The inaugural Bledisloe Cup Festival has drawn to a close after a successful week of public events boasting cultural, historical, corporate and sporting overtones.
Highlights of the Festival – borne from a 10-year agreement between the Australian Rugby Union and the NSW Government (through Destination NSW) to stage an annual Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney until 2021 – included:
· The Classic Wallabies defeating the Classic All Blacks in the first Rugby Classics Golf Day,
· More than 13,000 people viewing the Bledisloe Cup trophy during a series of public appearances for the symbol of trans-Tasman Rugby supremacy,
· More than 260 people attending the UN Women Australia Rugby Lunch,
· Around 300 people in attendance for the Bledisloe Cup Ball,
· More than 350 entries for the Samsung Photographic Compeition,
· A 16-day exhibition of memorabilia at the Museum of Sydney; and
· Highly-successful Qantas Wallaby Towns visits.
In one of the Festival’s feature events, the Classic Wallabies emerged triumphant over a team of All Blacks legends in the Castrol EDGE Rugby Classics Golf Day at Oatlands in Sydney’s west.
The Classic Wallabies scored 241 points to 229 in an aggregate Stableford competition where each team counted the best eight scores from their teams of 10.
The world’s most capped Rugby international, George Gregan, captained the Classic Wallabies while former All Blacks lock great Andy Haden led an All Blacks team of high-profile stars.
Classic Wallabies co-president, Simon Poidevin, hailed the event as a wonderful success.
“It was fantastic day at Oatlands with old friendships strengthened and old rivalries re-ignited,” said Poidevin.
“There is no doubt it will become an enduring annual event and players from both sides are already discussing the prospect of a return clash in 2013.”
Classic All Blacks team captain Andy Haden has confirmed the New Zealanders will be back next year.
Another success for the Festival was the Bledisloe Cup Trophy Tour that saw more than 13,000 people get up close with the iconic piece of silverware.
The Cup travelled to the Illawarra, Bathurst, Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter before arriving in Sydney to for a whirlwind tour through the metropolitan areas.
The tour provided fans with a unique opportunity to see the trophy in the countdown to last night’s opening Test of the Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship in Sydney between the Qantas Wallabies and All Blacks.
ARU Managing Director and CEO, John O’Neill AO, said the Festival had enjoyed a successful first year.
“We have created an impressive foundation for the Festival and its future,” Mr O’Neill said.
“Over the next decade the events we’ve held in the past week will grow and as the Festival matures we’ll add new events to the calendar.
“The inaugural UN Women Australia Rugby Lunch was very well attended and warmly welcomed by the Rugby family.
“It is a lunch that will only get bigger and better and will act not only as a celebration of our female leaders but also as inspiration for other women to get involved at all levels of the game.”
Hosted by Channel Nine’s Lisa Wilkinson the lunch was staged on Friday afternoon at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney.
“I have no doubts that people are already marking the Bledisloe Ball and the UN Women Australia Rugby Lunch as must attend events on their 2013 calendars,” Mr O’Neill said.
The final event of the Bledisloe Cup Festival will come to a close this afternoon when the Rivals in Rugby, Brothers in War display at the Museum of Sydney finishes up.
The display that began on Friday 3 August has been a hit with Rugby fans and historians alike, showcasing the early beginnings of the Bledisloe Cup and the contribution both sides made to World War II.
Rivals in Rugby, Brothers in War coincided with the Museum of Sydney’s Home front: Wartime Sydney 1939-45 exhibition and featured Rugby artefacts, photos and memorabilia.
Mr O’Neill thanked Destination NSW and the NSW Government for their support and said he looked forward to the planning for next year’s Festival.
“The support from the NSW Government and Destination NSW has allowed us to put on these fantastic events,” Mr O’Neill said.
“With their support, along with some of our other partners including Castrol, Qantas and Samsung, we’ve begun what will become a centrepiece of the NSW Major Events Calendar.
“We are very excited about the future and the possibilities that the Festival has and we look forward to beginning the planning for the 2013 Bledisloe Cup Festival.”