The 2021 season has been a much more settled year in comparison to 2020. While we did experience one COVID lockdown, we managed to make up those two rounds at the end of the season. Well done to the whole community for remaining nimble throughout this year.
This is the single most important process that we manage at RUSA, from the extensive consultation to the final draw, there is a huge amount of work that goes on along the way. A huge shout out to the Competition Advisory Group (CAG) members for your input and ability to work together, and to Pete Garden for managing the process and committing to achieving the best outcome possible.
The 2021 schedule saw clubs playing together more often, generating that community vibe. The exceptions to this were the U18s, Women’s and Third Grade.
RUSA experienced further growth, particularly in seniors, this year; overall we had a further 5% regular players registered, this being on top of an unprecedented 7% growth in 2020. The overall number of regular players is now more than 2300. When you consider we have 650 people playing Touch 7s currently, our overall numbers are looking very healthy.
The Elizabeth 7s was run on 27th February and resembled the ‘old days’ with 12 senior men’s teams, 6 female teams and 5 junior teams competing throughout the day.
To add to the excitement, Shannon Parry (Co Captain of Australian Women’s 7s team) attended the event and offered her expert advice to teams throughout the day.
The Men’s final was a Pacifica affair, between the Kaiviti Baabas and the Mildura Warriors with the Kaiviti Baabas winning the contest and being crowned the 2021 Elizabeth 7s Champions. The Women’s final was played between Southern Suburbs and Adelaide University, with the Souths Women ending up the overall champions.
Starting a week after the Easter break on 10th April, we had to wait until Round 3 to witness the rematch of the 2020 Premier Grade Grand Final, competing for the ANZAC Cup. Brighton won and were presented the ANZAC Cup and Nathan Satala was awarded the Mike von Berg Medal as the player showing the most ANZAC spirit throughout the match.
Minor Premiers, Burnside, seemed to have a disrupted start to the Premier Grade season, however they proved their dominance in the middle few rounds to finish on top with 71 points. Bizarrely, one of the three teams to manage a win over their dominance was Elizabeth, bolstered by their new recruits from Mildura.
This dominance continued throughout the finals series, taking on Brighton in the Grand Final taking out the 2021 Flag 33 – 24. Nigel Lam Sam was crowned Best on Ground for the final match of the year.
Adelaide University Women also had a vey dominant year only losing one game throughout the minor rounds. Unfortunately their dominance fell short of a Grand Final, with Burnside playing Old Collegians for the ultimate prize. Burnside Women flexed their muscle and dominated the Grand Final 29-0. Portia Bradley being named Best on Ground.
Burnside experienced their most successful year on record, not only taking out the Premier Men and Women, but also winning Reserve Grade and Third Grade.
In the Juniors, Brighton proved their strength in depth with a dominant season in the U12s, U14s and U16s, taking out the Grand Finals in both U12s and U14s. Onkaparinga also had a strong U16s year managing a win in the Grand Final in extra time. Old Collegians were the dominant force in U18s only losing one match throughout the year and dominating the Grand Final 45 – 30 over Burnside with Joeli Tavui being named Best on Ground.
Don Smith and Edna Reilly awards night:
After a year of restrictions in 2020, the 2021 awards night was back up to capacity: taking place at the Morphettville Racecourse with 200 in attendance.
The event provides a great opportunity for the community to get together and celebrate the season.
There were many deserved winners on the night across the various categories, however the top awards were as follows:
Don Smith Medal – Rhys Gurd (Brighton)
Edna Reilley Memorial – Alecia Pienaar (Old Collegians)
FULL LIST OF ALL WINNERS:
- Coopers Club Champion, Brighton
- Volunteer of the Year, Kevin Beckett
- Darryl Ryan Best Grounds and Facilities, Onkaparinga
- HJ Rogers Administrative Services, Kim Evans Judiciary Chair
- Highest Try Scoring Womens Team, Adelaide University
- Highest Try Scoring Mens Team, Brighton Premier
- Neil Charter Junior Development, Adelaide University
- Ray Rosser Coach of the Year, Chris Graham Southern Suburbs
- U18 Best Tackler, Oscar Gehan Old Collegians
- Meredith Knowler Womens Tackling Trophy, Alecia Pienaar Old Collegians
- Sir Norman Jude Mens Tackler, Liam Devine Onkaparinga
- Junior Maualaivao U18 Best & Fairest, Carl Arnold Old Collegians
- Ray Herde U21 Best & Fairest, Jack Brady Adelaide University
- Best Female Forward, Lusia Raikiwasa Adelaide University
- Best Female Back, Alecia Pienaar Old Collegians
- Edna Reilly Best & Fairest Female, Alecia Pienaar Old Collegians
- Best Male Forward, Rhys Gurd Brighton
- Best Male Back, Keanu Eliepa Burnside
- Don Smith Best & Fairest Male, Rhys Gurd Brighton
- Quentin Fleischfresser Outstanding Junior Referee, Caelan Doudle
- Most Improved Referee, Leesa Kenny
- Referee Encouragement Award, Damon Goulding
- Outstanding Contribution to Referees, Mike Hayes
Player Life Member Recipient, Jim Wilson
Player Life Member Recipient, Steve Dumican
Referee Life Member Recipient, Gary Howat
Referee Life Member Recipient, Steve Sandford
Life Member Recipient, Pam Jackson
There was a clear strategy throughout 2021 to develop coaches; this started with the employment of a Director of Coaching, Neil Tunnah. A joint venture with Rugby Australia and RUSA to address the number one priority in community rugby, develop coaches to improve the experience.
