Robert Shute, Jack Shute and the origins of the Shute Shield
The origins of the Shute Shield
While rugby in Sydney can be traced all the way back to 1829, the inaugural Shute Shield was first contested in 1923.
The newly-formed competition was named in memory of Sydney University prop Robert Elliot Shute, who tragically died during a representative game played at Manly Oval in 1922.
A New South Wales v ‘The Rest’ trial match was held to help selectors pick the NSW team to face a touring New Zealand side later that year. Shute, who was making a name for himself as a bookend, was selected at prop for ‘The Rest’.
Shute was left unconscious following a tackle by a NSW back. He died the following day in hospital and a Coroner’s inquest later described his death as an accident.
Shute was just 23 years old. He was a veteran of World War One, having enlisted not long after his 18th birthday in 1917, and joined the 8th Field Artillery Brigade as a Gunner in Europe before being hospitalised in Italy towards the end of the war.
Shute returned to Australia in November 1919, studied Engineering at Sydney University and soon found himself playing rugby in a gold and blue jersey.
His accidental death had such an impact on the Sydney University club, and the wider rugby community, that a trophy was named in his honour and the Shute Shield was born.
The two Shute families
Eastwood were admitted to the Shute Shield in 1947 following many years of lobbying by the club’s first president Jack Shute.
After winning the Burke Cup in 1935, Eastwood were on the verge of joining the Shute Shield when World War Two began. The club deferred their application to join the first division competition until after the war and reapplied successfully in 1946 for the 1947 season.
Jack Shute’s story is often mistaken for that of Robert Shute’s. The two men weren’t related, despite sharing the same last name but their lives intertwined quite incredibly.
It was Jack, a Western Suburbs outside back, who tackled Robert, a Sydney University forward, in a match between NSW and ‘The Rest’ in 1922, leading to Robert’s accidental death.
Jack was deeply impacted by the incident, despite being cleared of any wrongdoing and received a letter from Robert’s mother Amy a few weeks after her son’s death.
“My Dear Boy – In the midst of our own sorrow we have so often thought of you, and I just feel I would like to write and tell you that you must not grieve too much over what happened to our darling, it was just an unfortunate accident, and no one was to blame in any way, & we feel very sorry so much has been said about it for your sake, as everyone says what a good clean player you are, and like our own Bob a true sport. Thanking you very much for your kind sympathy.
A few years later, Jack named his first born son Robert in memory of his namesake.