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History of University Rugby in Canberra

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Rugby in the ACT hadn't been played for some years in Canberra due to the relocation of RMC from Canberra to Sydney in 1931, RMC teams were the backbone of Canberra rugby and as a result no games were played. However, in 1936 the RMC was transferred back to Duntroon.

The Canberra Times reported that the first rugby union match to be played for about five years saw the Canberra University College defeat the Canberra Grammar School 14-6 at Manuka Oval on Saturday 11 July 1936. The makeup of that initial Canberra University College side was:[1]

W. de Salis, Dunlop, F Grey, P. Haydon, H. Haydon, Lee, Donohue, Jones, Peterson, Gamble, Simson, Durie, Tunstall, C. Gray and Gilbert.

(Donohue 2 penalty and 1 conversion H Haydon Try).[2][3]


The Federal Capital Territory Rugby Union (FCTRU) was established in 1937, with the vision of establishing a local competition. A team called University was one of the foundation clubs. There was no university in Canberra in the late 1930s and the college with which the club was associated was an annex of the University of Melbourne.

On Thursday 2 December a meeting presided over by the President of the Student Unions Association Mr. N. S. Ling.   The club was said to benefited by the service of two or three first grade players now stationed in Canberra.   It was resolved to adopt club colours similar to those chosen by the University Hocky Club, which comprised of a black jersey with royal blue and black shorts, and blue and black socks.  Sir Robert Garran and Rev. Canon W J. Edwards were nominated patrons of the Club and the following were elected as committee members:

  • President - Dr. L. H. Allen;
  • Secretary - Mr. J. D. Donohue;
  • Treasurer - Mr. G. G. Watson; and
  • Members - Messrs. G. Cordy, and J. M. Jones.[4]

There was no actual competition, however University College played Grammar old boys, losing 11-3 at Northbourne Oval. The University College Line up was

Full-back: Sainsbury; three-quarters, Carmody, McNiven, Kelly, Dunlop; five-eighth: McCue; half: Milne; forwards: Watson, Jones, Richardson, Gilbert, Trowbridge, Jansen, Kruger, Starkey.

John Donohue was the first Secretary of the club, he came from Queensland and learnt his rugby at Downlands College, Toowoomba.


The Prime Minister, the Honourable Joe Lyons addressed the opening ceremony of the initial competition on Saturday 30 April at Manuka Oval declaring the season open.  With the leader of the Opposition, the Honourable John Curtin also in attendance. There were four clubs competing for honours in the initial competition, University, Eastern Suburbs, RMC and Northern Suburbs.

Both University and Northern Suburbs trained at Northbourne Oval (Northern Suburbs Home ground).

The first match of the day (and season) saw University off to a good start to defeat Eastern Suburbs 9-0 (6-0 at half time) with John Donohue scoring the first try of the competition, unfortunately he injured his shoulder in the first ten minutes, RMC defeated Northern Suburbs 24-11. The University side on that first day was as follows

Full-back—T. F. Ryley; threequarters R. A. Peters, J. D. Donohue (capt),W. G. Draper,A. T. Carmody; five-eighth—R. H. Whale; half-back—W. J. McCue; forwards— G. C. Watson (vice-capt.), M. A. Gilchrist, E. A. Peterson, A. C. Allen, M. Frieberg, C. L. McCosker, J.M. Jones, S. A. Matthews; Reserves— G. F. Cordy, G. C. Grey.[5]

RMC won the initial competition beating Northern Suburbs 11-6 on 6 August to be the first holders of the John Dent Cup. Northern Suburbs had defeated University 24-8 at Duntroon a couple of weeks prior, to finish second and earn the right to play the undefeated RMC. An RMC second XV beat a combined University/Eastern Suburbs side 19-11.

John O’Donoghue of University was the leading points scorer with a total of 52 points. In the nine-game season, University managed three wins during the season, only failing to overcome the unbeaten RMC.

University did press RMC in their second meeting, on a very wet and what was described as a very dangerous Northbourne Oval, with George Draper from University suffering a gash and Kermode from RMC an injured Knee, both players not being replaced.  University’s failure to capitalise scoring opportunities cost it the game eventually going down 17-11.  The loss left University in third place.          

At the end of the season, University travelled to Goulburn to beat Saint Patrick's 12-11, and in the last game of the season Christian Brothers Waverly beat the University side 17 - 10 in an invitation game on Saturday 27 August at Northbourne Oval.  