An aspect of this process was the filming of more games and making them available to coaches via the coding software “Hudl”. We basically went from filming one game a week and making it available through Facebook, to filming three games a week and making them available through Hudl.
The initial year was used to develop relationships with the Premier Grade coaches at each club. 2022 will see this expand to other coaches with an increased support for U14s and U16s coaches, who ultimately are responsible for the development of our future.
Representative Programs: This year’s program had a little bit of everything, starting on 22nd March with a regional tournament for all age groups including U15s and U17s Girls.
Training squads were selected from this tournament and training commenced in preparation for a Southern States tournament in Canberra during the July school holidays.
Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions the tour had to be cancelled at late notice, after all bookings had been made! Luckily, we are able to get an airline credit for the travel and money back from the accommodation.
At short notice RUSA was able to utilise the credit and organise a tour to Tasmania for the U14s, U16s and U18s. All played a series of matches against their Tasmanian counterparts. In addition to the matches in very wintery conditions, the players and staff were able to experience snow, some for the very first time.
In addition to the boy’s trip there was an U15s and U17s girls 7s trip organised a month later, also to Tasmania. The girls, made up of a development squad, played a series of matches against the Tasmanian girls, developing some lifelong friendships.
The Australian Rugby Shield was due to be relaunched in Adelaide over the October long weekend. Eight State Men’s teams had entered as well as six state Women’s.
Unfortunately, due to the border restrictions the event was postponed until the same time in 2022.
However, the Adelaide Black Falcons (who had been training in preparation for the tournament) managed to organise a match over the same weekend against a South Australian Pacifika team. The game was played at Port Adelaide as part of a Pacifika day. The match was very competitive, the Pacifica team being bolstered by seasonal workers who were based in the Riverland.
The Women’s Black Falcons played an internal fixture involving the wider training squad on the same day. As well an the U15s and U17s girls training teams playing 7s fixtures against one another.
Riverland Touch 7s Program:
RUSA was made aware of the 2000 Pacific Islanders who were working throughout the Riverland as seasonal workers. These workers were mainly based around Renmark and were over in the country for nine months.
RUSA met with Renmark and Paringa Council and proposed a program to recreate these islanders outside of their fruit picking times. This resulted in a joint funding program between Renmark & Paringa Council, Berri and Barmara Council, Rugby Australia and RUSA to fund a casual employee to organise a Touch 7s tournament twice a week.
2021 was a year of uncertainty and we were working to a 12-month operational plan, although we seemed to have achieved a great amount as a community.
Moving forward, we are now in a ‘RESET’ phase, where we can reflect and plan for the future. There has been a series of consultation opportunities, either by survey or various meetings that have been held. We are now in the planning phase and starting to put meat on the bones.
The RUSA Board held a planning day at the beginning of December, outcomes of which will be shared with stakeholders in due course.
Justin Courtney has reached the end of his term on the RUSA Board; he has decided not to re stand and has subsequently stood down as Chairman. Brett Smith was voted in as the new chair at the last board Meeting.
The next 5-10 years are very exciting for Rugby Union in this country; Lions tour in 2025 and the Rugby World Cup in 2027 going into an Olympics in 2032. We need to be in the best position possible to capitalise from these opportunities.
Growth and development of the game in this State can only be achieved if we all get on the same page and push in the same direction. Far too often there are road blocks that prevent this collegiate approach.
I ask of you all that we work together in 2022 onwards and really make a difference to the future of our game in South Australia.
Have a great, well deserved, break over the festive season and we look forward to working with you all in the New Year.