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UNSW Rugby: No League of Their Own

Rugby League is an international sport.

Dominated in most countries by its strategy-focused ‘older brother’ Rugby Union, Rugby League is only played in a handful of countries.

In fact, the only country where Rugby League is more dominant than Rugby Union is ours.

Australia is the biggest Rugby League nation in the world and Sydney could be considered the sport’s heartland, home to nine of the country’s 16 professional teams.

village green
Picture: UNSW’s Village Green.
Photograph by flickr.com

Our university is located smack-bang, right in the middle of this heartland – we’ve got:

  • the Roosters down the road at Bondi;
  • the Sea Eagles across the Harbour bridge;
  • the Tigers across the other bridge and
  • the Rabbitohs around the corner at Redfern.

Now, something that may perplex you, dear reader, and something I’m sure surprised several first-years applying for sporting clubs during Orientation week, is that funnily enough, UNSW does not have a Rugby League team of its own.

Picture: Mitchell Pearce of the Sydney Roosters.
Photograph by theroar.com.au

To get to the reasons behind this outrageous finding, we sat down with Arc’s Sport Development Administrator and all-round top bloke Hagan Butler.

“This is something we’d love to address and love to see students playing Rugby league representing UNSW,” Butler says.

The main reason why we don’t have [a Rugby League club] is there hasn’t been significant enough interest from students.”

While this may seem shocking, the reason behind it is actually a combination of bad timing and understandable trepidation.

“[UNSW Rugby League] were last around in 2008 as OzTag/Rugby League,

It’s not a regular occurrence but often there are clubs in which you have your dedicated six people who run the club for four years at university then they move on (at the same time) and no-one’s willing to pick it up and have a go at it which is really disappointing.

When a student comes in and asks us about starting a new club, we kind of give then an overview of what’s involved and I think it scares them a bit.

It can seem a bit overwhelming and there’s a lot involved, there’s lots to think about so it’s not just the student participation but we have to look at facilities and funding and different things like that.”

However, Butler says the time may just be right for the UNSW Rugby League to reignite itself.

With the newly-established (and university exclusive) NSW tertiary Rugby League competition, the sport’s popularity amongst university students is rising.

“It’s now in it’s third season,

USyd and UTS who are our main rivals, have teams [and] they’re not the only ones in the comp; there’s also ACU, Western Sydney, there’s Sydney Cumberland and there’s a Canberra team as well now so it’s getting quite popular.

That’s something we’d love to see students in in the future.”

unsw rugby
Picture: UNSW Rugby Union training.
Photograph by unswrugby.org.au

With that in mind, Butler encourages students who want to start up a Rugby League club to contact Arc sport.

“It’s something we get inquiries about every now and then. It’s just a shame we have to say we don’t have a UNSW team on campus.

The best thing for a student to do who wants to start a Rugby League club or any other new sporting club is to send us an email at sport@arc.unsw.edu.au and explain the sport you want to set up, explain if you’re on your own or you have a group of friends, give us a bit of background, then we’ll set up a time for you to come and have a chat with Gemma [Sports Development Co-ordinator].

She’ll run you though the ins and outs of making a club and getting it going and making it sustainable so it stays around for as long as possible.

If there’s a really committed student out there, we would love to see you come down to our office and have a chat with us,” 



About Niko Pajarillo

Niko Pajarillo

I like sports and I don’t care who knows. Football, Tennis, Hockey, Golf.
…and Rugby, Cricket, AFL, League, NFL, Basketball and basically anything you put in front of me.

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