Sydney Uni align with Collingwood — and stick with blue and gold colours

By Rod Gillett

When the Collingwood Football Club first sat down with the Sydney University Australian National Football Club to talk about the proposal to field an under-eighteen team in the Sydney AFL competition the uni officials made it quite clear that the team’s colours would be blue and gold.

This was not an issue for Collingwood – the Magpies’ recruiting and list management people were just keen to get their Sydney scholarship players in the one team to ensure they could monitor their progress more effectively. After all, the Sydney University Football Club has worn blue and gold since 1865.

A number of Sydney AFL clubs have entered into arrangements with AFL clubs and subsequently changed their colours and nickname to align with the senior partner. This includes the East Coast Eagles, the Balmain Dockers, and the North Shore Bombers. This season St George opted to return to the district’s famous red and white colours and be known again as the Saints after several years as the Crows.

For Sydney Uni footy club president Jason “Magnet” McLennan it will be the realisation of a major ambition when the “colts” – as the under-eighteen team will be known – make their debut on the historic No. 1 Oval at The University of Sydney on Friday night (24 April) against close rivals Macquarie University.

Until this development, university football clubs had been unable to field under-eighteen teams for the obvious reason that most footballers are eighteen years of age by the time they become tertiary students.

The Sydney Uni footy club has arranged a launch for the colts’ first game that will be attended by university heavies, club sponsors, junior club officials, past players and parents. Before the match the players will be presented with their guernseys by club patron Mark Skinner, a former Norwood (SANFL) great and former Sydney Uni footy club president who helped broker the deal with Collingwood.

McLennan had been planning a way to field a team for several years, mainly as a way to ensure the club fielded a full set of teams in the competition and to help secure the club’s future. The club is heavily reliant on graduates who’ve relocated to Sydney from interstate for work in the city.

The alliance with Collingwood is expected to ensure the sustainability of the under-eighteen team as well as be a key attraction for young players seeking a football education. The arrangement involves Collingwood providing the coaching expertise and specialised training for the team.

The head coach is former Richmond and Sydney ruckman Tim Barling, who has had vast experience in coaching junior elite teams in Sydney over the past fifteen years.

After his AFL career finished prematurely because of knee injuries, Barling was the specialist ruck coach for the Swans under-nineteen team. He then coached the Swans team in the Sydney under-eighteen competition, the Redbacks, and more recently the NSW under-sixteen team as well as helping out at the Willoughby Wildcats junior footy club where his son Jackson plays in the under-nines.

Collingwood’s talent manager in Sydney, “Rocket” Rod Carter, the former champion Swans full-back, is charged with overseeing the program. Rocket has had a strong association with Sydney Uni. After he finished his AFL career, he coached Sydney Uni to its first ever A-grade premiership, in 1992.

Six of Collingwood’s scholarship players are playing for Sydney University. Tom Young is playing in the seniors while the other five are in the colts team. The remainder of the colts squad is made up first-year undergraduate students and youngsters from local junior clubs.

One player to impress so far is Barker College student Jarrod Witts, a natural athlete who is in the school firsts for rugby and soccer. Witts was introduced to the game through the GPS inter-school program two years ago when he was spotted by Carter and subsequently offered a scholarship. Again the Sydney Uni footy club “old boy” network helped out – the Barker sports master, Matt Macoustra, played under Carter in the 1992 premiership team.

The scholarship scheme was introduced by the AFL to attract senior school students to the game and to provide a pathway to the AFL through the club that selects them for a scholarship. So far, more than 50 Sydney youngsters have signed up for scholarships with AFL clubs.

Scott Reed, who starred in Pennant Hills’ senior premiership victory last year when he was on scholarship with Collingwood, has this year been placed on the Collingwood’s rookie list.

Carter believes that the Magpies will be able to more effectively monitor and develop the scholarship holders’ football ability by having them all train and play together in the one team. It will also greatly assist the club’s Melbourne-based recruiting staff who will now not have to travel all over Sydney on a weekend to watch their scholarship players in action.

“It also means that we can place the boys in the positions we want them to play in and play the way we want them to play”, Carter told me at the squad’s first training run in October last year. The training run was followed by a parents’ meeting in the nineteenth-century oak-panelled senior common room at Women’s College.

Sydney University last week defeated Macquarie University  by 145 points,  27.12 (174) to 6.3 (39).


  1. Rocket Rod Gillett says

    Sydney Uni Colts won the Sydney AFL Under 18 Challenge Cup by beating the Southern Power, 16.14.110 to 2.5.17. Uni will be promoted to the Under 18 Premier league next season.

    However, the news that the scholarship scheme will be disbanded by the AFL is not good for the Sydney Uni Colts formed this season to house all of Collingwood’s AFL scholarship players in the one team to ensure their progress could be effectively monitored by Carter and his associate, Tim Barling. Collingwood have put a lot of resources and support into this team. The move by AFL NSW to introduce zoning for the Under 18’s competition (only) must be viewed with extreme cynicism – I suspect that the decisions are aligned.

    It does not auger well for Uni’s Under 18 team as the one and proposed zoned junior club, Newtown does not even field an Under 16’s team. Meanwhile, North Shore has been allocated all of the north side of Sydney including junior clubs from Willoughby, Manly, Pittwater, Forest and St Ives.Unlike Uni, Norths don’t do much for the junior clubs in their area.

    Clearly, its inequitable and not thought through. The Sydney AFL administrators (who are not accountable to the stakeholders) were alwyas opposed to the Sydney Uni Colts venture. Indications are that they will be successful in killing it off.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Interesting article Rod a update on how this scenario played out , Please
    Are there any of the kids apart from .Witts made it on to AFL lists ?
    Thanks Rod

  3. Doctor Rocket says

    Thanks Malcolm.

    The other player that made it onto AFL lists and played a few games with the Pies, and later the Bulldogs was Tom Young. Not sure if he is still on the Bulldogs list.

    My Comment above has proven to be wrong; I am glad to say!

    The Sydney Uni Colts have continued to prosper and after promotion to Division One have been highly successful and have won a premiership. More importantly, they are a major source of players for the senior club.
    Rocket Carter now coaches the Colts.

    The Colts are a major feeder and attraction for boys seeking to play in the NEAFL.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Rod enjoyed the relationship between Ad and Sydney Uni re Intervarsity with
    Roger the dodger, , Brains , Davo , Paul Mulvey and of course Mickey Barr up .
    Ad Uni FC club guys who have moved to Sydney and become heavily involved in Syd Uni FC include Diamond Jim Edwards , Big Dub Will Honner , Ferret Granger ,
    Danny Valdemar Hansen , BD , , and others
    Intervarsity is a sensational sporting and social experience to have been a part off

  5. Dr Rocket says

    On ya Malcolm,

    Yes, IV was a rich social experience for all concerned. Went to my first as a fresher.
    And then every subsequent year.

    The likes of Roger, Brains, Rowdy are all great SUANFC stalwarts that I played with.

    Sydney Uni are the strongest they’ve ever been with teams in the NEAFL plus all five divisions in the Sydney comp plus the Colts. The social side is still paramount as it is at any uni club.

    Once you’ve played in that environment you want to keep doing so – Syd Uni has benefited greatly from the transfer to Sydney of guys from interstate unis, particularly Adelaide Uni.

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