Oldest Rugby Rivals in Australia?

Story written & researched by Sean Fagan for SaintsAndHeathens;  Dec 31, 2013

Which two teams still meeting today have the longest standing rivalry?

NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds first played in 1882, but there are older 19th century match-ups still on offer today.

The King's School team of 1895 that won the GPS Rugby competition.
The King’s School team of 1895 that won the GPS Rugby competition.

The honour is generally acknowledged to remain with the ‘rivals of the Parramatta River’, Newington College (Stanmore / black & white) and The King’s School (Parramatta / sky blue & white), who first met in 1870.

Though King’s have moved a few kms north, the teams continue to face each other today under the Great Public Schools (GPS Rugby) competition.

Newington, originally known as Wesleyan College, is credited as taking part in the first match between education institutions, when it played against Sydney University in 1869.

At the club football level in Sydney the ‘district clubs’ that evolved into today’s Shute Shield competitors was established in 1900 viz., Northern Suburbs, Eastern Suburbs, West Harbour (Western Suburbs) and Sydney University. Manly first entered in 1906.

The Parramatta and Randwick clubs of the Sydney first grade competition of the 1890s were made extinct by the 1900 district scheme of local clubs. The boundaries map was re-drawn to create a Randwick first grade district in 1914 (one season) and again in 1923 (permanently), while Parramatta district was added in 1934.

The original Parramatta club was established in 1879 and Randwick in 1882. Being granted a match against the prestigious Sydney University FC was not automatic and they first played Parramatta in 1882 and Randwick in 1888. The Cumberland Argus opened its account of a Parramatta-Randwick game in 1892 as a meeting of “these old rivals”, but when they met before that remains to be settled.

Are there other 19th century match-ups still being played in country towns, schools & suburban competitions?

Sydney Grammar School team of 1899 that won the GPS Rugby competition.
Sydney Grammar School team of 1899 that won the GPS Rugby competition.

Amongst the clubs under the NSW Suburban RU of today are names followers of the game in the late 1800s would be familiar with including Balmain, Hunters Hill, Drummoyne (Glebe-Balmain), Mosman, Petersham, Waverley, Hawkesbury College as well as ‘old boys’ teams of King’s School and St Ignatius College.

In 1902 Australian Town and Country Journal declared the Bathurst Football Club “is the oldest in New South Wales, having been established since 1871; previous to the inauguration of District Clubs in the Sydney District, the Wallaroo Club was the oldest, but is now defunct.” In 1935 National Advocate reporting on a Bathurst vs Orange contest called the teams “The State’s oldest rivals, with possibly some of the GPS excepted” and wondered “Just how many years it is since Orange-Bathurst first met in a Rugby Union match, and how many games have been played down the years would be interesting to know; it must be 65 years [1870] or more since they first played is an approximate guess”. The earliest found newspaper mention is in 1878 where Australian Town and Country Journal reports a club had been formed in Orange and it ventured to Bathurst to play St Stanislaus College. By the 1890s though it was a representative fixture between chosen sides of the WRFU (Bathurst) and CWRFU (Orange) committees. Today Bathurst and Orange teams come up against each other in the Central West RU club competition.

Other country areas in NSW and Queensland have similar stories with long-standing rivalries continuing, in name at least, in today’s local competitions including from the late 1870s Goulburn/Queanbeyan and Maitland/Newcastle.

(still active / Sydney)

1870. Newington College vs The King’s School
c1875. Newington vs Sydney Grammar School
c1877. King’s vs Grammar
1882. NSW Waratahs vs Queensland Reds
1882. Sydney University vs Parramatta
c1886. Sydney Boys High School vs Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore)
1886 Manly vs Randwick
1888. University vs Randwick
c.1888. St Stanislaus College (Bathurst) vs Grammar
c1890. Newington vs Shore
c1891. King’s vs Newington
1892. Newington vs St Ignatius College
1892. King’s vs St Ignatius
c1892. Parramatta vs Randwick
1893. Newington vs The Scots College
1893. King’s vs Scots
1894. St Joseph’s College vs King’s
1894. Hawkesbury Agricultural College (HAC) vs King’s*
1895. St Joseph’s vs Newington
c1896. St Joseph’s vs Grammar
c1896. St Joseph’s vs Shore
1900. Eastern Suburbs / Northern Suburbs / Sydney University / West Harbour
[final list still being researched]
*  Now HAC v King’s Old Boys

© Sean Fagan

Newington College team of 1896 that won the GPS Rugby competition.
Newington College team of 1896 that won the GPS Rugby competition.