As the year draws to a close, here are 12 memories that define the rugby year that was for all HSBC Waratahs and Australian rugby fans, from Woollahra Colleagues’ historic clean sweep to the Flash Tahs YouTube sensation.
As the year draws to a close, here are 12 memories that define the rugby year that was for all HSBC Waratahs and Australian rugby fans.
Melbourne Rebels v HSBC Waratahs – history in the making
The Melbourne Rebels brought world-class provincial rugby to Victoria for the first time in 2011, playing their inaugural match against the visiting HSBC Waratahs at AAMI Park. The emphatic 43-0 victory meant the HSBC Waratahs became the first side to raise the Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Shield but the occasion also marked the first time a NSW team has held the opposition scoreless since the Super 12 commenced in 1996.
Camped in their own half for much of the opening quarter, the manner in which the visitors withstood the initial onslaught would prove instrumental in forging a defence that would serve the HSBC Waratahs throughout the season. Two tries before half time and 33 unanswered points in the second 40 minutes finished a strong team performance.
Beating the Reds – an important win
A tough ask at any time, backing up their first round victory with a win over the Queensland Reds was a notable achievement in itself but it was made even more significant by the manner of the HSBC Waratahs victory and the eventual success of the Reds in claiming the title. “It was a great performance and a sign of what we are capable of," said then Assistant Coach Foley.
Making the finals – a tribute to our character
After a promising start, the loss of Berrick Barnes and Phil Waugh in the second game for most of the rest of the season was a huge blow to NSW hopes. Although injury did not rule either of them out entirely, the following match brought further bad news, with the loss through injury of Rob Horne.
“When you factor in the absence of some players for extended periods (Drew Mitchell) and others who had recurrent issues like Cliff (Palu), coming back after a long stint in South Africa and beating the Highlanders and Brumbies with bonus points was a tribute to the character of our players. In light of the ups and downs, to pull together at those crucial moments will be remembered as a real positive,” said Foley.
YouTube sensations – HSBC Waratahs top 750,000 views
Following the success in February of the All Blacks’ skills video on YouTube, the HSBC Waratahs launched their own version but without the trick photograph. The two-minute spoof video has so far been watched over 600,000 times.
Relive it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12K-qXPu-rM.
May also saw the launch of The Code – Life with the HSBC Waratahs, an eight-part documentary series following Australia's oldest provincial rugby team, which premiered on May 26 on Fox Sports and was watched by over 900,000 viewers across Australia. Watch the trailer here:
Following the success of sponsor Carlton Draught’s attempt to recreate a classic TV ad, taking off the famous Flash Dance scene, in July the makers of The Code helped the team put together their own version. Starring Benn Robinson, Luke Burgess, Drew Mitchell, Daniel Halangahu and Ben Mowen, the result has been described as ‘pure genius’ and quickly became a Youtube sensation, attracting almost 40,000 viewers. Relive the moment here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yHBGLrLVrI. Overall, the team’s YouTube channel Tah TV has so far attracted over 785,000 views.
Eastwood Premiers - A new era for the Shute Shield
Having already claimed the Challenge Shield (home ground trophy) and the ES Marks Shield (minor premiership) following an undefeated year at home and just one loss in the regular season, September saw Eastwood end to Sydney Uni’s dominance of the Sydney club rugby, halting their ambition to claim a seventh successive Shute Shield title to break the record set by the iconic Randwick team of 1987 to 1992.
In a fitting finale, long-standing Shute Shield premiers Sydney University and plucky challengers and minor premiers Eastwood unwittingly saved the best game of the season until last, a 100-minute marathon around Concord Oval with Eastwood finishing three points ahead, 19-16.
Colleagues create history with clean sweep
September saw Woollahra Colleagues RFC create history by becoming the first club ever to claim five premiership titles in an unprecedented day of triumph, cementing their place as Suburban Rugby Union's most successful club ever with 25 club championship titles. The club has a celebrated history, with many triumphs and successful seasons, but none so glorious as 2011.
Having won the Division One Club Championship in August, the famous Colleagues club powered on to have its five senior grades competing in the grand finals at T G Millner Field. The premierships quickly piled up: the Judd Cup was decided by a point, quickly followed by the Whiddon Cup, both won against Campbelltown. The horde of blue-clad supporters had cause to celebrate yet again when the 5th graders knocked over Know in extra time in the Sutherland Cup. The top two grades then put the icing on the cake with a clean sweep against Drummoyne, claiming Burke Cup and finally the big one, the Kentwell Cup, by 23-3.
Farewell to three legends of the game and the end of an era
This year marked the retirement of two legends of the HSBC Waratahs and Wallabies rugby, Phil Waugh and Al Baxter. The most capped NSW player and captain of all time and a 79-cap Wallaby, Phil Waugh announced his retirement from professional rugby in June. The same month marked the announcement that Al Baxter, the most-capped prop in the history of Australian rugby, would stand down at the end of the season. The NSW tight-head enjoyed 11 years in Super Rugby, having made his debut in 2000 against the Bulls, and played a record 69 Tests for the Wallabies.
