2022 JR Henderson Cup GF: Meet the Teams – Sydney University

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Sydney University 4th Grade captain Ben Carolan and lock Jack Stanford look ahead to
tomorrow’s JR Henderson Cup grand final against Randwick,
and take us through the Students 24-man extended squad…

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Whilst it is a cliché, the 2022 season has been a whole squad effort from every player that has thrown on the blue and gold jersey. As is the case with many 4th Grade teams within the Shute Shield, consistency in a starting XV can be hard to come by with injuries in higher grades and week-to-week player availability. The depth of the squad was tested throughout many stages of the season, with many boys playing out of position during certain weeks. However, consistency in the last few weeks is what holds us in good stead for the Grand Final this weekend.

A mixture of experience and youth makes up our extended squad of the Journeyman’s XV, with a few boys enjoying their last season and some running out in grade rugby for the first time this year. This is often the beauty of 4th Grade rugby, and through the guidance of Sydney Uni veterans and supercoaches Aldy King and Brandon Boumelhem, we have slowly built as the season progressed. We have faced some tough opposition and learning curves during the few losses across the season, and it is often the aftermath of these games that has allowed us to come together as a group and refocus our energy towards the end of the season.

In what has been the closest 4th Grade competition in recent memory, we understand the challenge that Randwick at Coogee Oval in a Grand Final will bring. We have not met Randwick since way back in Round Two, in what was another close contest. No doubt, both teams have come a long way since that game and it should be a tightly contested Grand Final.

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Most, if not all photos by AJF Photography!

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1. LEPANI TUIRARA: ‘Pans’ has trimmed down to career best shape for this year, and that has produced some of his career best footy. A rock in the scrum and dynamite ball carrier that will go a long way to laying the foundation for a good result this weekend. Lepani spends his Saturday mornings solving Rubik’s cubes as mental preparation for games.

2. BEN CAROLAN (c): ‘The Big Caz’, as he affectionately calls himself, will be leading the charge come Saturday afternoon. Ben’s been a fan favourite at the birthplace since he saw the light and ventured south of the Spit Bridge. Caro has a talent for calmly conversing with match officials, and is hoping this will help him ride off into the retirement sunset with Hendo this weekend.

3. AL RYAN: Last name – Muss. First name – Ala. An absolute stalwart of the club that probably joined Sydney University in the Hawke government, but no-one can be quite sure. Al’s days of fitness on Tuesday are well behind him, but his mastery of the dark arts of scrummaging more than compensate for this. Is no stranger to Grand Final highlights against Randwick – see his all-time tackle in the 2015 2nd Grade GF for reference.

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4. XAVIER LETUFUGA: You would hardly be surprised to hear Xave is an experienced personal trainer – just take a look at the fella. Not your typical second rower, with far less body fat and far better capacity to move around the field. Equally at home in the backrow, Xave doesn’t look out of place in the higher grades and is having a great season.

5. JACK STANFORD: ‘Stampy’ remains a constant within any successful finals campaign at SUFC. Stampy has the ability to turn the game on its head with some flashy ball carries, but does not shy away from the tough stuff. One of the most experienced in the team and will be invaluable in the crucial moments come Saturday.

6. GEORGE LEHMANN: ‘Derla’ brings an invaluable level of leadership to this team, having previously captained every team he’s ever played in – even the Junee Diesels in u11’s! Derl has done this year the hard way, tearing his hamstring from the bone in Round One and just making it back in time for a fairytale finals run. George won’t take a backwards step on Saturday at Coogee Oval. Or at the Coogee Bay Hotel, or at the Coogee Pavilion – or any other licensed venues in the East, that’s just the type of man he is. Can and will attack a two-course à la carte dining menu.

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7. PATRICK CALAVASSY: Hailing from the mean streets of Cairo, Patrick is the youngest of seven kids. The runt of the litter was forced to scavenge for food as a child, and this has translated into his abrasive style of football. A classic openside breakaway that will lead the charge defensively, Patrick is very fortunate that this final is being played on Saturday. If it were a Sunday fixture he would be unavailable due to a niece’s Christening.

