The idiom punching above one’s weight can be accurately bestowed upon the members of the East Arnhem Rugby Union.
Based in Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsular the 2011 census had the town with a population of 3,933 and a median age of 32. The closure of the alumina refinery in May 2014 resulted in 1,100 workers being redeployed or made redundant, substantially reducing this population.
The Union is the most remote in Australia.
At last month’s Coca-Cola Hottest 7s in the World in Darwin they were one of only two NT Rugby affiliates to enter a team in each of the three Competitions (Men, Women & Youth Boys) and were additionally represented by a second mem’s team comprising of past players who now reside in Darwin.
There is no Rugby Competition in Nhulunbuy!
However a committed and qualified group of people conduct regular training and coaching sessions, fundraising and social events for both Senior and Junior players.
Such is the respect given to their program, selection in Northern Territory Representative Teams is done sight unseen, purely on the recommendation of East Arnhem’s Coaches.
The Senior Men’s Team regularly competes in the prestigious Singapore Cricket Club 7s and the Coca-Cola Hottest 7s in the World since its inception and are never seen to be out of their depth.
In 2016 players from East Arnhem were selected in all five Junior Boys Representative Teams.
Under 12 Dan Hillam - National Primary School Carnival Port Adelaide.
Under 14 Lamon Forbes - Queensland Rugby Junior State Championships
Under 16 Jake Parfitt, Josh Winderlich - Queensland Rugby Junior State Championships
Open Schoolboys Koby Snowden - National Schools Championship
Youth Boys 7s. Koby Snowden, Josh Winderlich – National Youth 7s
At the recent Coca-Cola Hottest 7s in the World the EARU Women’s Team finished in eighth position which was the highest ranking of the five Territory Teams and need to be considered for selection in the Goannas Squad for the Nationals later this year.
While much of the credit for the emergence of East Arnhem can be attributed to the dedication of people such as Colin and Alison Snowden, Sean O’Connor, Hayden Rickard, Eddie Mulholland amongst many others but unbridled commitment to player development stretches back to people like Paul Ngamoki in the early ‘90s.
The next challenge for East Arnhem will be to embrace the burgeoning Youth Girls Pathway and have players battle ready for Representative selection
In August the East Arnhem Rugby Union was recognised with the inaugural “Vince Kelly” Regional Achievement Award at the Eric Johnston Medal Dinner.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of NT Rugby.