This weekend, hordes of rugby lovers will descend upon Armidale for the 2013 New England Rugby Reunion, an epic gathering of hundreds of men and women who have played rugby in the New England and those who have supported them.
The sporting aspect of the weekend will take place on Saturday October 5th with the rugby carnival which is set to involve up to 600 veteran and current players. Social events will surround the carnival, with a Welcome Wallaby Reception on Friday night, a gala ‘Mega 1980s’ function on Saturday night, and a golf and recovery day on Sunday.
Scott Williams, the man responsible for organising the massive event, said while the original idea was a small-scale get together of about thirty teammates from the 1980s, this weekend will see 14 former wallabies visiting Armidale and up to 700 people coming to the Mega 80s Party on Saturday night.
He says the response to the reunion idea has been overwhelming, driven by the passion people have for playing rugby in the New England. “People from all generations seem to have had incredibly special experiences playing rugby in this area. It’s all part of the spirit of the place and people really want to come back to play here.”
Rugby has been a fixture of the New England sporting and social calendar as far back as 1893 when Armidale defeated Tenterfield in the earliest recorded match in the region. There is a lot of history around this weekend’s events, and the teams will be literally wearing that history on their sleeves: many of the teams will don exact replicas of the jerseys they played in originally.
Players from many generations will take to the field, some of them many years after hanging up their boots. Thomas Collins, now in his eighties, will be the most seasoned player attending, having been part of the Teachers College side who won the New England Competition in 1957.
CEO of SportUNE, Dave Schmude, says that the Reunion is a highly important one for UNE, given that a large number of players returning to Armidale are past students. “This will be a wonderful opportunity for past players and supporters to relive their glory days playing rugby in the New England and for rekindling old friendships. For those players who were students at UNE it is a great opportunity for them to see changes and developments, including the new state of the art facilities at SportUNE. I wish all player and spectators a most enjoyable weekend in Armidale, and remember the winner is always Rugby!”
The weekend is open to all, and the organisers hope to see as many people in attendance as possible.
The carnival will consist of a series of tournament rounds, including a 7s competition and a women’s competition. The final match of the day will be a highlight, with the UNE 1st XV competing against a team selected from all the non-UNE teams by a pair of the visiting wallabies. The carnival on Saturday is open to all with tickets available at the gate – $5 for adults, and kids free of charge.
The Welcome Wallaby Reception on Friday night will be held at the Quality Hotel Powerhouse from 6pm, where guests will mingle with Wallabies from the New England. Tickets are limited at $40 a head, including canapés.
On Saturday, gourmet finger food will be served and live entertainment will get you dancing. The evening kicks off at 6pm at the Armidale Jockey Club. Tickets are $60.
On Sunday, golf and a recovery function will provide a more mellow mood. Guests are welcome to come and play nine holes of golf, or come just for the buffet lunch. $35 for lunch only, and $50 including the green fees.
Tickets to all the social events are available online only. They will only be available for purchase until close of business Wednesday, so get in quick!