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A Thousand Juniors Enjoy the Spirit of Rugby

By Brett Graham

THE sport of rugby was the true winner of The Armidale School’s Rugby Carnival over the weekend of 13-14th April, with around a thousand young players from 48 school and club teams from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast honing their skills in friendly competition.

The autumn colour of New England and sunny and mild conditions provided a perfect backdrop for the event, which is thought to be the biggest primary rugby carnival in Australia.

Over two days, teams played five games of schoolboys rugby, were inspired by Wallabies prop Paddy Ryan, and got up close with the most coveted rugby trophy up for grabs this year, the crystal Tom Richards Cup to be contested by the Wallabies  and the British & Irish Lions.

In today’s grand final of the top division, Brisbane Church of England Grammar School defeated Sydney’s Northern Suburbs JRC in a fantastic game, 10-0. The red division grand final was a 14-14 draw between Sydney schools The Scot’s College and St Augustine’s College, while in the yellow division, Cranbrook School, Sydney, defeated Inverell JRC 14-7.

The prestigious KooGa Team of the Carnival Award was made to Matthew Flinders Anglican College from the Sunshine Coast, recognising their performance and sportsmanship both on and off the field.

Carnival guest, Tamworth-born Wallabies prop Paddy Ryan, said the carnival was a “fantastic” display of all that is good about schoolboy rugby.

“The spirit in which the games were played and refereed by the junior refs, has been absolutely fantastic, it’s an absolute pleasure to watch,” he said.

Speaking at the carnival opening on Saturday afternoon, he urged players to go out of their comfort zone.

“One of the most special things about rugby, and a foundation for our game long before it became professional, was the social aspect of the game and meeting people that you will be friends with for the rest of your life.”

He recalled his move into the sport: “I made the pretty simple transition from being the fat goalkeeper of the Hillvue under 9 Rovers in Tamworth to tight head prop for Peel Valley at the age of 10. There’s a saying in rugby that you can go forward in position, but never back – so once your’e a prop, you’re always a prop.”

Asked about his rugby mentors, he cited his father, Tamworth coach Alistair Fenwicke, and Waratahs coaching coordinator Greg Mumm.

“Make sure you stay loyal to your club and your team. I’ve really been part of the Tamworth community and wider Central North community, and it makes coming back to the region for events like this all the more special.

The quality conditions of the eight TAS playing grounds and the beauty of Armidale attracted widespread favourable comment from visitors.

“The atmosphere was just fantastic, to have so many young players showing their enthusiasm for their sport, was just terrific,” carnival convenor Jason Lincoln said.

“This is an event that can only be done with the support of the wider community, and brings together rugby players and supporters from a large section of eastern Australia in competition that is all about team spirit and camaraderie.”

Hugo Burdon, Evan McLean and Will Stevens from Matthew Flinders Anglican College, Sunshine Coast, with the trophy for the team of the carnival.

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