A few days ago I received a message from Rob Busby as Chair of the Sydney Branch of the TAS (The Armidale School) Old Boys Union. This said in part:
This Saturday twelve TAS (The Armidale School) rugby teams will be in Sydney to play Newington College at Stanmore. Junior teams will play from 10 am, followed by the Second XV at 1 pm, and the Firsts at 3.15 pm, on the Johnson Oval.
After the matches all OBs are invited to gather at the Nag's Head Hotel, 162 St John's Road Glebe, from 4.30 pm. Finger Food - $10 at the door'
I hope to go, but the email also caused me to cast my mind back.
For the benefit of overseas readers, TAS has long been a member of the NSW GPS or Greater Public Schools. When I played rugby at TAS we used to play against all the Sydney GPS schools, although distance precluded participation in the formal competition. Then, right at the end of my period at school, TAS sought and gained formal participation in the rugby competition, so brother David actually played in the formal GPS competition.
TAS was a much smaller school, so had difficulty in competing. However, TAS's presence introduced a random element in the competition because no one could be absolutely sure of the outcome of particular games. There were also complaints about the travel to Armidale and the hard nature of the TAS fields. In the end, GPS politics saw the exit of TAS stage left from the competition.
In the years that followed, the once automatic games against the Sydney GPS schools diminished, with TAS rugby going in new directions. There were also many more sports at the school, so the number of boys playing rugby declined.
The world changes.
Rugby itself changed, with a greater emphasis on size and speed. Coaching even at school level became more professional. As size and speed became more important, the ethnic mix of players became a factor. You can see this if you look at the growing role of big boned Pacific Islanders in international rugby.
In Sydney, the growing presence of students of Asian ancestry at Sydney High and to a lesser extent Sydney Grammar started creating problems on the sporting field. Sydney High started losing matches very heavily, the Sydney GPS competition became unbalanced.
Meantime, a revolution had been brewing in the quiet New England countryside. To those that have shall be given. Armidale's plethora of sporting fields attracted rugby camps and competitions. TAS itself started a primary school rugby carnival that grew and grew. TAS boys now received a higher degree of professional coaching and were able to play competitive rugby from primary school up in a way simply not available in my day.
TAS teams started playing more GPS football, although I found it odd given my background that they played lower level Sydney teams. Back in 2007 A Very Sporting Day - interesting but also odd records my reaction on this point. I thought that TAS Seconds (my old team) playing Shore Fourths was a tad unbalanced.
There have been close relations between Sydney High and TAS for many years. A few weeks ago, no less than 200 Sydney High boys visited TAS for the annual sporting competition between the two schools. I suspect that these visits are quite important beyond the sporting field because they bring Sydney High boys into contact with a somewhat different world.
Now the relationship has brought TAS back into the GPS rugby competition in a way I don't fully understand beyond the fact that TAS is, in some complicated way, taking SBH's place at the top level, with the SBH home games now being played at TAS.
How will TAS go? Blowed if I know in this new world. I do know that the TAS XV beat Sydney High 81-0 and then beat Sydney Grammar the following week 45-26. Sydney High, by the way, beat TAS in the soccer and basketball. This offset TAS wins in the rugby, tennis and shooting.
I know that most of my readers are not interested in the arcane details of GPS sport, but for those that are the TAS rugby program this year after Saturday is:
- 23 Jul: King's at TAS
- 24 Jul: Sir Thomas Rich's School (UK) at TAS
- 30 Jul: Shore at Shore
- 1 Aug: Royal Grammar School at (UK) at TAS
- 6 Aug: St Joseph's at TAS
- 13 Aug: Scots at Scots
- 20 Aug: St Ignatius at TAS
- 26 Aug: Farrer at TAS
Maybe it's a sign of my increasing nostalgia as I grow older, but I really am looking forward to seeing some of these matches.
When I was in my final years at TAS, our then head was trying to stamp out the traditional school haka. Now I am trying to find the words again!
One of my commenters provided the following results. It's complicated because you have to find out both levels played as well as results. I emailed the school asking them to publish the official results in some way. There is a fair bit of interest just measured by the number of visits to this post.
- Newington. TAS Firsts vs Newington Thirds. TAS won 24-20. TAS played well with six players out with rep commitments. TAS Seconds played Newington Fourths. TAS won. Score unknown
- Kings. TAS Firsts played King's Seconds. TAS lost 19-12, apparently bombing a few tries that could have won them the game. TAS Seconds played Newington Fourths, played well and won. Score not known.
For the next round in Armidale against St Josephs, the TAS Rugby Club advises:
Dear Friends of Rugby
On Saturday 6 August TAS is delighted to be hosting St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill (Joeys) in a full range of fixtures supporting our involvement with the 2011 GPS rugby season.
The opportunity to host visiting schools has meant that we have been able to join together as a community to renew acquaintances, enjoy the a day of rugby and give valued support to our rugby players.
This will again apply when St Joseph’s visit TAS and a great day of hard-fought rugby is on the cards.
From 1:30pm onwards the TAS Rugby Club invites you, and all interested members of the school community from TAS, Joey’s and beyond, to come together to relive past exploits, from both on and off the rugby field, and to make new friends from the wider schools’ community.
“Back to Backfield’ will be held at the Hoskins Centre at TAS from 1:30pm to 5pm. Drinks and light snacks will be provided with a cash bar for any alcoholic drinks.
Please mark Saturday 6 August in your diary and be sure to spread the word to anyone who may be interested to attend. An invitation with these details is attached for your convenience.
We look forward to seeing you on the sidelines at any time during the season but especially joining with us as we go ‘Back to Backfield’ on 6 August.
TAS Rugby Club
I will add any further updates as I get them.
The School is now posting results on the web site.
TAS Rugby Results (to August)
v High 1sts 81-0
v Grammar 1sts 45-24
v Newington 3rds 22-7
v King's 2nds 12-15
v Shore 3rds 8-0
v High 2nds 72-0
v Grammar 2nds 15-7
v Newington 4ths 22-20
v King's 4th 25-23
v Shore 5ths 44-0