Rugby Union was born in Newcastle on 5 June 1869, when the Volunteer Artillery team (8 players) challenged United Cricket Club (11 Players). The match was played in Centennial Park (currently Lowlands Bowling Club). The game erupted into a violent brawl (Battle of St. John`s Green) with the result – undecided.
On 1 May 1877, a meeting at ‘Ship Inn’ saw the foundation of Newcastle Football Club. Also in 1887 saw Wallsend and Maitland Clubs being formed.
In 1888, a meeting of Newcastle, Advance, West Maitland, Union and Ferndale Clubs saw a branch of the Southern Rugby Football (later NSWRU in 1892) formed called the Northern Branch. This was the formation of the Newcastle Rugby Union.
Early Clubs were Advance (1880); West Maitland (1885); Oriental (1885); Union (1885); Ferndale (1885); Waratah (1885); Raymond Terrace (1886); Carlton (1887); Centennial (1887); Lambton (1888); Wickham Albion (1888) and Greta (1890).
Between 1869 and 1890, there was no organised competition. In 1891, the first competition was organised.
In 1911, the Northern Branch disbanded but was reformed in 1912 to be known as the Newcastle Branch. During 1915 – 1924, little rugby was played but after a match between GPS Old Boys (Wanderers) and Novocastrians at Empire Park, the Newcastle Rugby Union was reformed with the current First Grade Competition.
During the early years of Rugby in Newcastle, the Union Secretary wrote to a Lambton player disqualifying him for carrying a loaded whip onto the field. The same Secretary warned Singleton Pirates that unless they treated visiting teams and referees with more respect, all matches would be abandoned at Singleton and the Pirates disqualified.
During the period, the Hunter Valley Rugby Union was formed which consisted of clubs like Singleton, Muswellbrook and Scone but in 1996, the Hunter Valley Zone amalgamated with Newcastle to form the current Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union.
The Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union now consists of 19 clubs with 3 Divisions as well as numerous junior teams (Hunter Junior Rugby Union) and a Women’s competition.
The following were chosen to represent Australia when resident in the Newcastle Zone. There has been 24 players selected between 1899 and 1994.
The first was C.J.B. White from the Maitland Club in 1899, who played in the first ever Test on Australian soil. A.R. MacNeill is the only referee from the area to have officiated at Test level.