“It was a timely reminder that … we have an outstanding game”.
That’s the word of Central West Rugby Union CEO Matt Tink following last weekend’s outstanding Classic Wallabies visit, which was capped off by the side taking on a Blue Bulls legends outfit before coming together at a function later that night.
Tink says in a time when fans around the country are become somewhat disillusioned with the sport at the professional level, community events like the Classics’ visit to the region are proof the spirit of rugby union is very much alive.
“Unfortunately there is too much negative talk about the professional level of our game, but the event was a timely reminder to both the Classics and the Central West community that we have an outstanding game and an even better connection through rugby,” Tink enthused.
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“On Saturday (at Endeavour Oval) we were really happy with the size of the crowd and it was inspiring to see the people in the stand and on the hill coming together for a good time, and to celebrate our great game.
“A real highlight was at the conclusion of the game, all the players and spectators were on the field taking photos, signing autographs and just having a chat. There was kids and families everywhere.
“I went into the changerooms after that and saw players from both sides sitting together, sharing drinks and throwing around stories, that spirit continued later that night at the Yenda Yarns function at the Hotel Canobolas too.
“The whole thing was just great, we couldn’t have asked for any more and I hope we see plenty of benefits for the region from it.”
The Classics’ visit kicked off at Dubbo and Wellington on Thursday, where a handful of ex-Australian stars held school clinics, which they did again at Kinross on Friday for Nashdale Public School and then Kinross’ prep students.
That was before the main event on Saturday, which started in the morning when almost 300 kids turned out to rub shoulders with the Classic Wallabies during a bumper clinic.
Prior to the main game, which the Wallabies won 49-21 over the Central West Barbarians, there was a Golden Oldies clash, trials for Central West’s women’s New Zealand tour side and a blockbuster exhibition game between the Oilsplus Cup’s Northern and Southern Division representative sides.
“The Classics-Central West game was the main event, sure, but we wanted to make sure we highlighted the talent and juniors we have in the region too,” Tink, who strapped the boots on for the Wallabies outfit against a side that featured some of the region’s absolute greats, said.
There's kids EVERYWHERE at Endeavour Oval for this morning's clinic with the @ClassicWallaby crew, 100+ easily! It's one of a bunch of lead-ups before the main event, when the Aussies boys play the #CentralWestBarbarians from 4pm. pic.twitter.com/4JVmQp8mvP— Matt Findlay (@MRFindlay24) November 17, 2018
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“There was a huge amount of kids for the clinic and they all had smiles on their faces, the women’s training and then trial was excellent too and I heard a lot of people tell me the Oilsplus Cup game was the highlight of their day.
“Those guys don’t get as much exposure or recognition as the top two tiers, the Blowes Clothing Cup and New Holland Agriculture Cup, but there’s some serious talent in that competition and we wanted to show that off.”
Acknowledging the country if often overlooked, the Classic Wallabies have already made a point of advertising their plans to return to regional areas in the future, something Tink says is incredibly encouraging.
He also made a point of thanking the event’s partners, without whom he says “it just wouldn’t have happened”.
“We were incredibly lucky to have help from the Hotel Canobolas, Kennard’s Hire, Paraway Pastoral, Whittaker Contracting, Tony Leahey and Cumulus Wines. Also to Macquarie Sport and the work they did in helping the Classics to put on a sensational kids clinic,” Tink said.
“Orange City Council’s support was incredible and it was pleasing to also gain support from big corporates like KPMG, Macquarie Bank and Yenda.
“Here’s hoping we see the Classics back in this region again.”