Written by Stuart McLennan
Photo by Morgan Hain
The University of Canberra (UC) rugby league club’s journey has taken a twist and a turn as the team prepares to play their first match of the season on Saturday 25 July.
The UC ‘Stars’ (previously the Grizzlies) will act as the Canberra Raiders Under 20s reserve grade side in the revamped 2020 Canberra Region Rugby League (CRRL) Cup.
Following the withdrawal of a number of clubs this season, an opportunity arose for UC to step up and also help the young Raiders gaining much needed match practice. It will be a four team competition with Woden Valley Rams, Gungahlin Bulls and Queanbeyan Blues the other contenders.
UC Stars President Dylan Barton told Everything Rugby League the developments will ultimately have a positive effect on the club.
“Dropping the Grizzly name was always going to be a hard decision. There is a lot of history and some great memories among all of the Grizzly Old Boys. However for progression of the club, staying with UC and changing the name to the Stars was crucial. We have already seen the benefits this year, without the support of UC there would have been no way we would have been able to get onto the paddock.
“Following the Raiders 20’s should be a good experience for us. It might give some of our players and staff an opportunity to see how those at the top level prepare before a game.”
Head Coach Matt Cox who is in his second season with UC believes the club has been “energised” by having new faces at training and the movement to the top division.
“I think we all needed a little change, but maybe not as much that Covid-19 has given us!
“I am however a big believer in embracing that change and working hard. I was very proud of the playing group last year in the George Tooke, however with unlimited interchange and seven players allowed on the bench our side often had only two reserves, and as a result we often faded late through fatigue, but we were always skilful and competitive.
“We won’t have that problem this year. Good recruitment drives by the Committee (and the current players) means we have depth and therefore fatigue should not be an issue.
“I am not concerned with the perceived step up in tiers. We have a great blend of experienced players and youthful enthusiasm. The George Tooke is a tough country competition against solid well established footy teams; which has hardened our core playing group. This should not be underestimated and they are hungry for success.
“Knowing that, we were more than happy to assist the Canberra Region Rugby League, working closely with the team at Raiders HQ – to ensure a viable competition continues across all grades, this year. “
Hooker and captain Jacob ‘Cob’ Howard says it’s the playing group that makes the club he has played for since 2017 such a great place to be. .
“It’s a really good group of boys from all around Canberra, not just uni students, that all put in for each other. And for a side that hasn’t had the greatest success in the last few years I’ve never seen them give up or lose effort, they all keep trying until the end.”
The UC Stars will field a men’s team, a ladies league tag side and a combined women’s tackle team with the Tuggeranong Buffaloes in 2020.
The UC Stars ladies league tag team will also move to the top tier competition after making the finals last year.
Coach Bulou ‘B’ Baravilal is extremely happy with the bunch of girls she will coach and play alongside.
“The team is full of fresh new faces and so much talent. I think given the current circumstances with COVID, we have an opportunity to develop a bit of club culture.
“I’m hoping we can build that club culture and nurture that for future seasons. This year is all about ripping in and having abit of fun!”
Matt Cox has clear and ambitious goals for the men’s team this year.
“My goals are for this playing group to win the competition, raise the profile of UC Stars and bond players, officials and supporters alike – to ensure sustained growth. We definitely have the team to do well, and I can’t wait for Round 1.”.
Howard is adamant this will be a successful season for the Stars, sounding a warning to opposition teams.
“We are coming, I’m telling you. A very new look team with a lot of tough strong players, combined with a smart spine. We look good this year,” the captain said.
The UC Stars are keen to attract player sponsors in 2020. If you are interested please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Stalwart and founding ‘Grizzly’ Dave ‘Tizzle’ Turner has returned to UC after a few years playing in Sydney. He provided the timeline below for Everything Rugby League.
2009 -The ANU Grizzlies are born after Facebook banter with members of the UC Cows leads to the Grizzlies playing their first ever match against the Cows reserve grade team. The popular annual Uni of Origin event between the two Canberra institutions is launched.
2010 – The ANU Grizzlies enter the NSW Tertiary League second division, the Bill Buckley Memorial Trophy and make the finals.
2011- The ANU Grizzlies make the NSW Tertiary League reserve grade final and go down to UTS-Balmain. The UC Cows finish the regular season as minor premiers.
2012 – 2013 – The Grizzlies and Cows play in the tertiary league, however the UC Cows fold in the 12-13 off-season due to financial issues.
2014- The Grizzlies continue to play in the tertiary league in what was to be their last season under the ANU banner.
2015 – The relocated UC Grizzlies are promoted to first grade level of the tertiary league and finish 4th.
2016 – The UC Grizzlies return to the reserve grade competition and win the premiership. A historic moment for the club.
2017-2019 – The UC Grizzlies leave the tertiary league and enter the Canberra Region Rugby League second division competition known as the George Tooke Shield. The ladies league tag team commences.
2020 – The UC Grizzlies change their name to the UC Stars to align with university branding and agree to play in the CRRL Cup as the reserve grade team for the Raiders under 20s.