2020 JR Henderson Shield GF: Meet the Teams – Sydney University

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Sydney University 3rd Grade captain for the day Jack Stanford looks ahead to
tomorrow’s JR Henderson Shield grand final rematch against Gordon,
and takes us through the Students 24-man extended squad…

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There have been many challenges for every one of the Shute Shield clubs in 2020 as they have had to respond to the circumstances created by coronavirus. The challenge for our 3rd Grade side presented itself long before Covid had reached our shores though. It was late August 2019, as Gordon – yet again our opponents this weekend – celebrated a drought-breaking victory in a grade grand final. That day out at Bankwest Stadium lit a fire inside each of those Students on the field, redemption was the singular goal for 2020.

While some could see the inconsistent scheduling of the JR Henderson Shield competition as an excuse for a team to play without rhythm or cohesion, this University side has seemed to thrive in it. The feeling of love for one another in this group at the moment is palpable, and each training session and game is met with laughter and enthusiasm as it is another chance to spend time with each other. The extra bye weeks haven’t been spent away from the club either, with support for the higher grades in Newcastle, bowls days, and team dinners – with desserts, all strengthening the bond we share with each other. This connection will present itself on the field come Saturday, as we work as one unit and play for each other.

Despite our final placement on the ladder as Minor Premiers, Gordon have beaten us earlier in the year, and of course in last year’s edition of this match. They play exciting rugby, and are clinical at set-piece – not unlike ourselves. In fact, the newfound success at Gordon this year across the club is reminiscent of University a couple of decades ago. Saturday’s match should be a thrilling contest between two very evenly matched teams, a challenge which we have looked forward to for nearly 14 months.

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Most, if not all photos by AJF Photography!

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1. WILL RIDLEY: Biggest quads in Sydney rugby. Can and will crush watermelons on demand with those bad boys. A mobile prop that will look to enforce gluten-free punishment on his opponents at scrum time.

2. TIM LILOMAIAVA: Master of the ‘Mounty Bop’. Tim’s favourite TV show is Twin Peaks, and he watches it every Saturday night. My favourite player in the team as he is a fellow Penrith Panther – this is our year.

3. SALESI MA’UMALANGA: The journeyman of the team, ‘Big Lesi’ has returned from a long stint in rehab to join the pack at the business end of the season. This gentle giant is dominant in the scrum with silky hands to boot.

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4. LUKE PORTER: Returning member of the 2019 3rd Grade team, and earned playing time in the top grade throughout the year. Ports will use his athleticism around the field to get through a mountain of work.

5. ZAC VON APPEN: Hulking second rower that barely speaks a word of English, but is fluent in German. Recently returned from hand surgery to add a hardened edge to our forward pack. The term gentle giant probably doesn’t come to mind.

6. LUKE RATCLIFF: An avid TikTok content creator, the one true Rat brings a youthful energy to the forward pack. His enthusiasm to get through work around the park is contagious.

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7. PATRICK CALAVASSY: The most intimidating little guy you will ever come across. This hyper-aggressive yet well behaved Catholic boy has set the tone for us all year with his fearless defence.

8. JACK STANFORD (c): Skipper for the day, and a real clean cut gentleman. The type of guy you’d want your sister to date. Speaking of which, call 0404 269 599 if you’ve got one suitable. Veteran of the SRU judicial process, happy to offer legal advice on the aforementioned hotline.

9. DANIEL CALAVASSY: The elder of the brothers, and resident comedian of the group. Similarly fearless in defence like his brother, and willing to attack from anywhere. The little terrier will be barking orders to his teammates and the referee all day.

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10. JOSH HARDIE: The puppet master at flyhalf will be guiding the team around the pitch come Saturday. In outstanding form this year, a truly well rounded player who will have a big impact on the result.

11. MAX ROBSON: The man is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Despite playing with him all year I have very little idea what he is thinking at any given time. Can play though.

12. JOE SCHWAGER: ‘Jezero’ is the teams biggest Blink-182 fan, and can often be found belting out ‘I Miss You’. A must have on any overseas tour, Joe has many a tale to tell about his time overseas. Arigato gozaimasu.

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13. DANIEL POLETTO: The team veterinarian, DP is the level head in the backline that is equally dangerous in attack and defence. Another member of last year’s squad, Dan will be out for redemption.

14. BEN BULL: Genuinely a member of the Auckland softball hall of fame. ‘Bully’ is one of the great men that teams are built on, his positivity in nature and in play have been an integral part of our connection this year.

15. SAM RENTON: a.k.a. ‘The Sherminator’ for his prowess on the dating scene, Sam has long been known as a rocks or diamonds type footballer. Consistently inconsistent, nobody really knows what makes this guy tick. Assistant coach Ryan Burge has been working closely with Sam on left to right passing since last season.

Replacements:

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16. CONNOR GRINDAL: Versatile workhorse that can cover both the backrow and the hooker position. Strong as an ox, with the brains to match.

17. TOM RHODES: Despite being a smelly Englishman, Rhodesy is a decent footballer who channels his heritage at scrum time. Sells bikes in Bondi, and is your go-to man for any mobility exercise issues.

18. ALEX MASIMA: Big ‘Mas’ can only be seen without a smile on his face at one time – fitness. The big fella was born to scrum, and will look to turn the screws when he enters the match.

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19. GEORGE LEHMANN: Our captain for most of the season will start from the bench, and look to add some energy to the match. His composure and sound leadership was crucial to the success of the team during the regular season. He and team mascot Leslie will lead the charge for the end of season celebrations.

20. DARCY PAGE: Another quiet achiever that can and will do the sh*tters. Mobile, effective at the set-piece, and constantly improving.

21. SYDNEY MALIFA: ‘Wiz Malifa’ has featured throughout the year for us, and his size and strength through contact is always a handful for the opposition.

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22. HAYDEN POMARE: Colt halfback who will play with no fear. Can get rid of a vodka cruiser as efficiently as he does a ball from the breakdown.

23. ALEX SIMSON: A real talent hailing from the true blue town of Quirindi. Simmo has continued his red hot form from his years in the colts program and could be an x-factor off the pine. Fun fact: completes the cryptic crossword every Sunday.

24. HARRY ARMOUR: This big lump of a lad is still Colts age but has been somewhat of a Mr. Fix-It across the grades this year, having featured in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. Eager to learn and improve, he has a bright future and will look to add some punch if required.

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