Sadly, June also brought news of the death of one of rugby’s most loved and brilliant characters, David Brockhoff. The 83-year-old former NSW and Australian player and coach was renowned for his visits to Sydney Airport, where he was always there to pass on his wishes to the Wallabies or HSBC Waratahs every time they played overseas and there again to welcome them home on their return. He has been described by many, including SMH rugby journalist Greg Growden, as the heart and soul of Australian rugby.
The year also marked the end of an era for one of NSW’s most successful coaches, with HSBC Waratahs Head Coach Chris Hickey stepping down. Voted Super Rugby coach of the year in consecutive seasons, Hickey will go down as the state’s most winning coach of all time.
Winning Reds – A victory for Australia
In 2011, the Queensland Reds became the first Australian team to be crowned Super Rugby champions. “The Reds have created a real belief among the other four states. Before it was something we aspired to, now we know it is possible,” said Foley.
Rugby World Cup – a tournament to remember
Memorable for the performances of the so called ‘minor nations’ – epitomised by Tonga’s victory over France – as for the finals football, especially Australia’s gritty quarter-final win over South Africa in Wellington. Ultimately though, the tournament was a testament to the perseverance of ultimate victors and hosts New Zealand.
Despite losing playmaker Dan Carter and their second and third choice fly halves, the All Blacks finally shrugged off the tag of perennial underachievers by finally winning the tournament for the second time, 24 years after lifting the Webb Ellis cup in inaugural tournament in 1987. In the words of skipper Richie McCaw to ABC Grandstand after the final, "This is something we've dreamed of for a while, we can rest in peace."
Stronger together – a NSW success story
Building on one of the most enduring partnerships in Australian sport, 2011 marked an 11 year partnership with HSBC as well as the arrival of a new sleeve sponsor in Volvo Cars. Key to the ability to attract and retain sponsors is the HSBC Waratahs’ unrivalled media exposure which saw them top the Super Rugby table by generating over $4 Million of media exposure for HSBC alone.
The season also marked a significant growth in membership, with HSBC Waratahs member numbers up 25% on the previous year.
November also marked the introduction of the team’s Community Connection program. In its first month, the new initiative brought players and supporters closer together through 30 school, charity and community events, with many more planned for NSW across the season. One of the first to put his hand up, Benn Robinson applauded the program, saying, “I remember when I was back at school, if I had had the opportunity to meet a professional rugby player I would have been overwhelmed.
“Whether it’s in schools or at community events, these opportunities are a chance for us to give something back to our fans, to say thank you for coming to matches and getting behind us. A lot of the boys were already doing things out there and those that weren’t were keen to. Through the Community Connection program, hopefully we can make sure everyone gets the chance to be involved and make sure fans know about everything going on in their area.”
Photos from all events are posted on the Waratahs Facebook wall, with full details of forthcoming events available on our website at http://www.waratahs.com.au/Waratahs/CommunityConnection.aspx.
Rugby record-breakers – broadcast figures surpass records
Fuelled by Australia’s Tri-Nations performances and the strength of the HSBC Waratahs and Queensland Reds in the Super Rugby competition, the public’s growing appetite for rugby resulted in some record breaking audience figures.
The Wallabies’ RWC semi-final against the All Blacks was watched by 3.23 million Australians, smashing the all-time Pay TV record for Fox Sports and topping the free-to-air ratings on Channel Nine. The match was also the most watched program in Australian subscription television history, with Fox Sports’ coverage attracted a record 719,000 viewers and surpassing the previous record of 531,000 set by the 2011 Super Rugby final between the Reds and Crusaders in Brisbane by almost 40%.
As a result, rugby has now holds the top four most watched programs in subscription television history and all four programs are live broadcasts of matches played this year, the remaining two being the Wallabies Rugby World Cup quarter-final against the Springboks and this year’s Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations showdown with the All Blacks in Brisbane.
Australia claims No. 2 spot for second year running
Finishing the year with back to back wins over Wales in the World Cup and in the Millennium Stadium, the Wallabies ended 2011 where they began it, ranked second in the world behind RWC champions New Zealand. The ranking was also assisted by two straight wins over South Africa and an historic defeat of the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium in August, which saw Australia claim the Tri-Nations title for the first time since 2001 and cement the world number two position for the second year running.
Stronger Together in 2012
Join the HSBC Waratahs and help make 2012 a season to remember. Show your support and sign up now by calling 1300 733 899 or joining online at http://www.waratahs.com.au/Waratahs/Membership.aspx
For ten great reasons to become a member in 2012 go to: http://www.waratahs.com.au/Waratahs/News/NewsArticle/tabid/157/ArticleID/4839/Default.aspx