By JARROD POTTER
NOT many people would have expected Hallam Senior College to join an elite New South Wales Schoolboys rugby league competition, but through a unique set of circumstances the unlikely scenario has become reality.
With traditional rugby league school Holy Cross College – Ryde, in Sydney’s inner suburbs, bowing out of this year’s GIO Cup over uncertainty about its competitiveness, it left an opening in the 12-team competition.
While most Sydneysiders would have looked for another NSW team from the GIO Trophy, the powers that be instead looked to Victoria to find a suitable replacement.
Hallam Senior College was that lucky school, earning an invite to take Holy Cross’s place in the competition – and Hallam’s rugby academy coach Jamie Fardell said it was just reward for many successful campaigns in the GIO Trophy.
“There are 12 teams that compete in this in NSW and it is invite only, so you have to perform pretty well in the Trophy division to even be considered,” Fardell said.
“We were semi-finalists last year in the trophy and quarter-finalists the three years before that and that’s a knockout competition of 300 schools, so for us to be good at that for the last four years it shows we’re ready to step up.”
After many years of hard work – alongside initial academy coach Travis McIntosh – Fardell was thrilled to see Victoria get a chance to mark itself on the rugby league map and it was due to the hard work of staff and players – from NRL level all the way down through the ranks.
“Between myself and Travis Mcintosh – he started this academy – it’s been a pipe dream of ours since I joined in 2010 to get to here (GIO Cup),” Fardell said.
“It comes on the back of a lot of hard work, recruiting, and looking after kids, connections with their outside rep programs and it’s due to every boy that has come through here.
“I hope to see a lot of them come to our home game and they’re the reason we’re here – they’ve been fantastic since I’ve been here in 2010 and every boy who has come through the program I’ve been proud of.
“Not just the ones that go to the NRL but the ones that flourish and get better at all levels too.”
Fardell is unsure whether Hallam Senior College is invited to the competition just for 2015 or beyond, but he believes the growth of rugby league – especially in Victoria – will have organisers keen to keep the south-east Melbourne school around.
“They said you’re in and they haven’t said anything yet about next year,” Fardell said.
“I know the people that are running this competition have a big eye on the development on the game and Victoria is a big part of that.
“When people talk about Victorian schoolboys, they know that we’re number one.”
Hallam is set to play its debut match in the GIO Cup on 20 May in Sydney before hosting a home-clash on Monday 15 June – either at Gosch’s Paddock or potentially AAMI Park as a curtain-raiser to the Melbourne Storm/Parramatta Eels NRL match.
Applications for the school’s 2016 rugby academy intake are currently open and for more information, visit the Hallam Senior College website www.hallamssc.vic.edu.au