8. JOSH SCHWAGER: ‘Schwags’ has spent most of this year like any other– in rehab. Having glued his papier mache body back together just in time to qualify for finals, he’s added a much-needed physicality to the side. Josh is a man of many talents; a connoisseur of succulent Chinese meals, an integral cog in the agricultural economy, a master organiser, and a yarn spinner of the highest calibre.

9. CAMPBELL JACKSON: Cam has played some of his best rugby in 2022, as shown by his excellent display in the first round of finals. He’s a fairly quiet achiever, but his responsibility with the kicking tee could be all-important on Saturday.

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10. ANDREAS LIVADARAS: Andreas – better known as ‘Onie’ – will be steering the ship from the flyhalf position this weekend. He’s spent time overseas honing his skills in the rugby heartland of Missouri at the prestigious Lindenwood University.

11. DIGBY COOKE: ‘Diggers’ will be manning the wing on Saturday, but don’t think that means he’s afraid of the tough stuff. A product of the Yass Rams junior academy, Digby is a classy winger with speed to burn. The token rednut in the side, he will be accustomed to the harsh critique from the Coogee Oval sideline.

12. JOE SCHWAGER: When ‘Jezero’ isn’t worrying about the state of the world or sipping Man Shakes, you’ll find him being a very attentive boyfriend. He’s an old head on young shoulders that will provide a platform for our attack with some hard, straight running.

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13. VINCENT CREAGH: Vincent the 5th recently returned to the club from a well-earned European sabbatical, and whilst featuring in some of the higher grades this year has found a home in 4th Grade. Silky skills and positivity are the hallmarks of V5’s game, and he’ll be a big feature in the University game plan come Saturday.

14. ALEX SIMSON: Quirindi’s finest has found himself a new home in leafy Paddington, but he hasn’t forgotten the qualities that made him a superstar of the country football scene before arriving at the Birthplace. Simmo is a tough player on the field, but a gentle larrikin off it. His newfound love of mahjong is threatening to derail his rugby career.

15. LOCHY MILLER: The noisiest of the XV to take the field, Lochy is another former Marlin to see the light and join the University machine. His biggest challenge on Saturday will be to silence the many voices in his head and hold the fort at the back. His intense eye contact and natural charm will set him up for success on and off the field.

Replacements:

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16. JORDAN MOUSCAS: Jordan has recently returned from a European getaway with a great tan and some questionable memories of Mykonos… He’s a mobile hooker that packs a punch in defence and will look to add some spark off the bench.

17. EZRAH AMITUANAI: ‘Eazy-E’ is a larger than life personality that has returned to the club after a couple of years in the wilderness. The time spent on the sidelines has only reinvigorated Ez’s hunger, and he’ll play a major role as a weapon off the bench on Saturday.

18. SAMUELA KOMAILEVUKA: Samu will come off the bench on Saturday and bolster the University scrum. He’s a softly spoken Fijian but don’t let that fool you, he’s capable of much destruction on the field.

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19. DARCY PAGE: Darcy remains a quiet achiever that can and will do the sh*tters. Mobile, effective at the set-piece, and still constantly improving, he’ll add a calming influence off the bench. Misses his rural roots and yearns for the days he can return to the bush.

20. WILLIE RAVOKA: Willie has been a driver of culture in the lower grades for a few years now. He’s an asset to any club and offers strong carries and lethal dummies when given the chance. Watch out for his skills and his smile to light up Coogee long into the night.

21. OLLY WHITELEY: Olly takes inspiration from the great Cliffy Lyons in more ways than one. He continues a proud family legacy at the club, and plays in the same fearless manner as his brothers. Expect Olly to add some spark off the bench.

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22. SAM RENTON: ‘Sherman’ has done a lot of maturing in 2022. He’s settled down nicely into a loving relationship and a healthy job, all while spreading his wings and finally moving out of home. Despite making some major progress in other facets of his life, ‘The Sherm’ still finds himself lacking consistency and an accurate left to right pass.

23. TOBY VIEIRA: Tobes has shown some red hot form coming in to the finals series, and is unlucky to be starting from the bench on Saturday. He’s got all the skills needed to play in higher grades, and given the opportunity will be out to showcase them.

24. DRE CHOU LEE: Dre is another quiet achiever, but contrasts his character with strong ball-carrying ability and love for an outlandish offload.

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