I’ve investigated this.

                As the game becomes more professional player development comes through completely different systems. We are slowly aligning with the NZ model.

                Once upon a time this was the case, but the majority of Super Rugby players in 2017 spend 1 year purely at a club at best which tends to fall between Aus/State Schoolboys and Aus/State 20s. But this will be a State 19s program in 2018 (this is what NZ does) so it will replace that year.

              • September 6th 2017 @ 6:32pm
                Wozza said | September 6th 2017 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

                I do have to admit that the nature of recruiting players earlier is taking more prominence and diminishing the role of clubs somewhat but off the the top of my head, George Smith, Michael Hooper and Reece Hodge came trough the pathway I said and they’re just the Manly guys.
                I said in another post, I really respect how you have stats and quotes to back your arguments, but the way you dismiss the club side, anything that doesn’t suit you, of the equation doesn’t do you any credit, quite the contrary

              • September 6th 2017 @ 8:29pm
                Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 8:29pm | ! Report

                George Smith is 37 years old.

                He is hardly a current example.

                Even still he came through all the rep programs and was signed to the Brumbies as a 19 year old and made his debut as a 19 or 20 year old.

                Michael Hooper was signed to a Super Rugby team and made his debut as an 18 year old. He was in the national merit team as a 16 year old. He would have played Aus Schoolboys if not for injury.

                Reece Hodge absolutely he spent quite a bit of time in the Manly senior set up. Was it because he missed so much time in his year 12 to 20th year? Who cares really. His development can really only be attributed to the Shute Shield.

                I’m not dismissing anything.

                The facts are it’s an anomaly now.

                With the development of the Super 20s, even more so.

        • September 6th 2017 @ 9:21am
          ThisHasToEnd said | September 6th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

          Why should the ARU be paying for a Sydney rugby competition that has no affiliation with the ARU?

          Isn’t it the NSWRUs job?

          What does Shute Shield have to do with QLD, VIC, WA or the ACT? It’s interesting that the rest of the states don’t whinge and complain like toddlers about the ARU not paying for their club competition.

          • September 6th 2017 @ 9:48am
            Jock Cornet said | September 6th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

            Look at the charter the ARU should develop the game. They don’t market the game or develop players. Could you imagine the nrl not putting any money into the nrl competition. What on earth is the ARU role . Simply to pay administers.

            • Roar Guru

              September 6th 2017 @ 9:49am
              Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

              But the Shute Shield isn’t the equivalent of the NRL champ.

              Stop spouting rubbish.

            • September 6th 2017 @ 10:16am
              ThisHasToEnd said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

              ‘Could you imagine the nrl not putting any money into the nrl competition’

              You do understand that the NRL is the premier national competition, the equivalent or Super Rugby? The ARU funds Super Rugby.

              The next tier down is the National Rugby Championship, the ARU funds that too.

              The ARU also funds grassroots—that being juniors and schools.

              What it doesn’t do is fund elite level premier club competitions, because they are neither grassroots (these are highly experienced rugby players who have played for years or decades at a high level) nor professional.

              Neither is Shute Shield national.

              Why should the cash-strapped ARU be taking funds away from the professional level or the grassroots to fund entitled semi-elite competitions? Especially when it is the NSWRUs job to look after Shute Shield.

              • September 6th 2017 @ 12:17pm
                Jock Cornet said | September 6th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

                The NRC is not a properly followed comp, no one is watching it because the ARU is involved.

              • September 6th 2017 @ 4:55pm
                Rt said | September 6th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

                And it’s not FTA and you can’t just artificially create a fan base.

              • Roar Guru

                September 6th 2017 @ 5:18pm
                Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

                Isn’t that exactly what the BBL did on Foxtel?

              • September 6th 2017 @ 10:54pm
                Rt said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:54pm | ! Report

                And who exactly is crickey competing against?

                Moreover 20/20 was a new game being promoted worldwide. Not a comparison worth making.

              • September 6th 2017 @ 11:06pm
                Train Without A Station said | September 6th 2017 @ 11:06pm | ! Report

                They artificially created a fan base for new teams with no history on a Pay TV product.

                It seems to have appealed a a broader audience than their original audience.

                That’s hardly different to the NRC in that regard.

                Competition is more yes, but engaging existing rugby fans would get good numbers to build from.

                Nobody is saying the NRC can steal fans from the NRL and AFL. Just engage fans who were watching from Feb to August.

        • September 6th 2017 @ 9:46am
          Jock Cornet said | September 6th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

          TWAS you are a joke, anyway you can enjoy knowing that the ARU pump so much into the rebels that produce no rugby players and continually come last or at best 16th when the ARU spend nothing on developing players. You and the ARU can keep your comp and your crap crowd attendances but don’t jump on when the grassroots overtakes super rugby. ARU is redundant and is simply a gravy train for administers.

          • September 6th 2017 @ 10:41am
            James P said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

            Jock there are points that you can argue on but you are just making up facts and trolling.

            10th in 2015
            12th in 2016

            I suspect if you look you may see some players from Melbourne in the Wallabies squad.

            There are also 4 under 21 players in the Rebel squad from Melbourne. The development pathways have just started to produce players.

    • September 6th 2017 @ 8:52am
      Party Pooper said | September 6th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      Twiggy should invite the biggest Sydney rugby clubs to join his rebel union league. The new competition needs presence in the largest tv market in Australia and those old clubs are just what he needs as a beachhead into Sin City.

      Australian rugby might get the kick up it’s backside that it so desperately needs.

      By buying the finest players in Australia, NZ and Pacific it will destroy Super Rugby completely. This must be the plan. It will make the ARU come back to grovel to be included or just be left behind.

    • September 6th 2017 @ 10:02am
      Mac said | September 6th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      Agree. But, as I understand it the Shute comp also has Free to Air, paid for or not it has taken the footy to the people.

      Good work by grass roots. Why Brisbane has not done this I do not know. Its pretty simple really. Used to happen.

    • Roar Guru

      September 6th 2017 @ 11:42am
      gatesy said | September 6th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

      The problem is too much top level Rugby at the expense of the Club level. Interstate clashes should be rare and highly anticipated event, and Tests even more so. If there wasn’t a top level game every Saturday, the club scene would thrive.

      Personally, I think NRL has it about right. The club scene is everything, Tests are fewer and further between and Origin is the once a year much anticipated event. Most weekends there is no distraction from the Club matches, and the same for AFL, whereas Rugby is drowned by first and second tier matches.

      • Roar Guru

        September 6th 2017 @ 5:29pm
        Kashmir Pete said | September 6th 2017 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

        hard not to agree


    , ,