The Australian Schoolboys rugby union team is considered to be the culmination of schoolboy rugby in Australia. In its forty year history Australian Schoolboys have provided over 160 Wallabies and countless State & Super Rugby players.
In September/October of last year, 22 players were selected in the Australian Schoolboys team to take part in the Macquarie Bank Schools Tri-Nations series. The Series which was played at Sydney’s Knox Grammer School, saw both the Australian Schoolboys & Australia A Sides defeat Fiji. Unfortunately they just missed out on the Tri Nations victory losing to New Zealand by one point.
To view the full list of players in the Australian Schools Team and the Australia A Team who played in the Tri-Nations Series against New Zealand & Fiji click on the link http://austschools.rugbynet.com.au/default.asp?id=202000
Following the Tri-Nations series 30 players aged between 16 and 18, were selected from the Australian Schoolboys and Australia A sides to play rugby in the UK and Ireland in a Grand Slam Tour in December 2013.
Occurring once every four years, The Australian Schoolboys Tour to the UK and Ireland dates back to 1973. The 2013 Macquarie Bank Australian Schools Rugby Team spent a month overseas and played eight games of which they won 4.
Results are as follows:
Neath defeated Australian Schoolboys 18 – 15
Wales (U18) defeated Australian Schoolboys 26- 12
Australian Schoolboys defeated Ospreys (U18) 31-7
England (U18) defeated Australian Schoolboys 23-3
Australian Schoolboys defeated Scotland (U18) 29-5
Leinster defeated Australian Schoolboys 27-17
Australian Schoolboys defeated Ireland 14-8
Australian Schoolboys defeated Munster 16-13
Ned Hanigan of Coonamble and a proud “Joe Boy” (St Joseph’s College NSW) earned the privilege to wear the Number 5 Jersey and play Lock for the team. Here is my interview with Ned, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
(Walgett District News – WDN) How proud were your parents and extended family including your Grandfather Ray Gibson (of Walgett) to hear you had made the Gulliver Sport’s Travel Australian School’s Side and then the Macquarie Bank Australian School’s Squad?
(Ned Hanigan – NED) I guess you would have to ask them but I know it was pop’s second time down to Sydney when he came and watched me so that was a special moment. My uncle Terry, cousin Nick, family and friends all made the trip down to see me play in the tri-nations series.
(WDN) There seemed to be a lot of preparation, a lot of training sessions, What specifically did the team do to prepare for the mental and physical demands?
(NED) Mentally I think we were all ready, at 18 years of age (some younger) playing for your country, wearing the green and gold, that’s all the motivation you need. Of course we had team meetings and one to one talks with coaches where we would completely concentrate on the mental aspect of our game. Many of these things wouldn’t mean much to a person on the sideline but when someone like our Captain Jack Macallum (The Kings School/GPS) or Vice Captain Andrew Kellaway (The Scots College/GPS) said certain things we all knew what was expected. Physically it was harder, access to gyms wasn’t always an option but we had many field sessions that specifically looked at team performance and team continuity; team walk throughs, forwards and backs sessions etc. were always taking place.
(WDN) On Day 14 you had your first win of the tour against Osprey’s Under 18s how did that affect the team and the rest of the tour?
(NED) It was good to get that win because we had gotten off to a shaky start. Although we were disappointed after losing to Wales we all responded positively and knew that we had to win against Ospreys leading into the England test to create a winning culture and positive vibe.
(WDN) The ARU diary often mentioned the scathing weather, the freezing cold, snow and the strong winds how physically demanding was playing in these conditions?
(NED) The weather over there was predicted to be arctic gales and torrential rain. When we all got off [the plane] at Heathrow the main heading in the local newspaper read ‘Icy 70 mph gales to bring chaos’ so we all thought we were in for it, but honestly we were lucky. I feel pretty confident in saying we didn’t play in rain until Ireland which was the last test so we were way over due by that time – it was always freezing cold though! Physically I think we got used to it early on in Wales and England. As the tour went on everybody just ‘signed on’ and forgot about the weather which is why towards the latter end of the tour we started playing better, after all it’s the same ball and same rules no matter where you are playing.
(WDN) I hear that the team all participated in Secret Santa while you were on tour, dare I ask what your Secret Santa present from the tour was and did you find out who it was from?
(NED) Secret Santa was an amusing experience to say the least. I was always running short of jocks overseas so Vunipola Fifita (Newington/GPS) decided to buy me some, they were about 10 sizes to small, ‘it’s the thought that counts’ he said as he gave them to me and laughed!
