The birth of the UWS Giants


by Rod Gillett

When Sydney University play the UWS Giants in the eastern conference of the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) this season it won’t actually pit two uni teams against each other.

The UWS Giants are not necessarily representing the University of Western Sydney, they’re just playing under their name. That’s because the GWS Giants have secured naming rights sponsorship of their NEAFL team from UWS.

It is now not unusual for universities to be involved in sponsorship of major sport in Australia – witness Perth-based university ECU’s sponsorship of the recent Hopman Cup. The name ‘Victoria University’ is prominent at the MCG on AFL match days. I should imagine the sponsorship package also involves corporate hospitality.

Naming rights at this level is a bigger deal. I have to go back to the days of the National Soccer League (NSL) when the University of Technology, Sydney sponsored Sydney Olympic and were known as UTS Olympic to recall such an occurrence. UTS students were admitted free to matches and high ranking university officials were prominent in the directors’ box.

The GWS Giants will offer UWS staff, students and alumni “a range of ticket offers and other specially tailored membership packages to support the club”.

The sponsorship agreement will also involve the Giants collaborating with UWS in health and fitness programs in over 400 schools in greater Western Sydney, providing educational pathways for GWS players, providing professional development and learning opportunities for UWS students with the Giants, and “working together on UWS research, and opportunities for UWS health and sports science students to work with elite and sub-elite athletes”.

UWS currently does not field any football teams in the Sydney AFL competition.

However, it is not completely without any Australian Football heritage. According to NSW AFL historian Ian Granland, the Hawkesbury Agriculture College (HAC) fielded a team in the Sydney junior competition in the early twentieth century.

More recently, HAC fielded teams in the lower grades in the early 1990’s, but fell away after a few seasons.

As far as I know none of the other antecedent institutions of UWS – including the Nepean College of Advanced Education, the Macarthur College of Advanced Education, and Milperra CAE at Bankstown fielded football teams.

Nonetheless I think this is a highly significant development for Australian Football in western Sydney. It represents major engagement with the University of Western Sydney which has over 40,000 students on six campuses all through the Giants’ catchment area from Campbelltown in the south-west around to the Hawkesbury campus at Richmond in the north-west.

Meanwhile, Sydney Uni – which only five years ago was playing in second division in the Sydney AFL will be playing against the likes of the Sydney Swans seconds, strong Canberra-based clubs like Eastlakes and Ainslie (which won the competition last season), and fellow Sydney aspirant, the Sydney Hills Eagles (formerly known as the East Coast Eagles, and before that Baulkham Hills).

Sydney University has always been a powerhouse in Sydney sport.

The Cricket Club is currently second on the table in Sydney grade cricket behind another uni, UNSW. The Rugby Club (founded in 1863) has won seven premierships in the past ten years and more than 103 players have been capped as Wallabies – not surprisingly, more than any other rugger club in Australia.

In the Women’s National Basketball League, the Sydney Uni Flames have played in all the championship deciders except 2005-06, since coming under the control of the university’s sports body in 2003-04. Alas, they are yet to win a title. Many of the players are on scholarships at the University of Sydney.Now, the SUANFC – originally formed in 1887 – is about to step up and take on the Giants from Greater Western Sydney.

A major boost for the club is the return of 1991 premiership coach and former Swans defender “Rocket” Rod Carter as coach of the Colts team in the Under 18 competition. Carter takes over from former Swans team-mate and close friend Tim Barling who had great success with the young Students.

When employed by Collingwood as the Sydney scholarship manager Carter was pivotal in the formation of the Colts team and the partnership with Magpies that saw their scholarship holders play with Sydney Uni. Tom Young and Jarrod Witts have subsequently been placed on Collingwood’s senior list.






  1. Richard Jones says

    GOT a front tooth bent backwards playing for Sydney Uni agst. Parramatta in 1963, Rocket.

    Had taken a mark, so after the “biff” put the ball down and went looking for the sniper. Captain Peter Malouf [now Dr. Peter Malouf] said: “Forget the prick. Kick the bloody goal.”

    Did that but never evenned up — as you do — in the return game. Can’t remember if the bloke was playing, but do know he copped 3 weeks at the Tribunal for the Rpund 1 incident.

    Good to see you back on the keyboard again, Rocket, As it’s now 2012 I’ll be concentrating on matters from 1952 and 1962 in the Bendigo F.L. for the weekly, local footy guide. Focussing on matches and controversies from 5 and 6 decades back.
    Will 4ward them to u as they’re prepared.

