A Phoenix From The WildFires
With all avenues exhausted in the other code, through nothing else but self doubt, laziness and taking the occasional fall for players with far more talent than this writer, I found myself sitting on my scruffy shared house couch wondering like many a kid before me - what could of been.
It was my flatmate who had suggested that an ailing Wildfires colts program, playing in the Sydney Shute Shield competition was searching for a couple of players to get their season kick started. I had dabbled in Rugby at schoolboy level a level only a couple of years removed and found the pleasure that my welsh forefathers may had felt before me when I stood at inside centre giving a mouthful to the opposition....
And what a decision it came to be. The team in 1999 was probably not the best of genius or even commitment of teams that had come through before us - but in it I found a family. In 1999 - it was us against them. Country boys taking it to those pompous private school pretty boys of Sydney - the type that may even be held a little accountable for some of the problems we see in our great game today.
It was short lived and by 2000 - the action was gone, the bustrips were no more and the fabled song scored by passionate men of Newcastle would be sung no more. A song that for us that was not sung so much in victory, but after a nude sky dive up the old F3 - before the wretched 80 zones were in play.
We became outcasts.
Now - with some honourable mentions for country championship sides - its back. A full program led by a former Wildfires stalwart - Bubba Coleman. The most successful Newcastle coach, tactician and dare I say recruiter in the modern era. Its a great fit and it will be good for him to breath some fresh air into this new set up away from the bird bath.
The "Flowers" have found some water and some real commitment from similar local Rugby visionaries and as the new roots take to the soil of the Hunter Valley - come this weekend a new era of local Rugby has begun.
This new Wildfires squad led by Coach Coleman - a wily character from a very good footballing family has a unique opportunity to become part of a movement. No.2 Sportsground this weekend will see a culmination of wily planning, astute thinking and excellent support and host the other outcast of Australian Rugby - the Western Force.
With a day showcasing talent from 1130 - the big match will kick off at 430pm and will see a team from the West take on a team from the East. What an opportunity. Not just for those playing - but for the city.
Make no mistake - unless you are a back - this match will have eyes on it far and wide. The Global Rapid Rugby movement is coming to town. Say what you like and the miserable purists will naysay it all - but to showcase this match in our city could set up for Newcastle to have maybe a presence in the soon to be expanding competition.
Of course this is no more than opinion - but the tacticians at Global Rapid Rugby surely see the opportunity in creating an East Coast West Coast rivalry to expand their vision. Based in a city of similar ilk to Perth - Newcastle is perfect for this. You don't have to be a billionaire businessman to see this.
The Wildfires themselves have been inclusive and assembled a fine support cast around them recent names like Berry and O'Brien. All clubs being represented and backed up by eager Sydney based players on the outer with limited opportunities. It will be a test against a side who has flourished in the NRC - a competition not fully adopted by the Australian public.
Of course BarTV will be covering it to grow the game outside this proud region of ours. If you are in town or in the valley - make it your mission to grow the game and reignite the flame.We implore you to get there.There will be ladies matches as well as a possibles probables match for the Wildfires to move deeper into the rep program.
Newcastle deserves more fixtures like this and at the very least should not be discluded in any form of Rugby expansion plans. The only way to do this is with your feet and a can on the hill. Bring the kids and they will remember the day Brendan Holiday stepped past Jack McGregor to win the match.
So hats off to those who got the Wildfires to full bloom again. and while Bubba Coleman may not be the best Coleman in the family - he just may prove to be the most canny. Providing players with a pathway and parameters for success.
And before the sides run out before the first whistle take in this motto - the final line of that original song "We'll beat you in the boat Race cos we're going home by bus."
Someone start the bus - even if its just to the Commonwealth!