(WDN) The Australian School Boys Tour to the UK and Ireland is played every 4 years, What did being chosen mean to you? What will you take away from the experience?
(NED) Firstly I thank my parents for having me in the right year, very well timed. As a youngster growing up you look up to those who play in the green and gold so having the opportunity to represent your country is indescribable. I was shocked and lost for words at the beginning but now that it’s all over I hold the experiences I have had very close to me. There are so many things I will take away from the tour, but for me personally it was being away for 5 weeks with a bunch of blokes that you have only just met and knowing on and off the field they had your back. Rugby is funny like that, it brings people together and forces them to stick up for one another which is why I love it.
(WDN) On Day 24 against Leinster Under 18’s in Donnybrook Dublin you scored your first try of the tour, How did you feel?
(NED) I can’t deny that I was over the moon when I scored; but in saying that we did lose the match (27-17) and it goes to show that a team won’t win unless everyone is on board and unfortunately that day we weren’t.
(WDN) Sitting at Millennium Stadium surrounded by screaming singing die hard Cardiff rugby fans what was it like to watch the Wallabies defeat Wales?
(NED) One word, insane!!! If there is one thing that the Welsh know how to do it’s watch rugby. I swear the entire country of Wales were either at the stadium, outside or in a pub nearby. They just burst out singing songs like ‘Hey Jude’ before the match and the sheer emotion and energy just keeps building and when the welsh rugby team runs out the noise is deafening. It was one of the highlights of the tour watching the Wallabies beat Wales in such a good match.
(WDN) I found an old 2008 St Joseph’s College Newsletter that has an excerpt from a speech you gave in your first week as a full boarder at Joeys. Part of the speech I feel is quite poignant is when you say [‘When they introduced the Firsts tennis and everyone started to cheer the roof went flying off the top of the hall! It got louder and louder – it was incredible! I thought, “I can’t wait until I can walk down the middle like that – I hope I can one day!”] Do you feel you have experienced that moment and was it everything your Year 7 self thought it would be?
(NED) I have experienced it now although my year 7 self could not prepare me for what it felt like, there’s nothing else like it, each time I walked down the centre (of the assembly) it was always the same, the sheer emotion thrives inside of you.
(WDN) It has to be noted that a number of Wallabies including Tim Horan, Michael Lynagh, Jason Little, Phil Waugh, David Pocock & Christian Leali’ifano all started their international rugby careers as Australian Schoolboys. After this experience do you think playing in the green and gold is an achievable goal? Out of the whole side who would you tip to be playing for Australia in a few years?
(NED) Things can very easily go wrong in rugby, it’s a contact sport and injuries are far too common so it’s easy to get any injury that rules you out of playing forever or when you return it’s never 100%, so looking too far forward can be dangerous. I’m just playing rugby down here in Sydney and concentrating on that at the moment. Everyone in the side is equally able to go further in their rugby careers but again in time people can get injuries and younger boys can grow so much in the years after school so it will be interesting to see what happens.
(WDN) In the lead up to and over the course of the tour you encountered some pretty successful and influential people including your coach Steve Phillpott and assistant coach Tim Rapp, Lian Gill all former Australian Schoolboy Representatives. Ex-Wallaby Michael Lynagh spoke to you about his Australian Schools Tour in 1981/82, did any of them leave you with some advice for the future, rugby or life related?
(NED) Our coaches were second to none and always supported each individual player on a personal level. As a team collectively we had themes that were our focus; for example in the tri-nations series we looked at the ‘opportunity’ that we had been given and for the tour a theme of ‘stronger’ was the focus. Our coaches made us realise and learn that we had been given and opportunity and from this we grew stronger in many aspects on and off the field.
Michael Lynagh, considering what the man has done for Australian Rugby, was one of the most humbled men I have ever spoken to. After he presented the jersey’s we could go and talk to him and I don’t think we even spoke about rugby. He did say in his speech that he remembers his days on tour and told us to cherish moments like these forever and I think after finishing the tour, now I can understand what he meant.
(WDN) After 6 years at St Joseph’s College in Hunters Hill, what have you got planned for the next chapter of your life?
(NED) This year I’m playing for Randwick and going to UNSW, staying at Goldstein college and at the moment I’m training with the Waratahs U20’s. I’m working for Gai Waterhouse as a stable hand and handler for her horses (something to remind me of home a little more.)
To view the full list of players in the Macquarie Bank Australian Schools Squad who toured the United Kingdom and Ireland click on the link http://www.rugby.com.au/tryrugby/News/NewsArticle/tabid/1760/ArticleID/10555/Default.aspx