    BTW is that “Rocket” Rod Carter u referred to AKA “Tilt” Carter ???

  2. Rocket Nguyen says

    Thanks for your comment Comrade!

    Very much look forward to reading your work on the Bendigo FL 1952-1962 as the Rochester Football Club went through its greatest era in this period. it will be a joy to read.

    When Rocket Carter came to coach Sydney Uni he was initially known as Rocket Junior in deference to you know who – but the moniker was all his after I left for Rockhampton – the home of the original and greatest Rocket – Rod Laver.

  3. Dave Nadel says

    UWS is the academic home of Andrew Moore who wrote the history of North Sydney Bears, which is probably the best book published in Australia on Rugby League. I wonder what he thinks about UWS’ sponsorship of the Giants.

  4. Richard Jones says

    HERE’S one to ponder on Rocket Nguyen.

    The Bendigo Spirit currently occupy 3rd spot on the WNBL ladder, marginally ahead of the 4th-placed Sydney Uni Flames.
    Both on 10 wins, 6 losses. Spirit’s % is 115; Flames 105.
    Bendigo beat Dandenong (at home) and Canberra (on the road) in last weekend’s matches.

    Bendigo travels away again this weekend for interstate games against Adelaide (top) and West Coast (2nd last).

    Mandatory side trip whenst in Hanoi, Comrade Rod. A visit to the mausoleum of the Dear Leader, Uncle Ho.
    Early 2000s, got a rifle butt in the ribs from a tomb guard when taking too long to hoist a salute as the crowds shuffled forward.

  5. John Harms says

    Rocket, interesting how sports management theory and practice has inculcated uni sports unions (or what were once unions). Gone are the days when the boss umpired footy curtain-raisers wearing footy shirts and black tie. You would expect tht though, given most campuses now teach sport management.

  6. Hey John – I resemble that remark! Although as a student I can’t remember the great Bill Tickner ever appearing on the sportsfields at Melb Uni. He was very comfortable leaning on the bar in the pavvy. Just like his predecessor Ernie Crawford who, it has been said, could always be found at Jimmy Watson’s every afternoon. These days, us professionals can only be found working out in the gym or slogging laps in the pool!

  7. John Harms says

    Mark, very impressed with your dedication. Or was it Ernie who had the dedication.

  8. Rocket Nguyen says

    The sports organisation at the University of Sydney is now known as Sydney University Sports and Finess.
    Having been formed in 1890 as the University of Sydney Sports Union, the organisation changed its name to the above in 2008. This was in the immediate aftermarth of voluntary student unionism introduced by the philistine Howard regime while the ersatz K. Rudd was in office and showed no signs of reversing the policy.

    Alas the University of New England Sports Union is known as Sports UNE and is managed by a management committee appointed by the university – clubs are no longer constituent members merely affiliated. Shame, shame, shame.

  9. John Harms says

    Rocket. It’s interesting the Barnaby Joyce was one of the few to speak out in favour of compulsory student unionism. I believe he was at UNE. In the early 1980s I was captain of the Uni Golf Club (what a club – $1.50 in the cigar box at Long Pocket) and that made me delegate to the sports union. Meetings were dominated by some of the bigger clubs – cricket, rugby, hockey – but we all had our chance. I remember asking for, and getting, cash towards the cost of people getting to Inter-varsity. From memory it covered about a third of the cost. When I went back to do my PhD a decade later IV had gone to the ‘conference games’ idea. A fun weekend, but just not the same as a wekk-long golf tournament on the best courses in a far-off Australian city.

  10. Barnaby was indeed a great supporter for university sport – probably where he first came to public attention in saying he would cross the floor on the VSU issue. He used the UNE as a potential example of the impact of VSU on regional campuses. The reality was Howard was not particular fussed either way – it was the hard headed ex-student union Libs like Sophie Mirabella that drove the issue. When it went to the vote, Howard thought they might lose it, but then Fielding double crossed us all by voting with the Libs.
    Rocket – a lot of unis have adopted the model you mention. Not many have clubs running the show any more – Sydney Uni is an exception. The reality is that whilst clubs can provide a profile for the uni (Sydney Uni is a good example), these days the majority of students are more interested in casual participation – whether in the gym/pool or playing ‘social’ sport without the commitment of joining a club. These students are not really represented under the old club model. Also long gone are the days of free entry to the gym and grants for inter-varsity . Its all about commercial outcomes driven by KPTs.

