Country rugby at it’s best as Eastwood and Norths take road trip to Cowra 

By MARK CASHMAN

Google up the city of Cowra and you will find that it is a major population centre in the central west of NSW, 310km west of Sydney, 189km north of the nation’s capital, known for its zen cemetery, fertile farmlands, vineyards, good restaurants and galleries.

On a rugby front the Cowra Eagles have been a major force in the local club competition, the Blowes Cup in recent years, the Cowra 10s is considered an early season essential in most parts of NSW and the ACT, while “locals” Hugh, Hamish and Angus Sinclair have been making their skills known with both the Waratahs and Northern Suburbs.

But the jewel of the Central West gave a couple of busloads of players from Shute Shield clubs Eastwood and Norths an education in what club footy was once all about and can be again.

The Cowra Eagles hosted the two clubs for the weekend during Round Four of the Shute Shield with first and reserve grade as well as first grade colts playing at what is affectionately called The Eagles Nest.

The Woodies won an absolute thriller 34-33 with Ed Craig (who would go on the next week to play off the bench for the Waratahs against the Crusaders) scoring the winning try in the 84th minute after Norths had grabbed an 11-point lead with less than 15 minutes left to play.

But that was only part of the story – the fun and games started once full-time had been called.

Part of the deal for the Woodies to take their home game to Cowra was that the locals stumped up accomodation for the six sides that came to town.

It’s a tricky one for the bush club as they have to make it all worthwhile off the back of the gate takings and anything that happens at the ground on the day.

But that meant that there was a captive (and thirsty) audience from the city and some of the old after-match traditions were rolled out.

After match speeches, the good old boat race and getting the chance to meet and share a drink and some time with the man that you marked that day.

The speeches and the camaraderie pushed close to 10pm and then it was on to the bus and into town to stimulate the local hospitality scene till 3am. 

“It was just good old school rugby and fantastic for a bush club,” Woods president Brett Papworth told Rugby News.

“Society has changed in many respects with RBT, and the pressures of driving mean that this stuff, and rightfully so, just cannot happen in Sydney.

“It should though and I just feel that the current crop of players are missing out on some of the things that drew my generation to the game and everything around it.

“Speak to anyone who played the game through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and they. Will tell you of the friendships that they forged on the field and at the after match.

“You develop a level of respect for the man that you mark but meeting him and spending some time with him after the game just takes that to another level.

“Just look at cricket and the problems that they have had to face with sledging. That wouldn’t happen if you met and knew the guys you were playing against.”

The game also gave the locals the chance to have a close look at what the next level was all about.

The Eagles played the Forbes Platypi before the Shute Shield game and got a close look at what was needed to make it in the big smoke.

Eastwood have had a long association with Cowra travelling to the central west every Australia Day for a cricket match.

It was a trip to simpler times (some may says better) and something that should be encouraged. 

As former Wallaby scrum half Nick Farr-Jones would say long live the third half!