Final Competition Table 1938[6][edit]

W L F A Pts
RMC 9 - 178 49 18
Northern Suburbs 5 4 114 72 10
University 3 6 98 127 6
Eastern Suburbs 1 8 28 170 2

Leading Point Scorers 1938 [7][edit]

Name Club Tries Goals Penalties F Goals Points
Donohue University 4 6 8 1 52
Hassett RMC 10 30
Smith Northern Suburbs 7 1 28
Brooker RMC 3 2 2 19
K Harrison Northern Suburbs 1 5 2 19
A Young RMC 5 15

Competition Results 1938

Round 1 Saturday, 30 April 1938 Eastern Suburbs 0 University 9 Manuka Oval
Round 1 Saturday, 30 April 1938 RMC 24 Northern Suburbs 11 Manuka Oval
Round 2 Saturday, 7 May 1938 Northern Suburbs 15 University 6 Northbourne Oval
Round 2 Saturday, 7 May 1938 RMC 9 University 0 Northbourne Oval
Round 3 Saturday, 21 May 1938 RMC 22 University 6 Kingston Oval
Round 3 Saturday, 21 May 1938 Northern Suburbs 9 Eastern Suburbs 3 Kingston Oval
Round 4 Saturday, 28 May 1938 Eastern Suburbs 14 University 13 Duntroon Oval
Round 4 Saturday, 28 May 1938 RMC 18 Northern Suburbs 16 Duntroon Oval
Round 5 Saturday, 25 June 1938 Northern Suburbs 12 University 14 Duntroon Oval
Round 5 Saturday, 25 June 1938 RMC 38 Eastern Suburbs 3 Duntroon Oval
Round 6 Saturday, 2 July 1938 RMC 17 University 11 Northbourne Oval
Round 6 Saturday, 2 July 1938 Northern Suburbs 22 Eastern Suburbs 0 Northbourne Oval
Round 7 Saturday, 9 July 1938 Eastern Suburbs 8 University 27 Duntroon Oval
Round 7 Saturday, 9 July 1938 RMC 4 Northern Suburbs 3 Duntroon Oval
Round 8 Saturday, 23 July 1938 Northern Suburbs 24 University 3 Duntroon Oval
Round 8 Saturday, 23 July 1938 RMC 31 Eastern Suburbs 0 Duntroon Oval
Round 9 Saturday, 30 July 1938 RMC 15 University 9 Northbourne Oval
Round 9 Saturday, 30 July 1938 Northern Suburbs 12 Eastern Suburbs 11 Northbourne Oval
Final Saturday, 6 August 1938 RMC 11 Northern Suburbs 6 Manuka Oval

Representative Rugby[edit]

Surprisingly there was quite a bit of representative football played in the first season, with the pinnacle being the game between the All Blacks and a Canberra representative side at Manuka oval on Wednesday, 10 August.[8] The game of the season saw the first international touring side to play in Canberra (the springboks came to Canberra in 1937 to play RMC but the game was called off due to an outbreak of measles in the RMC camp).  

Canberra v NSW Fire Brigades [9][edit]

The first representative game for Canberra was a loss against the NSW Fire Brigades 30-9 at Manuka oval, on 14 May. Canberra had been weakened by some withdrawals of key players and only having seven forwards in the second half. University had two representatives, a three quarter named Bill McCue and C McCosker.

Backs: Full-back, GF Larkin (RMC); Three-quarters, FG Haskett (RMC), CHM Haydon (Eastern Suburbs), WJ McCue (University), CG Smith (Northern Suburbs Vice Captain); Five-eighth, AJ Young (RMC); Half-back, JF Denehy (Northern Suburbs);

Forwards, RM Moore (Northern Suburbs), GN Godsall (RMC), R. T. Eldridge (RMC), L. Kirkwood (Northern Suburbs), CL McCosker (University), SJ Hill (Eastern Suburbs Captain.), EM Pinkney (Northern Suburbs), AI Murray (RMC).

Country Week [10][edit]

Country Week was held at Manly Oval on the weekend of 11 to 13 June, where the Canberra team beat Hawkesbury Agricultural College 13 to 6 on Saturday 11 June.

Full-back JD Donohue (University), three-quarters FG Haskett (RMC) WCT Foley (RMC), WJ McCue (University), CG Smith (Northern Suburbs), five-eighth, JF Denehy (Northern Suburbs), half-back RB Dawson (RMC Captain)

Forwards, RT Eldridge (RMC), GEL Dawson, R M Moore (Northern Suburbs), N R McLeod, (RMC) GW Quodling (Eastern Suburbs), SJ Hill (Eastern Suburbs) RE Ward (Northern Suburbs), EM Pinkney (Northern Suburbs)

Three Canberra players made it in the Country side, FG Hassett (RMC), WG McCue (University) and R Dawson (RMC) which were beaten by City 25-3 on Monday 12 June at Manly Oval.

In another game, a combined Canberra/Western Districts team lost to a combined sub districts 20-11, with several players being selected in the combined team.

