Welcome to the Shute Shield Grand Final prediction.
The Sydney club rugby season culminates this weekend with the grade grand finals being played at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta on Saturday and the colts grand finals being played at Coogee Oval on Sunday. The full list of grand finals is:
|1stGrade||Sydney University v Warringah|
|2ndGrade||Eastern Suburbs v Sydney University|
|3rdGrade||Sydney University v Gordon|
|4thGrade||Eastwood v Sydney University|
|1stGrade Colts||Randwick v Sydney University|
|2ndGrade Colts||Gordon v Eastern Suburbs|
|3rdGrade Colts||Eastern Suburbs v Randwick|
As has been written previously, the decision to play the Grand Final at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta has been somewhat controversial. The announcement was made mid-season and is a move away from rugby’s traditional heartland in the northern and eastern suburbs. More cynical types have labelled the move as a tokenistic gesture to appease fans in western Sydney who have become disgruntled and disengaged due to the lack of support offered to clubs like the Western Sydney Two Blues and the now defunct Penrith Emus. The previous 3 Grand Finals have been held in front of close to capacity crowds at the historic North Sydney Oval so Sydney Rugby Union officials will be hoping for an attendance figure of close to 20,000 this Saturday. Some club presidents have previously attributed the club scene’s resurgence, at least in part, to the staging of the grand final at North Sydney Oval and to the crowd numbers and atmosphere that it generated. Whether or not the same will be said of Bankwest remains to be seen.
For those readers able to view 7 Two or access 7 Plus (https://7plus.com.au/shute-shield), the Shute Shield Grand Final will be shown live on Saturday.
Sydney University v Warringah at Bankwest Stadium
The Shute Shield (1st Grade) Grand Final is a replay of last year, where Sydney University defeated Warringah 45-12 in a dominant display.
Sydney University is the oldest and one of the most successful rugby clubs in Australia. The Students have a proud history, winning a total of 30 first grade premierships and 23 Club Championships. They went through a lean period for much of the 1980s and 1990s, despite boasting Wallaby and New South Wales representatives such as Nick Far-Jones, Rob Egerton and Richard Harry. The Students broke a nearly 30 year drought when they defeated Eastwood in the 2001 Shute Shield Grand Final and they have been the dominant club ever since. Since 2000, Uni has won 10 First Grade Premierships and an astounding 15 consecutive Club Championships. This has of course led to much jealousy from supporters of other clubs and the infamous social media hashtag, #AnyoneButUni. Sydney Uni is in a unique position due to their obvious affiliation with a prestigious tertiary education facility whilst maintaining their status in what has traditionally been a district competition, but their professionalism and depth is undeniable.
Uni enters this week as firm favourites, having already claimed the minor premiership and then defeating Manly and Norths in the elimination and semi finals respectively. The Students will be looking to their experienced representative players such as scrumhalf Jake Gordon and frontrowers Harry Johnson-Holmes and hooker Chris Talekei to play dominant roles.
The Warringah Rats entered the Shute Shield in 1971, having been founded several years earlier to provide an alternative to Manly for those who resided at the northern end of the peninsula. The ‘Rats’ nickname refers to the famous Rats of Tobruk from the Second World War and was adopted to both honour the Rats of Tobruk and to remind players to never give up in the face of adversity. Warringah had several lean years following their promotion to First Division but started to come of age in the 1980s thanks to players such as Steve Lidbury, Enrique ‘Topo’ Rodriguez and Dominic Vaughan. The Rats qualified for 3 grand finals, only to lose to the star studded Randwick side each time. A further 3 grand final appearances came in the following decade, with loses to Gordon in 1993 and Randwick in 1994 and 1996. The Rats finally claimed their first Shute Shield in 2005 however, the Sydney club season was divided into 2 separate competitions between 2002 and 2007 and the major trophy in those years was the Toohey’s New Cup. The Shute Shield was effectively a preseason competition while the winner of the Toohey’s New Cup claimed the ‘Premiership’ in those years. Due to this anomaly, many view Warringah’s emotional 2017 Grand Final win over Norths as their maiden premiership win.
This weekend will be the Rats’ 3rd consecutive grand final and like last year, they will go into the match as the underdogs. First year coach (and 2019 Coach of the Year) Mark Gerrard has done a wonderful job in 2019 after a number of key players retired while others followed departing coach Darren Coleman to Gordon. The Rats will be led by the Ken Catchpole winning flyhalf Hamish Angus and former Super Rugby scrumhalf Josh Holmes, whose clash with Jake Gordon will be one to watch. If Warringah is to win on Saturday then their forwards will need to ensure that they provide a secure platform and clean ball at the set piece as well as the breakdown. This will be a challenge as the Students boast arguably the best pack in the competition.
Warringah will be desperate to avoid a second consecutive grand final loss but I’m not convinced that they can match the Students up front. I’m predicting another premiership for the Students.
Hugh’s Prediction: Sydney University by 12
DrivingMaul Prediction: Sydney University by 7
A massive thank you to Hugh for bringing us his insights into the Shute Shield this season
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