2022 Shute Shield GF: Meet the Teams – Sydney University

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Sydney University prop Charlie Hancock takes us through the Students’ 23-man matchday squad
for tomorrow’s Shute Shield grand final showdown against Gordon…

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Most, if not all photos by AJF Photography!

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1. CHARLIE HANCOCK: ‘Lorax’ is one of 1st Grade’s favourite characters, comfortably holding down a mortgage on the loosehead jersey this year and deservedly being recognised as the inaugural ‘Dick Tooff’ recipient for the Member’s Choice Player of the Year. The Beirut native is a proud alumnus of the Joe Horn-Smith front row club and has excelled at all things set-piece thanks to his intimate relationship with Mark Bakewell. Charlie’s commitment to strength and conditioning has also been impressive, with a strict vape regiment and fortnightly de-load schedule ensuring he will be at peak fitness come September 3rd.

2. CIARAN LOH: ‘Panda’ has had a real breakout year, with his accurate lineout throw and ferocious tackling making him one of Uni’s most valuable players and attracting the attention of professional teams in Australia and abroad. He is thrilled to have featured in 20 1st grade games in 2022, after only managing nine games in the last four years due to a string of Uber Eats-related injuries. A diligent student of civil engineering, Ciaran often looks for practical experience in the construction sector by offering pro-bono renovations to his friends’ houses. At this stage his expertise mainly centres around the removal of doors.

3. SAM TALAKAI: Sam rejoined the Students midway through the year for the first time since 2013, following successful stints with the Reds, Rebels and Suntory Sungoliath. With all this experience, Sam’s destructive scrummaging and leadership were no surprise to the group, but few expected him to have such silky ball skills, electric footwork, and tactical kicking nous. This lethal versatility has seen the big fella compared to Rabbitohs legend Shaq Mitchell.

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4. LUKE RATCLIFF: An angry Welshman whose physicality and work ethic have made him a core member of the 1st Grade squad over the last two years. This is an impressive feat considering his general lack of athleticism and the fact that his knees are made from custard. ‘Ratty’ is also the proud owner of the biggest arse on the eastern seaboard, which he frequently flaunts to garner engagement on his budding TikTok channel.

5. ZAC VON APPEN: The big German won a Premiership with 1st Colts in 2016 before spending some time in the rugby wilderness as he rowed for Australia and then struggled with injuries. He has absolutely burst back onto the scene in 2022, with his bone-crunching and abrasive defence terrifying opposition players and earning him a Waratahs contract for next year. ‘Vonny’ is a non-practicing member of the lactose intolerant community, much to the dismay of anyone within a 100 metre radius of his house.

6. ROHAN O’REGAN: A product of the SUFC juniors program, Rohan’s exceptional leadership took Uni to Shute Shield Premierships in both 2018 and 2019. Upon his mid-season return from San Diego, the rock-hard synthetic MLR pitches had taken a toll on Rohan’s joints and ability to move freely. This saw some unkind colts players calling him ‘Old Man O’Regan’. The doubters were soon silenced as he displayed his set-piece wizardry and some of the best hitting in the Shute Shield, again becoming an essential part of Uni’s Premiership campaign.

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7. JACK McCALMAN (c): When the club lost almost a full 1st Grade team and the whole coaching staff to professional teams at the end of 2021, Dog’s leadership played an instrumental role in ensuring the club’s culture and standards flowed through to the new group. Always one to lead by example, Jack has earned the squad’s respect through his relentless and tenacious approach to every game. Not only was he the third highest sternum tackler in the Shute Shield this year, he was the 4th leading try-scorer and runner up in the Ken Catchpole Medal.

8. MITCH WHITELEY: A dynamic and illustrious backrower hailing from the Central West of New South Wales, Mitch is a proud Indigenous Australian and a real cultural leader at the club. Having been part of the 2019 Shute Shield Premiership, Mitch’s old head has been a constant source of guidance for our young playing group through the season. As a mover and shaker in the commercial real estate sector, Mitch occasionally goes to work when he has time between golf days, long lunches and boat parties.

9. HENRY ROBERTSON: Robbo is a supremely talented playmaker who can strike from anywhere on the field with his bullet pass and incisive running game. His attacking prowess and dominant defence has been rewarded with a Western Force contract for next year. Most impressive however, is his ability to perform at such a high level while also engaged in a full scale domestic with his on-again, off-again bromance partner Eddie Poolman during games. The two have argued about everything – from which move to run, to whose fault that last penalty was, and who looks more stupid wearing a hat to training at 8pm at night…when it’s dark.

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10. BEN HUGHES: The former club captain has been with SUFC since 2013. Hughesie is a picture of hard work and perseverance, having had multiple injury set-backs and played for extended periods in lower grades. Ben starred in the 2019 Premiership, before spending a couple of seasons in Japan with former SUFC coach Rob Taylor. The only thing better than watching him carve up defences on a Saturday, is listening to him and his brothers tear up the stage with the guitar and mic on a Saturday night.

11. WILL GODDARD: A proud Canberran, Goddsy rose to fame after kicking the ACT to a National Schoolboy Championship in 2017. Since moving to Sydney to study Commerce he has been a huge asset to SUFC, filling in almost every backline position across multiple grades. Yet another player who had a breakout year in 2022, his booming left boot and sharp decision making have earned him a contract with the Irish 7s team. A deeply spiritual person, Goddsy’s weekly pre-footy routine involves charging his crystals to ensure his chakras are aligned, and consulting tarot cards for some insight into the upcoming game.

