UNSW-affiliated rugby club the Randwick Galloping Greens will face off with Shute Shield archrivals Sydney University this Saturday in the inaugural Poidevin – Farr-Jones Cup.
Named after two World Cup-winning Wallaby legends Simon Poidevin and Nick Farr-Jones – themselves alumni from UNSW and Sydney University, respectively – the Cup will be a new fixture in the Shute Shield Competition. It was donated by UNSW Sport to celebrate the longstanding rivalry between the famous rugby clubs and universities.
When asked about how much more the new Cup will intensify the rivalry, Poidevin didn’t hesitate.
“This will become the holy grail of rugby, I'm sure of it,” he joked.
“But seriously, I think it’s really important recognising the contribution made by these clubs. You look at how many players have played for the Wallabies from both clubs, it's quite a remarkable number.”
Poidevin, who was selected for the Sydney, NSW and Australian rugby teams while playing for UNSW in the late 70s and early 80s, said he is proud to be associated with the beginning of a new era of rivalry between the two clubs.
He said that while he and Farr-Jones were adversaries at club level, they were lucky enough to be teammates in representative sides. They shared a similar trajectory in their early careers, being picked for the national side from lower divisions – a feat unheard of in the professional era.
“Nick was picked from Second Division to play for the Wallabies and so was I. We had very similar career paths in that aspect,” Poidevin said.
“Obviously he was a halfback, and I was a flanker, so I used to have to take care of him,” he added wryly.
Farr-Jones responded good-naturedly, saying Poidevin was always someone you wanted on your side.
“There was one guy, well two including Willie O, who when you saw him in your changing room before you get that knock on the door to go out and strut your stuff, you were just extremely thankful he was in your colours,” Farr-Jones said.
“But when he was in the opposition colours, look out. I’ll never forget my first match in first grade for Sydney Uni was against Randwick. Poido was there, all the Ellas, probably seven or eight representative guys – I think they dished us up by about 30 points.
“But just that amazing memory, when I kicked off in first grade in 1981, I'll never forget that. And they've always been the benchmark when I was playing club rugby.”
Vital stats: Poido v Farr-Jones
Simon Poidevin appeared 59 times for Australia as a flanker between 1980 and 1991, four of them as captain. He scored five tries for the Wallabies, including one in a Bledisloe Cup and one in a World Cup. At club level, he made his first grade debut with UNSW in 1978 and moved to Randwick in 1982.
Nick Farr-Jones appeared 63 times for Australia as a halfback between 1984 and 1993, 36 of those times as captain, including winning the Rugby World Cup in 1991. He scored nine tries including one in a Bledisloe Cup. He started his first-grade club career with Sydney University in 1981.
Both players share the distinction of being among only four Wallaby players who have won rugby union's Grand Slam (winning all four matches in a tour against British Isles nations), achieved a series victory in New Zealand, and won a Rugby World Cup. The other two players are teammates David Campese and Michael Lynagh.
The Poidevin – Farr-Jones Cup will be contested annually when the two sides meet at Randwick’s home ground, Coogee Oval, except in years when only one game is played at Sydney Uni, where it will be awarded to the victors of that match.
Poidevin, who departed UNSW rugby for Randwick in 1982, says there is a strong bond between Randwick and UNSW students stemming from the UNSW/Randwick Rugby/St Hilliers Scholarship program that began in 2002.
The scholarships give students the opportunity to balance their academic endeavours with developing their rugby skills and rising through the grades with the Randwick Colts.
Poidevin completed a Bachelor of Science (Hons) at UNSW while Farr-Jones graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney, both while playing club and representative rugby. Playing, studying and working in the amateur era – it was a different world to that of the modern age since rugby professionalised in 1995.
“People always say ‘the game just went professional after you stopped, you must be a bit disappointed you missed out on the bucks’,” Farr-Jones said.
'Both clubs have recognised that career paths – whether it be TAFE, whether it be a trade, whether it be going to university – are really important to the players, the clubs and to the parents.'
“I’m sure that Simon would say exactly what I say, that we were the last of the lucky ones. You had a chance to go to university, you had a chance to have a day job, life didn't change dramatically when you got carried out in your football coffin. And you saw the world, and we kicked off at 3 o'clock!”
Poidevin agreed, saying that it’s possible to still study and play rugby, but a degree might need to be delayed for any player lucky enough to play representative rugby.
“We all know only 3 per cent of amateur players make it to professional, so 97 per cent ain't going to get there,” Poidevin said.
“Both clubs have recognised that career paths – whether it be TAFE, whether it be a trade, whether it be going to university – are really important to the players, the clubs and to the parents.
“[Randwick and World Sevens player] Henry Hutchison is a great example. Henry was rookie of the year and he's still diligently doing his degree, and all the young guys coming through the Colts are likewise diligently doing their degrees. They know it's tough, they might take eight years to get there, but they'll do it.”
The partnership between Randwick and UNSW was strengthened in 2013 when the two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding signalling their affiliation.
The Poidevin – Farr-Jones Cup will be contested this Saturday, August 4 at Coogee Oval. Kick-off is at 3pm, with the Cup presentation to be made by Simon Poidevin and Nick Farr-Jones at the conclusion of the game.