Crippled Crows, Fighting Miners and Yabbies Catch Grassroots Buzz

Wed, May 25, 2022, 4:43 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Coach Joel Imeson with the Yamba Buccaneers Under-16s team. Photo Supplied
Coach Joel Imeson with the Yamba Buccaneers Under-16s team. Photo Supplied

Some of the smallest country rugby clubs in Australia are as thrilled as the biggest city centres with how the 2027 Rugby World Cup will ignite the code in Australia.

Whether Sydney’s 83,500-seat Accor Stadium or the 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground hosts the final is not a question that bothers grassroots clubs.

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Yamba Buccaneers President Adrian Miller knows the entire population of his town on the far north coast of NSW would fit into just a corner of the newly-named Shane Warne Stand at the MCG.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the 2027 World Cup and what it can do for rugby in general, our area and our own small club,” Miller said.

“We’re small but growing with five junior teams for the first time this season.

“Australia hosting a Rugby World Cup in our own backyard is the perfect way to highlight what a great game we have and opportunities that don’t exist in other sports.

“There are rugby league youngsters around this area who just haven’t been exposed to those ideas of where rugby can take them. To get them thinking about rugby as a global sport will be a real eye-opener.”

The Buccaneers were the early club of 2015 World Cup Wallaby Kane Douglas and they train on a field named in his honour.

The club may soon have a second Wallaby to call their own. Miller spoke to when he was just back from the local Post Office where he’d mailed some black-and-gold footy socks to in-form NSW Waratahs lock Jed Holloway.

“Having guys like Jed coming through with his Yamba background is great for our young kids to see and understand that you can make it from a small country town,” Miller said.

“Small things can make a big difference. Our seniors fullback Joel Imeson went on a recruiting rampage and got an Under-16s team together for the first time this year. He’s not even 21 himself but he’s made a huge difference.”

An injection of players for the senior team will help too. The club has just 20-25 senior players registered. Miller is 42 and the former fullback has slowed to playing as a No.8 or lock.

“I should be behind the bar serving or holding it up but I love the game,” he said. 

The positive mood around the 2027 World Cup is replicated in South Australia where Fraser Vivian is President of both the Barossa Rams and the Crippled Crows Masters Rugby Club.

Both rugby clubs fired off a letter of support for Australia’s 2027 bid just like the Buccaneers.

Great 1st game, well done all 🏉🏉🏉🏉

Posted by Crippled Crows Masters Rugby South Australia on Saturday, April 9, 2022

“I think the home World Cup will bring a wonderful awareness of rugby as a sport that South Australians can participate in,” Vivian, 51, said.

“Rugby will always be a minority sport in an AFL state but the 2003 World Cup gave rugby numbers a real up-tick in SA.

“Hosting the Adelaide Sevens for a few years helped with the upswing too and the Crippled Crows are a home for players in the Masters sphere like me.

“You can find great camaraderie in a rugby club at any age. I found rugby in my 20s so I was one of the late starters.

“You don’t have to be a Classic Wallaby to enjoy the game. The Rams and the Crippled Crows are clubs for all levels of ability. The Crows don’t even have a home ground...we just play away games.”

Clubs like the Burnie Emus (Tasmania), Broulee Moruya Dolphins (NSW), Leeton Phantoms (NSW), Parkes Boars (NSW), Hay Cutters (NSW), Young Yabbies (NSW) and the St George Frillnecks (Queensland) all put their distinctive Australian rugby club names to letters endorsing the 2027 bid.

For the Bendigo Fighting Miners Rugby Club, the 2027 World Cup is a wonderful showpiece to build energy in a game coming out of COVID disruptions in Victoria.

“This is incredibly exciting after losing the whole of last season to COVID. We only have 30 players and one men’s team but I know what rugby mania did for the game around the time of the 2003 World Cup,” said Jakeb Sheahan, Club Secretary and rugby co-ordinator.

“There was talk of going to an eight-team comp in Bendigo when rugby was going crazy.

“If the 2027 tournament means rugby, as a sport, is far bigger on the national agenda then it will be great for small clubs all around the country. “We might be a small club but we are super multi-cultural with Kiwi, Pacific island, Scottish, English and Australian interest when it comes to everyone wanting to watch their team.”

Bendigo Fighting Miners Club Secretary Jakeb Sheahan (centre) in typical stance with Alan Newnham and Matt Boyle at the club's 2021 Presentation Night.
Bendigo Fighting Miners Club Secretary Jakeb Sheahan (centre) in typical stance with Alan Newnham and Matt Boyle at the club's 2021 Presentation Night.

The Cassowary Coast Chargers Junior Rugby Club fields teams from Under-10s to Under-16s and is based at Innisfail in Queensland’s far north.

“The Innisfail Vikings folded as the town’s senior team but parents and volunteers have had a new junior club up and going for the past 12 months,” Club president Bart Dryden said.

“We drive 90 minutes to Cairns to play on Friday nights so there’s a lot of commitment amongst our families. It also helps that there’s a good burger and fries halfway on each trip too.

“For our region, there’s not a lot of exposure to rugby as an international game.

“The 2027 World Cup and the 2029 World Cup for women will create exposure where kids will see the global reach of the game.

“Having those rugby Tests in Townsville last year was a big plus.

“With some World Cup games expected in Townsville, there’s a chance for youngsters to see the tournament for themselves.

“We have an Under-15s team for girls in sevens. The 2029 World Cup and Australia’s sevens team playing at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics means there are so many opportunities for girls in rugby.”

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