Its deja vu for St Alberts Rugby Club this weekend, as they head into semi-final football in Armidale.
Albies are boasting sides in all four grades and while it hasn’t been the dream season, its the results that matter.
“To see everyone’s hard work play off throughout the season and the extras people have put in the, the one percenters, to get the result of where we are now in the major finals, we couldn’t be happier or want any more at this stage.” said Hugh McCormack, President St Alberts Rugby Club.
While the turnover of university students is the nature of a college side, club culture remains strong.
“We have always instilled our players as soon as you step over that white line, you’re all equal, there is no difference whether you are on the committee of the rugby club or you’re a first year.”
“If that first year is in the position of authority on the field, like a five-eight, you can go and tell the fifth or the fourth-year front rower to get out of the way because the ball needs to be distributed at the back.”
“It reflects those changes of the Rugby Club over the years, becoming a one synced unit.”
Saturday’s major semi-final sees reigning premiers in Albies first grade men’s and women’s vying for a spot to defend their title as they host a resurgent Barbarians and Barbettes at UNE’s Bellevue Rugby Park.
Barbarians will be looking to overcome the loss of Jack Armytage through suspension with the return of Josh Clark to the starting line-up, who will complement the promising Darcy Booth, Ed Pitt and Paea Taulanga.
Albies, on the other hand, will be well rested and at full strength with big games expected from Hamish Brown and Tom McCormack up front, allowing Matt Peterson to dictate the game from 10.
“Barbarians were the only team to put one over us in first grade, we won two and they won one, so it will be tough.” Said Hugh.
Meanwhile, rivalry will resume with the women’s side in what will no doubt be a strong physical encounter and with plenty of points on the board.
The Barbettes will look to Skye Gordon-Briggs to lead them around, while Albies Claire Harpley will be primed for a huge game.
“With the women’s, it has been fairly even, we have won two and they have won one so it will be another tight game.” said Hugh.
But it’s the Second-Grade game which has been deemed the one to watch, when Albies take on Tamworth.
“Our seconds had an undefeated season last year and came away with the grand final win, but it has not been the same story this year.” Said Hugh.
“We have had about seven or eight injuries in our second grade team throughout the season, all out of action at the one time.”
“Tamworth has pipped us at the top of the table at the end of the regulation season, so this is definitely going to be the one to watch.”
“Barry Bowrey, playing hooker, has lead the team around very well and has been playing great footy holding it down in the middle, and young Lachlan McGufficke is a first year 19 year old fella who has stepped into the side, into number eight, and he has really made his mark in the club.”
Thirds will see another Allbies Tamworth face-off for a straight run to the grand final.
“In the two times our third-grade team have met Tamworth they have managed the win and its always a good competition.” said Hugh.
“They seem to match us with the pace around the outside, as we match them with the physicality up the front.”
If you a looking for some footy action this weekend, look no further than New England Rugby Union’s footy finals in Armidale.
“Come down support the teams, support the zone and have a great day.” said Hugh.
All matches this weekend
Major Semi Final – Saturday 26th August Bellevue Oval UNE Armidale
3pm 1st grade – Albies V Barbarians
1.45 pm Women’s 10’s – Albies V Barbarians
12.10pm 2nd grade – Tamworth V Albies
10.40am 3rd grade – Albies V Tamworth
Minor Semi Finals – Sunday 27th August Moran Oval Armidale
3pm 1st grade – Armidale Blues V Tamworth
1.45 pm Women’s 10’s Tamworth V Glen Innes
12.10pm 2nd grade – Glen Innes V Armidale Blues
10.40am 3rd grade – Barbarians V Tenterfield