Australian Rugby Shield
|Australian Rugby Shield|
|Sport||Rugby Union football|
|Number of teams||8|
|Holders||NSW Country Cockatoos (2008)|
|Most titles||NSW Country Cockatoos (4 titles)|
The Australian Rugby Shield is a now-defunct rugby union football competition in Australia. It was launched in 2000 by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU). The competition was intended to unearth new talent outside of the existing rugby strongholds of Sydney and Brisbane. The competition was suspended after the 2008 season, and has thus far not been revived.
The tournament was an important step in the development of rugby union in Australia, and provided an opportunity for the ARU to identify and unearth talented players nationally. It provided regional teams and developing unions with a regular schedule to compete against each other at a higher level than would normally be possible within their individual states or territories.
Conducted under rules and regulations similar to the Super Rugby, the competition aimed to assist players, coaches, managers and referees in their professional development. It provided a pathway to full representative level including education in coaching, selecting and refereeing.
The Australian Rugby Shield was first contested in 2000, with six teams playing a single round robin over five weekends and the top two teams playing in the final. The teams in the inaugural season were the Adelaide Black Falcons, Darwin Mosquitoes, Melbourne Axemen, New South Wales Country Cockatoos, Perth Gold, and Queensland Country Heelers. The New South Wales and Queensland Country teams met in the final, played as the curtain-raiser to the Bledisloe Cup match held at Stadium Australia in front of a record rugby crowd of 109,874. Queensland Country won in an upset, 23-17.
New South Wales Country went on to win the next two titles, before Perth claimed their first Australian Rugby Shield in 2003. A first-past-the-post system was put in place in 2004, eliminating the requirement for a final. In 2006, two additional teams were added, the Tasmania Jack Jumpers and the ACT & Southern NSW Vikings team that won the Australian Rugby Shield on their first attempt. The competition was split into two pools in a three-week round robin competition with the winners and runners up in each pool progressing to the Semi Finals (27 May 2006) and cross-pool Final (3 June 2006). Contracted Super Rugby and academy players were excluded.
In 2007, the tournament reverted to a 6-team home-and-away round-robin tournament, without Perth and the Vikings. These two teams were excluded as the ARU determined that the local competitions were sufficient to foster talent for the new Australian Rugby Championship teams, the Perth Spirit and Canberra Vikings, respectively.
At the end of 2008, and citing the difficult economic environment, the ARU declared that the 2009 Australian Rugby Shield would be suspended. The involvement of the Australia A team in the Pacific Nations Cup was also cancelled.
2006 Competition semifinals and final
In the two semifinals (one between The ACT and Southern NSW Vikings and Perth Gold at Viking Park, Wanniassa the other between The NSW Country Cockatoos and The Melbourne Axemen at Harlequin Rugby Park, Ashwood) the games were both very close. Perth led the ACT & Southern NSW team 17-7 at half time before a Viking comeback saw them level the game 20-20 at full-time. During the twenty minutes of extra-time the Vikings side scored through centre Tim Cornforth and won the match 27-20. In the other match NSW Country led 16-6 at the break before Melbourne came back to be ahead 19–16 with four minutes remaining. The Cockatoos had a chance to level the game through a penalty, and thus take it into extra-time, but kicker Josh Clift missed and the Axemen made their first ever final.
In the grand final, the ACT & Southern NSW Vikings thrashed the Melbourne Axemen 36-10 in the final at Viking Park, Wanniassa. The Vikings never looked back after opening the scoring through inside centre Josh Staniforth at the three-minute mark and led 28-7 at half time. The second half saw The Vikings score their 5th try and a penalty to win the game 36-10.
The competition was broadcast on national television by the digital channel ABC2. It showcased two of the Australian Rugby Shield matches each round.
- Adelaide Black Falcons
- Canberra Vikings
- Darwin Mosquitoes
- Melbourne Axemen
- New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- Perth Gold
- Queensland Country Heelers
- Tasmania Jack Jumpers
- 2000 Queensland Country Heelers
- 2001 New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- 2002 New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- 2003 Perth Gold
- 2004 New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- 2005 Perth Gold
- 2006 ACT & Southern NSW Vikings
- 2007 Melbourne Axemen
- 2008 New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- 2009 Not played
- Australian Provincial Championship (defunct)
- Australian Rugby Championship (defunct)
- National Rugby Championship
- Super Rugby
- "Shield axing leaves Cockatoos perched high and dry". Daily Liberal. 7 January 2009. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
- "Australia A out of 2009 Pacific Nations Cup". The Roar. 18 December 2008. Archived from the original on 19 December 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- Australia A dumped from Pacific Nations Cup