Victorian Rugby Union

Not to be confused with Victorian Rugby League.
Victorian Rugby Union
Sport Rugby union


(Melbourne R.U.)
refounded VRU
1893, 1909, 1926
ARU affiliation


(founding member)

The Victorian Rugby Union, or VRU, is the governing body for the sport of rugby union within the state of Victoria in Australia. It is a member and founding union of the Australian Rugby Union.

The VRU manages competitions for males and females in several age groups and divisions, and involving clubs from metropolitan Melbourne, regional Victoria, and Deniliquin in New South Wales.[1]

Rugby union was founded in Melbourne in 1888, but competition lapsed and was twice re-established during the first twenty years, and again after WWI when the present body of the Victorian Rugby Union was founded in 1926.[2]


The Melbourne Rugby Union was founded in 1888 and the first two clubs were founded in that year.[2] Later that season, a Victorian team was selected to play the British side known then as the "English Footballers" but now recognised as the First British Lions team.[3] The visitors won the match, 9-3. Melbourne's club competition ceased in 1890 but a new administrative body, the Victorian Rugby Union, was formed in 1893. The Victorians played their first inter-colonial rugby match in 1894, beating South Wales by 3-0 at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Competition lapsed again after the Victorians were defeated 30-0 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) by the second Lions in 1899, but the Victorian Rugby Union was re-formed in 1908. Victoria went down 26-6 at the MCG in August of that year to what were soon to be known as the First Wallabies, who were then en route to Great Britain. Of the seven clubs comprising the new Union in 1909, Melbourne, East Melbourne, South Melbourne and University were the first to compete for the Dewar Shield, a trophy which is still awarded today to the premier first grade team. Competition ceased during WW1 and recommenced under the present Union in 1926, ushering in what were later to be called the Golden Years of Victorian Rugby and which included the selection of the first Victorian-born player to represent Australia, Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop, in 1932.

To date, Victoria has produced one Wallaby captain – Dave Cowper. In 1939/1940 four Victorian players were selected in the Wallaby side to tour Europe: Andy Barr, Max Carpenter, Stan Bisset and George Pearson. In 1958, the first test match in Victoria was staged at Olympic Park Stadium. The Maoris defeated the Wallabies 13–6.

Current Victorian Competition

Victoria currently boasts twenty-five Senior rugby clubs. Senior player numbers have grown from 1400 in 1998 to well over 2200 in 2012. Teams in the competition have grown from 4 in 1909 to 173 in 2013.

There are currently 7 Women's teams competing in the VRU competition.

The nine teams that play for the Shield in the domestic Premier 1 Division are:

The Melbourne Rebels

For an in-depth description of their SANZAR bids see:Melbourne Rebels

The Union un-successfully bidded the fourth Australian Super 14 licence, which eventually went to the Western Force. The NSWRU gave up a fourth franchise for the Australian Rugby Championship that allowed the VRU to field the Melbourne Rebels in that competition.

In November 2009, SANZAR announced that Australia had won the 15th Super rugby franchise, and the ARU awarded the licence to the Melbourne Rebels consortium led by media magnate Harold Mitchell. The VRU did not own or run the Melbourne Rebels, however on 27 June 2013, the Rebels announced that foundation shareholders Harold Mitchell AC, Bob Dalziel, Lyndsey Cattermole, Alan Winney, Ralph D'Silva, Gary Gray, Paul Kirk, Leon L'Huillier, David Ogilvy and Michael Bartlett had signed a term sheet dealing with the 100% transfer of their shares to the Victorian Rugby Union.

As part of the transfer of ownership, Melbourne Rebels Chairman Harold Mitchell AC passed on his legacy to new Chairman, Mr Jonathan Ling.

The two organizations combined operations as a result of the transfer with Ross Oakley concluding his tenure as CEO of the VRU once the transfer was made. Rebels CEO Rob Clarke took responsibility for both organizations. The Rebels appointed Peter Leahy as General Manager of Community Rugby to oversee the operations of local competitions and all Victorian Community Rugby activities.

See also


  1. "VRU Referee Appointments for 19th May 2012" (PDF). 18 May 2012. Archived from the original on 9 June 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  2. 1 2 "About VRU". Archived from the original on 18 January 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  3. "IRB Hall of Fame 2013 Induction: "The British & Irish Lions and Australia"" (PDF) (Press release). International Rugby Board. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
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