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Rugby begins bubbling to the top in Barossa


As the Rugby World Cup continues in France, a Barossa rugby club started by winemakers decades ago welcomes a contingent of Fijian players and a new home ground.

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The Barossa Valley is developing a reputation for being a hub for rugby, a sport usually associated with Australia’s eastern states.

It was first introduced to the region 46 years ago by Roseworthy Agricultural College students based at Gawler, who formed a senior men’s team ‘The Roseworthy Rams’ which became ‘The Barossa Rams’.

Barossa Rams president and Tanunda GP Dr Fraser Vivian says the club’s first rugby union players were mainly winemaking and wine marketing students, with many from interstate wine regions and New Zealand.

“They would represent Adelaide University in the third division of SA Rugby Union games,” he says.

In 1991, Roseworthy College merged with the University of Adelaide and its oenology and viticulture departments were transferred to the Waite campus in Adelaide.

Vivian says this led to a decline in the Ram’s team numbers and when the university learned that the players were no longer students it indicated that it would significantly increase fees for the use of the oval.

To avoid extra costs the club relocated to the oval at Lyndoch 18 years ago, which led to its change of name to the Barossa Rams and the expansion of its player base.

Vivian says the children of some of the team’s senior players were also keen to play.

“We started a very fledgling junior program, which grew and grew with word of mouth,” he says.

“Over the years, we have had a full suite of junior players from under 7s, 8s, 10s, 14s, 16s and 18s.

The Barossa Rams also have a women’s team and two senior men’s teams featuring players in their 40s and one in his 50s.

Vivian says the sport is bringing the community together.

“We pride ourselves on a very family-oriented kind of experience for players and parents of junior players,” he says.

“Everyone is encouraged to pitch in and do their part. We are very much a volunteer run organisation, no one really gets paid from the coaches through to all those that run the daily operations of the club.”

The club is part of the SA Rugby Union and plays against teams from Elizabeth, Port Adelaide, Burnside, Brighton and Onkaparinga.

Vivian said some Fijians employed in the Barossa Valley and Virginia as part of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme have also started playing for the Rams.

He said that last year a busload turned up to practice – a fortnight before the season was due to start.

“We had to add an extra team to the competition because we had too many players,” Vivian says.

“It was very fortunate for us. They have brought a level of intensity to the sport that has rarely been seen in SA.”

barossa rugby club

The Barossa Rams’ Under 6/7s division developing their skills with coach Ali McMillan. Photo: Heidi Moore

In November, the Barossa Rams will have their own headquarters at Tanunda.

The Barossa Council is building a $5.2m purpose-built venue adjacent to the Barossa Aquatic and Fitness Centre, known by locals as The Rex.

It allocated $3.9m towards the project and received a $970,000 grant from SA’s Office for Recreation, Sport, and Racing.

The Barossa Rams also took out a loan of $300,000 to contribute to the venue’s establishment.

It will feature a rugby pitch accommodating three touch football pitches, LED sports lighting, changerooms and a medical room.

The clubhouse will also feature a commercial kitchen, bar, function space for 150 people and storage.

Vivian says the Barossa Rams contribute to the region’s economy.

“The unique part about our club compared to many other sporting clubs in the Barossa is that we bring players, spectators, and therefore money in from other areas into the region,” he says.

Vivian is keen for the club to celebrate the official opening of its facilities by inviting a high-level team to participate in an exhibition game.

“This could feature a game between retired Wallabies players and the local state team,” he says.

“In the past, other clubs have hosted a national event for state representative teams, which we can certainly look at.”

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