The 2018 Dewar Shield season kicked off on Saturday 21 April, as Melbourne University Rugby Football Club (MURFC) hosted Box Hill Rugby Club at HG Smith Oval.
Since making the Grand Final in 2015, MURFC’s General Manager Jason Jones commented that the Club had been rebuilding. According to Jones, a lot of players left following the success of the 2015 season, particularly to pursue rugby abroad. This hindered the Club as the Premier Grade team fell from second in 2015, to second-last in 2016.
Jones conceded that it was a big drop, but that despite the difficulties, the Club has held great faith in its youth setup and Colts program. ‘We made a decision then to stick with our youth. We pushed players up a grade probably a year too early and then took a bit of pain, finishing mid-table in 2016. Last year we finished 2 points outside the top 4, and the Colts won the Grand Final, so it was a good year’ Jones said.
In addition to the development of the Colts, the success of the rebuilding phase has also rested on a strong internal culture, which will be aided by the recruit of new Head Coach Tyronne Mitchell for the 2018 season.
‘We’ve got a culture where people want to come to the Club. That’s been a big strength. We must be doing something right because we’ve attracted a whole bunch of new players’ said Jones.‘Tyronne worked for Super Rugby’s Melbourne Rebels for five years, and specialises in elite athlete program development’ detailed Jones, adding that he believes Mitchell will be a very good addition for the Club. Mitchell also coached representative teams at Under 20 and National level, bringing a wealth of experience to the role.
The Premier Grade team also welcomes a new captain for 2018 in Jimmy Yates. In an interview with Rugby Victoria in April, Yates said that the Club ‘felt hard-done-by last year just missing out on finals’, and expects the Club to have a very strong year. Yates emerged from the Colts setup at MURFC after previously captaining Geelong Grammar’s First XV, and a stint in British Columbia playing for Cowichan Rugby Club. He has played in the Premier Grade team since 2012.
Although the Club has not won the Dewar Shield since 1967, under the fresh leadership of Mitchell and Yates, Jones is optimistic. ‘I’m very confident. If we don’t get top 4 finish at the end of the regular season, I’d be disappointed.’
The signs look promising, as MURFC beat Box Hill comprehensively 36-17 in the Dewar Shield, while the Colts defeated Power House 32-24.
You can follow MURFC’s Premier Grade 2018 season here