‘I started crying’: History being made at Shepparton Rugby Union Club
In an AFL-centric town like Shepparton, smaller sporting codes can at times be overlooked.
That much is clear to people such as Talala Toleafoa and Jacqueline Henry, who, among many other roles, are in charge of co-ordinating the senior and junior teams at the Shepparton Rugby Union Club.
The club is in rare air this year; for the first time in the Bulls’ 11-year history, there are enough numbers for four teams across the club’s junior and senior age groups.
It’s all being done without functioning clubrooms, which are currently under construction as part of a Greater Shepparton City Council revamp at Vibert Reserve.
“It’s a bit of history at the club this year, we’ve fielded four teams for the first time, two seniors and two junior teams, when we’ve previously just had a senior side,” Toleafoa said.
“We’re doing it all with our clubrooms still under construction, we’re operating out of marquees and shipping containers, which we’ve had to use as our changing rooms.
“It’s been very challenging.”
As the club’s pandemic recovery continues, junior co-ordinator Henry says the club’s focus on building a positive, welcoming sporting culture for all ages had certainly helped during challenging times.
“It’s important to us to give all kids the opportunity to play a sport that they haven’t tried before,” she said.
“It’s a big thing for us to be welcoming, and before the kids went out for their very first game, we said that even though we might not win today, we’d already won because we’d gone in with heart.
“When they scored their first try, I just started crying, it just means so much to these kids.”
Toleafoa says the club’s volunteers are to thank for its growth, with work from a dedicated few helping the club develop in ways many didn’t think possible.
“We have lots of parent volunteers who have been doing a lot of hard work in reaching out to friends and family to get more and more people involved; we’re building a small community,” she said.
“We do it because we love it, we wouldn’t be able to do it without our volunteers,” Henry said.
After the first four rounds, the club has plenty to smile about on and off the field.
The Bulls’ premiership first XV, competing in Rugby Victoria’s Premiership competition, has recorded one win and one loss, kicking off the season with an emphatic 29-7 victory over Geelong.
The reserves are the team to beat in their division — top of the ladder and undefeated after three outstanding wins.
The under-10s and 13s outfits enjoyed games against Casey Demons last weekend — the under-10s playing tackle rugby for the very first time.
The juniors will hit the road for games against Endeavour Hills this Saturday, while the seniors are back at home, with the reserves to kick off at 1.35pm and the firsts at 3.15pm, with both matches at Vibert Reserve.