12. EDDIE POOLMAN: With such a direct and abrasive style of play, it is easy to see how Eddie earned the nickname ‘Latrell’. The law student has diligently worked his way through the ranks at SUFC, having featured in Premierships with 1st Colts in 2019 and 2nd Grade in 2020 before becoming one of 1st Grade’s best players. While his on-field play would not be described as elusive, the man is impossible to get a hold of on a night out and is widely known for his Harold Holt-esque disappearing act. Despite this tendency, ‘Trell’ remains an extremely popular teammate and a leader among the group.

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13. TOM ENGLISH: Bringing almost 100 Super Rugby caps of experience, Engo’s bustling ball running has added a lot of potency to the Uni backline since his mid-season return from Japan. A down to earth bloke and great leader, his return to the Students has been seamless, except for a slight struggle with the game day dress code – opting to dress like a dance teacher from Newtown Public School instead of the traditional jeans and SUFC polo.

14. ANGUS BELL: A ball of excitement and energy, whose ever-threatening attacking presence and impressive stamina has taken him up to the national 7s team. 2022 saw Belly really develop his defensive skills, with this season’s highlights including crucial breakdown turnovers and arguably the biggest shot of the season on now-Wallabies backrower Langi Gleeson. Belly is a very popular member of the group and spent this year living with Charlie Hancock, Luke Ratcliff and Zac Von Appen – until he made the brave decision to become a full-time live-in personal assistant to his girlfriend.

15. TIM CLEMENTS: A huge boost for the playing group after returning from the national 7s team mid-season. An out-and-out fullback, his vision, toughness and work rate are exactly what you need from the man in charge at the back. Timmy is a very vocal and intense player, often heard barking orders and constructive criticism at members of the backline who don’t share his creative vision. Off-field however, he is surprisingly chill and spends a lot of his time collecting ornate vases and drinking herbal tea.

Replacements:

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16. PAT O’DOHERTY: A natural leader and club stalwart, ‘Big Dohey’ served as both club captain and 2nd Grade captain in 2022 and will be fondly remembered for organising the first SUFC players’ ball since 2017. Pat is a relentless and tough competitor who makes all the players around him better, and has even earned the nickname ‘Workhorse’ for the enthusiasm with which he pursues repeat efforts on and off the field.

17. TOM LAMBERT: Rejoined the Students mid-season having signed with the Waratahs from Glasgow Warriors. ‘Lambo’ is a dynamic and powerful prop whose impact in the back end of games has been very important in clenching close victories throughout the year. He is also one of the rarest blokes you could ever hope to meet, often seen perfecting his cartwheel when he gets bored in team meetings and studying the sexual habits of owls and other nocturnal bird species.

18. DARCY BREEN: ‘The Sergeant’ is an ultra-consistent scrummager with a big engine. Breeny’s unwavering enthusiasm to do the tough jobs without complaining makes him a pleasure to play with. The only thing that ever seems to upset the big man is quick taps from scrum penalties – this faux pas saw Henry Robertson receive an all-time spray against Newcastle. Away from football, Breeny studies economics, is a nationally ranked Call of Duty player, and spends the remainder of his free time discussing geopolitics and astrophysics with lower grade hard man Tom Fenwicke.

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19. MITCH RYAN: Big ‘Mutch’ is an excellent aerial athlete who has had a very interesting path to the 2022 grand final. Having grown up in NZ, Mitch spent some time as an international rookie with the Melbourne Demons in the AFL, before returning to NZ to play in the ITM Cup, and then finally coming to Sydney to work as a specialist cancer nurse at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. While his year has been interrupted by a persistent back injury, he has brought a wealth of set-piece knowledge to the group and will show his fiercely competitive edge in the big dance.

20. HUGH BOKENHAM: Young ‘Bok-choi’ (emphasis on the “oi”) hails from the inner-suburbs of Bathurst and is a proud alumnus of St Joseph’s College. Hugh has exceeded expectations this year, not only filling the boots left by former backrower Nick De Crespigny, but also demonstrating you can simultaneously be an abrasive, hard hitting #6 and not a moron. At the ripe old age of 21, Bok has a huge career ahead of him, and will be an important part of the club’s future for as long as we have him.

21. BANJO TRAVERS: A supreme athlete with threatening pace and skills who has been a key contributor to 1st Grade’s successes over the past five years. A very classy halfback, he would undoubtedly be starting if he hadn’t decided to date the captain’s sister. When he is not mingling at McCalman family events, Banjo procures coffee and dinner reservations for stockbrokers in the city. It speaks volumes that former SUFC village idiot Nick De Crespigny previously held the same position.

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22. LEWIS HOLLAND: Boasting dual-Olympic experience and a wealth of rugby knowledge, the Queanbeyan local has been a very handy addition to the 1st Grade squad in 2022. Despite playing and living in the big smoke, Lewis makes an effort to dress like a North Queensland townie, often head-to-toe in flannelette material and sporting Ringers Western apparel (sponsored). Lewis is a great man and will be sure to donate his next pay check directly to Bundy Rum should the Students get a win this weekend.

23. HENRY CLUNIES-ROSS: The Cinderella story of the 2022 season. ‘Daddsy’ overcame a flesh-eating infection from a corner post in 2019, only to suffer another life-threatening injury when he ruptured his spleen against Eastwood earlier this year. Doctors advised him to never play rugby again, but the ever-optimistic stalwart promptly found new doctors and was cleared to play in last week’s 2nd Grade semi-final. That paved the way for ‘Daddsy’ to make a miraculous return to the Shute Shield grand final stage, where he has previously starred in 2018 and 2019. While the injury has limited his typical on-field leadership in 2022, he continues to act as a mentor for younger members of the squad, taking a keen interest in their off-field proclivities.

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