Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union (NHRU) believes the 2019 season will be one of the most promising in 150 years of the code being played in the Hunter Region.

NHRU President, Bill Clifton, said local rugby had a new vision and was heading into a season packed full of regional and international rugby that would generate increasing interest in the code.

“The NHRU adopted a new strategic plan in January and that has laid the building blocks for what will be an important season for us,” said Bill.

“The strategic plan has five core components and we already have sub-committees that are working hard to lay stronger foundations for the game, but also new pathways for our talented young players who are achieving new levels.”

Clifton was speaking at the start of the 2019 season which kicks-off with Premier 1 games on Saturday (6 April) but will be preceded on Friday by a season launch organised by The Hawthorne Club.

He said The Hawthorne Club was a strong supporter of the code in the Hunter and has been able to attract former Wallaby captain, John Eales, as guest speaker at a sold-out luncheon tomorrow (Friday) at Merewether Surfhouse.

“The interest in John Eales as speaker has been excellent and we could not wish for a better rugby ambassador to come to Newcastle and the Hunter for the launch of our new season,” said Bill.

“We have already seen Super Rugby in Newcastle with NSW playing Japan Sunwolves last Friday, have enjoyed the Hunter’s Women’s 7s winning the NSW Country rugby union title and had a high attendance at an Australian Rugby Foundation Lunch at Maitland a few weeks ago.

“In addition, we are working with NSW Rugby to establish a new home in Newcastle for a rugby academy to develop the skills of young players and will be starting new 10-a-side competitions in May for Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 female players.

“And just yesterday we had two of our outstanding women players, Katrina Barker and Maya Stewart, selected in the NSW Waratah Women’s team to play in the Super W grand final against Queensland on Sunday,” he said.

“NHRU also has the finals of the Women’s Summer 7s being played at No.2 and No.5 Sportsground tomorrow night (Friday) – what a great start to the 2019 season.

“To further whet the appetite for a fantastic season – we have the Australian Women’s Rugby team (Wallaroos) playing Japan Women at No.2 Sportsground in mid-July.”

Bill said local clubs had been training hard since last year and were ready for the first round of competition on Saturday.

Premier 1, 2 and 3 matches on Saturday include:

  • Nelson Bay v University at Bernie Curran Oval
  • Wanderers v Maitland at Marcellin Park
  • Lake Macquarie v Singleton at Rugby Park, Singleton
  • Merewether Carlton v Southern Beaches at Ernie Calland Fields

Defending champions, Hamilton, start the season with a bye.

The Women’s competition starts on Saturday week (13 April) while the popular Social 4ths take to the field after Easter.

NOTE: The first game of Rugby Union played in Newcastle was on 5 June 1869 when the Volunteer Artilleryteam (8 players) challenged United Cricket Club (11 players). The match was played in Centennial Park (currently Lowlands Bowling Club).