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The game of Rugby and the Australian Army have a rich and deep history for over a century, but today Rugby Australia and the Australian Army have moved to make formal ties between the two iconic, national institutions.
Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle was joined by Army’s Director General of Training and Doctrine, Brigadier Ben James to sign an historic relationship intent statement at Victoria Barracks in Sydney.
They were joined by past and present Buildcorp Wallaroos squad members who currently serve in the Army including Corporal Mollie Gray, Captain Catherine Vakalahi, Captain Alisha Hewitt and Private Sarah Riordan, along with Wallaby number 575, Brigadier Bob Brown among a host of dignitaries from both sides.
The relationship intent statement is underpinned by a commitment to partner on five mutual areas of interest between the two organisations, including:
Sharing of Facilities: Mutually agreed access to facilities at various military bases in Australia, with reciprocal access to Rugby AU facilities in Sydney for the Army.
Staff Professionalisation: Developing leadership and professional skills in players, coaches and support staff.
Buildcorp Wallaroos Pathways: Management and oversight of Army and ADF Women who demonstrate potential to represent the Buildcorp Wallaroos.
Performance Under Pressure: Maximising performance of athletes and operators when it matters.
Injury Management: Information exchange on best practice in the prevention and management of injuries.
Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle said: “The connection between Rugby and our Defence Forces is steeped in over 100 years of history, and we are proud and immensely privileged to be officially joining forces with the Australian Army.
“This partnership will enable both organisations to build on the relationship between Rugby and the Army to share knowledge and resources and provide valuable support to improve performance of the athletes and operators across both of the national organisations.
“The special significance of the timing of this announcement is that it comes on the eve of the centenary of Armistice and on behalf of the Australian Rugby community we will lay a wreath at the service at Villers-Bretonneux in France on November 11,” she said.
Army’s Director General of Training and Doctrine, Brigadier Ben James said there are exciting times ahead with the partnership which offers significant benefits to both the Australian Army and Rugby Australia.
“The formalisation of the relationship between the Australian Army and Rugby Australia recognises the deep and rich history between our two national institutions in addition to our shared values of courage, initiative, respect and teamwork.”
“Our people are our competitive advantage; and it’s our people - our soldiers and our athletes - who will most benefit from the key areas we’ve elected to pursue alongside Rugby Australia through the signing of this relationship intent statement today”.
“Our Army national rugby representatives with us today provide a fantastic example of the potential both organisations might realise as we cooperate more closely on these key initiatives into the future,” he said.
An estimated 5,000 Australian Rugby players saw active service in World War I, including over 35 Wallabies – ten of whom were killed in action. A further five Wallabies were killed during the Gallipoli Campaign, and another five were subsequently killed on the Western front.
At the end of The Great War, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) commanders quickly placed emphasis on encouraging all forms of healthy sport during the immediate post-Armistice period. An Inter-Service and Dominion Forces Rugby competition – known as the “King’s Cup” was held for the first time, contested by six teams: the Australian Imperial Force, the New Zealand Army, the British Army, the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the South African Force and the Royal Air Force.
More recently, the Australian Army has had representation at the highest level through former Wallaby Brigadier Bob Brown and several former and current Wallaroos.
Rugby is the first national sport to sign a relationship intent statement with the Australian Army.