C Smith (Northern Suburbs), WCT Foley (RMC) J Donohue (University.), J Denehy (Northern Suburbs RM Moore (Northern Suburbs). R Eldridge (RMC.), G. E. L Dawson (RMC), NR McLeod (RMC), R. E. Ward (Northern Suburbs). Reserves: S Lay G W Quodling (Eastern Suburbs), EM Pinkney (Northern Suburbs).

Canberra Second XV v Southern Monaro[11][edit]

For those who didn't make the country week side, another side was chosen to play Southern Monaro in Bombala for the Walcott Cup.  No RMC players were included as RMC were playing Northern Suburbs (Sydney).  The Canberra side won an entertaining encounter in Canberra at Duntroon 12-6.

Backs: Fullback: RC Bird (Eastern Suburbs); three-quarters: JO Welsh (Eastern Suburbs), WG Draper (University) captain; LJ Colquhoun' (Northern Suburbs), G Makin (Northern Suburbs); five-eighth: WE Young (Northern Suburbs); half-back: I Prowse (Northern Suburbs);

Forwards: C L Mccosker (University), C Zimmerman (Eastern Suburbs), KTDesmond (Northern Suburbs), RN Harrison (Eastern Suburbs); HD Ballantine (Northern Suburbs), T Guest (Eastern Suburbs), RA Peters (University) GC Watson (University) vice-captain

Reserves: GF Cordy (University), GJ Mylne (University), AT Carmody (University)

backs; EJ James (Eastern Suburbs), WL Nobbs (Northern Suburbs), AK Sutherland

(University), FH Boileau (University), M Frieberg (University)

Canberra v Gordon [12][edit]

A Canberra side with no RMC players (as RMC were playing Sydney University) lost to Gordon 11-17 on 16 July.

Backs Fullback, HC Seton (Northern Suburbs); three-quarters, WJ McCue (University), JD Donohue (University), N Peterson (Northern Suburbs) CG Smith (Northern Suburbs), five-eighth, DL Pert (Northern Suburbs), half-back, JF Denehy (Northern Suburbs)

Forwards, RM Moore (Northern Suburbs), GC Watson (University), GW Quodling (Eastern Suburbs), KG Harrison, TF Ryley (University), EM Pinkney (Northern Suburbs), RE. Ward (Northern Suburbs), SJ Hill (Eastern Suburbs - captain)

Canberra v All Blacks [13][edit]

In what was described as a football festival at Manuka oval on 10 August, a then record crowd of 3,000 people came to watch the first international ever played in Canberra. Motorists arrived at the ground by midday (for a 3pm kick off) to ensure they got a good car park.

The All Blacks who beat Australia in all three games of the tour, were convincing 57-5 winners on the day (the biggest win of the tour).  The Canberra Times reported that the Canberra men tackled with a grim determination to make the best of a bad job, with the visiting team having an overwhelming advantage in the scrums and line outs due to their physical strength and size, but that in the loose rucks the Canberra players were able to hold their own.

University had three representatives in the run-on side, W J McCue, G C Watson and TF Ryley. the full team on the day was:

Full-back: LJ Colquhuon (Northern Suburbs) Three-quarters: FG Hassett (RMC), WJ McCue (University), J Burns (RMC), CG Smith (Northern Suburbs).  Five-eighth: AJ Young (RMC). Half-back: RB Dawson, (RMC Vice Captain).

Forwards: RM Moore (Northern Suburbs), GEL Dawson (RMC) ,GC Watson (University), TF Ryley (University), GB Combes (RMC), EM Pinkney (Northern Suburbs), RE Ward (Northern Suburbs), SJ Hill (Eastern Suburbs - Captain).

Reserve Backs: JF Denehy (Northern Suburbs), BR Moore (Eastern Suburbs), HC Seton (Northern Suburbs), WCT Foley (RMC)

Reserve Forwards; NR McLeod (RMC), GN Godsell (RMC).

Canberra v Southern Monaro[14][15]

Canberra retained the Walcott Cup with a 10-6 in Bombala on 13 August, the Canberra team did not include any Royal Military College, who were unavailable owing to exams, while four others of the side which opposed the All Blacks couldn't make the trip.

Full-back, GF Cordy (University), three-quarters, JO Welsh (Eastern Suburbs), CG Smith (Northern Suburbs capt), WJ McCue (University), HC Seton (Northern Suburbs), five-eighth, WE Young (Northern Suburbs), half-back, JF Denehy (Northern Suburbs)

forwards, RM Moore (Northern Suburbs), LE Kirkwood (Northern Suburbs), G W Quodling (Eastern Suburbs), CA Allen (University), EA Peterson (University), GC Watson (University) RE Ward (Northern Suburbs), HD Ballantine (Northern Suburbs)

Canberra v Bathurst [16][edit]

Additional representative honours were bestowed on several University players.  The Canberra team which beat Bathurst 24-11 on 20 August included W J McCue, and A K Sutherland.