  11. Rocket Nguyen says

    Ran into Barnaby a few years ago in the coffee shop at the State Library in Sydney – I was doing research on footy in the library, BJ was on his way to State Parliament next door. Moulded by his great times at UNE – he played rugby – he was a strong supporter of student unions – his support against VSU had been garnered by fellow UNE contemporary Kevin Stapleton – now at USQ in southern Qld.

    As you well know Mark, the campaign was led by our great mates, Greg Harris & the late Tom O’Sullivan, who camped out in Canberra at Tony Windsor’s office, waging the battle – only as you point out to be dudded at the last minute by Fielding.

    Tom received a wonderful tribute from PM Julia Gillard that was read out at his funeral late last year praising his tremendous contribution to student life on campuses.

    Darky, they were indeed great days when you recieved subsidies to travel off and play sport around Australia.

  12. John Harms says

    When teaching in high schools I encouraged students who were heading to uni to play for the Uni team rather than the suburban team of their school days. Some of course had tremendous loyalty to the clubs of their childhood and stayed, while others went on to enjoy long associations with UQ teams – I’m especially thinking of a bloke in volleyball and beach volleyball, others in basketball and rugby. AS the ANU footy club celebrations suggest (reported on this site last season) there is something about varsity sport.

  13. Richard Jones says

    COUNTRY Cricket Week in Bendy all this week, Rocket. Finals on this afternoon.

    Murray Valley going for four, consecutive titles to try and tie Rochy’s record of four straight Division 1 titles, 1962-65 inclusive. Brief recap of the halcyon Rocky years during which they beat Gladstone, Cohuna, Upper Loddon and Deniliquin. The team won 19 of 20 games in those four years:-

    1962 final: Rochy 4-114 (W. Connell 46) def. Gladstone 73 (M. Ryan 7-30).
    1963 play-off: Rochester 4-155 (B. Fry 59) def. Cohuna 8-153 (R. Thorsen 4-43).
    1964: R. 4-185 (M. Darroch 80 n.n.) def. Upper Loddon 183 (G.Billman 4-44) and;
    1965: R. 7-101 (W Connell 34) def. Deniliquin 99 (J. McMahon 4-7).

    In a round 1 match in 1962 Herb Zegelin and B. Jones top scored in Rochy’s innings of 201.Both batsmen compiled 47 runs apiece. They beat Cohuna easily — 83 and 4-36.

    In round 3, 1963 Herb made 73 of Rochy’s 234 as your boys beat Donald. Donald made just 103 and batting a second time were precariously placed at 6-29 !!

    More tomoz, to see whether Murray Valley beat Ferntree Gully in the 2012 Div. 1 play-off.

    Rochy, by the way, after 4 straight wins missed the 1966 final. Alexandra beat Wangaratta that summer.

  14. Rocket Kim says

    Thanks for the update RJ – currently in Korea for New Year celebrations.
    Alas no Bendigo country week cricket news in the Chongdae Times…

    GLORY DAYS when Rochester dominated cricket and football in Bendigo.
    Some famous Rochy names prominent in both sports.
    Herb Zegelin won a Michelsen medal in the 50s, but I thinking was running around for Macorna in this period. Brian Jones from Lockington was a fine wicketkeeper and a key forward in the premiership teams.
    Johnny McMahon (father of netballer Sharelle) was a great all-rounder who played full back in the 1962 unbeaten premiership team. I think he and Brian played for a Victorian country team against a touring MCC team in 1962-63, not sure of the venue, maybe Echuca.

    Just wondering which teams were in the Gladstone Association?

    Presumably Murray Valley are from the Toc-Finley-Cobram area?

  15. Richard Naco says

    I’m sorry about this, but no discussion of University sporting clubs can be allowed to pass without references to the Flinders University Canoe & Kayaking Assoc.

    Most popular sweats at that fine institution in the mid 70s, which produced the likes of Doc Neeson & myself.

    (Although he, at least, completed his degree.)

  16. NO, like you we struggled to find much Aussie news when in either S-E Asia or a few months ago, the Middle East.

    But that’s where the iPhone, not to mention the Steve Jobe inventions, are indispensable. News at ur fingertips. Immediately. At any time u wish!

    No joy, either, Rocket Kim, in Bendy Country Crik Week. Murray Valley flogged Ferntree Gully in the 2012 Div. 1 final to join the 60s Rochy sides on four, straight wins.
    I think u r right. Murray Valley from Cobram/Tocumwal area. Wouldn’t Barooga be included as well, or maybe becoz they’re NSW (just) not be allowed ?

    Have no idea which clubs comprised the Gladstone Association. Was sweating it out in PNG in the 60s..

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