This Saturday will see the next chapter of the rivalry between the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) Barbarians and the Noosa Dolphins play out, as the two clubs contest the 2021 Sunshine Coast Rugby Union A Grade Grand Final.
These two clubs have had a storied history since USC joined the Sunshine Coast competition in 1997, and over the last 15 or so years in particular, they’ve contested many a Grand Final, sharing the spoils along the way.
What is special about this Saturday’s decider, is that USC will be the hosts, something that has only happened twice in recent years, in 2008 and in 2015. On both occasions the students came away victorious. The Barbarians will be contesting both the A Grade and Reserve Grade Grand Finals, with the club having never won a Reserve Grade title.
“The boys have been putting in the work in circuit classes, in the gym, on the field, we had a heavy contact session on Tuesday, it’s been really good prep for the final,” said USC utility Matt Macaulay.
“It’s electric, there is a really good feeling at the club. We’ve had juniors down at training, all the players, staff and parents are hanging around and want to be involved.”
Macaulay is one of the few players left from USC’s last Premiership team in 2015, at 32 years of age, he is one of the stalwarts of Sunshine Coast Rugby, having played Premier Colts and Premier Grade for the Stingrays when they were still in the Hospital Challenge Cup, before joining USC in 2014.
He’s played Noosa many a time over the years, and despite the rivalry that exists between the two clubs, he respects the fact that the Dolphins are represented in all four Grand Finals this weekend across Colts, Women’s, Reserve Grade and A Grade.
“It’s pretty impressive for Noosa to be in all four finals, they’re the benchmark, they’re always in the finals.
“It’s always a challenge when we play them but that’s what we want, we want to earn the trophy, we expect them to be good. I love playing against Noosa the most.”
The enjoyment of the rivalry is echoed by Noosa Dolphins scrumhalf and vice-captain Will Christie.
“They’re a fun team to play, we know we’re in for a tough battle,” he said.
“It’s been an interesting year, the first time we played USC we put 50 points on them, and then in the second round it was like we played a different team, it was an arm wrestle the whole game. In the game after the COVID break, it was do-or-die and they beat us.”
Noosa’s success in the Sunshine Coast competition has seen them targeted by other clubs, and they’re used to hostile welcomes wherever they travel, but it’s something they feed on according to Christie.
“Anywhere we go Noosa gets the most hostility, fair play because our crowd does the same, I love it,” he said.
“It’s awesome to see the community getting around local club Rugby, it’s funny hearing the chat from the sideline, we get into it, as long as you don’t let it get into your head.”
With all four Noosa teams in the finals, the club is looking to create history this weekend.
“With all four teams in the finals, we were looking back at history and we believe that we’re the only club to have all four teams in the finals, we were the last team 10 years ago.
“It’s an awesome achievement and it’s testament to everyone at the club and the strong culture we have on-and-off the field. It would be awesome to bring home all four trophies.”
While Noosa are looking to create Sunshine Coast Rugby history, the Barbarians are looking to draw on the emotions that the club have experienced over the past few years, with the loss of a number of their club members drawing the playing cohort and the wider USC Rugby family closer together.
At the back end of 2018, the club unfortunately lost one of their rising young stars in Jacob Mabb, and then earlier this year the club was once again struck when young centre Liam Van Horen lost his life after a traffic accident. The club also farewelled one of their longest serving volunteers in Chris Porters in March, father of A Grade stalwart Mitch Porters. Chris had served as the club’s photographer since Mitch first joined the Barbarians.
“To lose Mabby, Liam and Chris, it was pretty big for the club and obviously we all experienced a lot of pain. The loss unified the club and brought us together as we railed around each other.
“The best thing we can do is to put a smile on people’s faces by winning. We’re trying to honour them all by winning both grades this weekend.”
Best of luck to both teams this weekend.