Full back: LJ Colquhoun (Northem Suburbs), Three-quarters: HC Seton Northern Suburbs), WJ McCue (University), WB Young (Northern Suburbs), CG Smith (Northern Suburbs) capt. five-eighth: DL Pert (Northern Suburbs), Half-back JF Denehy (Northern Suburbs) Forwards: GW Quodling (Eastem Suburbs) L Kirkwood (Northern Suburbs), RM Moore (Northern Suburbs)  CA  Allan (University), KG  Harrison (Northern Suburbs), AK  Sutherland (University), RE Ward (Northern Suburbs), EM  Pinkney (Northern Suburbs)

Canberra Second XV v Southern Monaro [17][18][edit]

In the final game of the season the Canberra team travelled to Bombala on 20 August to play Southern Monaro for the Walcott Cup, having retained it a week earlier.  Southern Monaro scored 21 unanswered points, as Southern Monaro registered a 24 – 6 victory.

The side on the day

Backs: Full back, GF Cordy (University),; three-quarters, N. Peterson (Northern Suburbs), WG Draper (University captain.), J Craig (Eastern Suburbs), GJ Mylne (University); five eighth, JO Welsh; half-back, MG Jaggers (Eastern Suburbs);

Forwards, RN Harrison (Eastern Suburbs), VI Lynch (Northern Suburbs), K Desmond (Northern Suburbs), RA Peters (Northern Suburbs), HD Ballantine (Northern Suburbs), HA Peterson (Northern Suburbs), JM Jones (University) , EA Peterson (University),. j

Reserves for both teams- E Fulton (Eastern Suburbs), RC Bird (Eastern Suburbs), RA Peters (University), T Gerhard (Eastern Suburbs), SA Mathews (University), M. Gilchrist (University), FH Boileau (University)

Final Representative Honours[19]

The F.C.T. Rugby Union decided to confer representative honour badges to give the players a permanent record of their achievement. The term "representative" applied to the Canberra teams which participated in Country Week in June and played against the All Blacks.  Reserves also received a badge.

J. Burns (RMC), L. J. Colquhuon (Northern Suburbs), G. B. Combes, G. E. L. .Dawson and R. B.Dawson (R.MC.), J. F. Denehy (Northern Suburbs), J. D. Donohue (University), R. T. Eldridge, W. C. T. Foley) G. N. Godsall and F. G. Hassett (RMC), S. J. Hill (Eastern Suburbs), L. Kirkwood (Northern Suburbs), W. J. McCue (University), N. R. McLeod (RMC.), B. R. Moore (Eastern Suburbs), R.M. Moore, and E. M. Pinkney (Northern Suburbs), T. F. Ryley (University), G. W. Quodling (Eastern Suburbs), H. C. Seton C. G. Smith, and R. E. Ward (Northern Suburbs), G. C. Watson (University), and A. J. Young. (RMC)


Final Competition Table 1939[edit]

RMC I 9 1 0 312 99 18
Eastern Suburbs 7 2 1 139 102 15
Northern Suburbs 6 3 1 177 108 13
RMC II 4 6 0 133 165 8
University 3 7 0 149 125 6
Militia 0 10 0 62 383 0

Leading Point Scorers 1939[edit]

Name Club Tries Goals Penalties F Goals Points
Ray RMC I 7 36 0 0 93
B Moore Eastern Suburbs 6 9 10 0 66
Tancred RMC I 17 0 0 0 51
R Harrison Northern Suburbs 3 8 7 0 46
T West RMC II 10 5 2 0 46
J Donohue University 6 7 4 0 44
W Young Northern Suburbs 3 9 4 0 39
Brooker RMC I 5 5 1 0 28
McCue University 8 0 0 0 24
R Moore Northern Suburbs 8 0 0 0 24
Denham RMC I 7 0 0 0 21
Paterson RMC II 7 0 0 0 21
Dawson RMC I 6 0 0 0 18
Denehy Northern Suburbs 6 0 0 0 18
Miles RMC I 5 1 0 0 17
Curlewis RMC II 0 1 5 0 17
F Carmody University 5 0 0 0 15
Coleman RMC I 4 0 0 0 12
Coleman RMC II 4 0 0 0 12
Jackson RMC I 4 0 0 0 12
Kelaher Northern Suburbs 4 0 0 0 12
Maloney RMC II 4 0 0 0 12
Murphy RMC II 4 0 0 0 12
Snow Eastern Suburbs 4 0 0 0 12
de Salis University 2 2 0 0 10

Canberra Cup 1939[edit]

W L F A Pts
Northern Suburbs 3 1 75 28 6
Southern Monaro 3 1 56 30 6
Eastern Suburbs 3 1 36 26 6
University 1 3 48 35 2
Militia 0 4 22 116 0





















































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