Sydney's Waverley and St Augustine's to play in Wallabies-Samoa curtain-raiser

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Sydney rugby fans will get a look at some of the next generation of rugby fans in Parramatta next month with Waverley College and St Augustine’s College to face off ahead of the Wallabies’ Test against Samoa.

Queensland schools Brisbane State High and Nudgee College fought it out ahead of the July 27 Test against Argentina and their fans created an electric atmosphere ahead of kick-off, something the NSW schools are keen to replicate.

Rugby Australia has worked to try and bring back regular curtain-raisers featuring schools sides outside of Wallaroos-Wallabies double headers, in a bid to make match days more of a festival of rugby.

It’s a chance St Augustine’s fullback Nathan Gartner says already feels like a dream come true.

“It's really exciting, it's pretty surreal,” he said.

“The boys from the northern beaches don't really get this opportunity too much so really exciting, everyone's really looking forward to it.

“The atmosphere of that Brisbane Test just looked unreal, I can't wait to experience that for myself.

“I saw all the boys up in the ground on TV and all the supporters there and I reckon that'll be pretty cool to have that.”

Brett Sheehan (left) and Stephen Hoiles (right) with students from their alma maters, St Augustine's College and Waverley College. Photo: Karen WatsonClassic Wallaby and former St Augustine’s student Brett Sheehan knows how valuable an opportunity this will be for the boys.

Sheehan, who played seven Tests for the Wallabies, said he owed his start in rugby to the school.

“I was a league junior and my team folded and my mates at school said, 'come down and give rugby a try' and went down and absolutely loved it straight up and it gave me that passion,” he said.

“Obviously, showed a bit of promise and it got me to the places where I needed to be.

“Unfortunately, I didn't finish my schooling there but it definitely opened the pathway to rugby union and was a massive step in my career towards playing for the Wallabies.”

Sheehan played for St Augustine’s before a Waratahs game during his school days and said the experience would be huge for the students.

“I remember every opportunity I got to play at a stadium, I got to play for St Augustine's at the world 10s at the Sydney Football Stadium before a Waratahs game, it was unreal, and it gives you that ambition and drive to maybe want to succeed and become a professional player.

“It's a lot of hard work but it gives kids that opportunity to see what it's like on the big stage.”

The Northern Beaches side are undefeated this season while Waverley finished third in the CAS competition, but both will be champing at the bit when the game rolls around.

Waverley and St Augustine's will face off ahead of the Wallabies-Samoa Test at Bankwest. Photo: Karen WatsonWaverley lock Alex Rice has had a taste of the Bankwest experience when the school played rivals Kings ahead of the Waratahs-Jaguares match at the stadium but he is expecting an even better atmosphere on Saturday week.

“It's pretty cool running out in the brand new stadium, pretty big as well. I guess once you get into the game you sort of forget about it.

“Everyone at my school, we have a lot of passion for our jersey and our team,” he said.

“It'd obviously mean the world to get the win in front of a big stage like this.”

Classic Wallaby and Waverley old boy Stephen Hoiles, who is currently an assistant with the Australian Men’s Sevens, said it would be a great addition to the day.

“I think it's fantastic for these kids to get the feel of what it's like to play at a stadium like this and play before the national team and the more they can do it the better,” he said.

“I know it's hard to do it at every Test match and there's often other games that get priority but where they can fit it in, RA's gone out of their way to give two schools that really are big on rugby this opportunity.

“I think it's a really good thing and it'll be a massive buzz for these young kids at school to run onto this field before the Wallabies take on Samoa.”

The Wallabies take on Samoa on Saturday September 7 at Bankwest Stadium, kicking off at 7:30pm AEST, LIVE on Network Ten, Foxtel, Kayo Sports and via RADIO. Gates open at 5:00pm, with Waverley College taking on St Augustine's College at 5:15pm for the Sutherland Shield. Buy tickets here.