8 December 2020

Will Easts return to the John I Dent Cup? And does the club have a future at all?

| Tim Gavel
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Easts player

If Easts do return it will take plenty of hard work and it can be done with an enthusiastic committee determined to see it through, coupled with a strong junior program. Photo: Easts Rugby.

When Easts beat the Gungahlin Eagles just over 12 months ago in the final round of the 2019 John I Dent Cup, it was seen as a pivotal moment in the club’s history.

After all, Easts had struggled to win a game that season and to knock off the team that simply needed to win to secure the minor premiership was momentous.

Unfortunately, such highlights have been few and far between in recent times.

In the 2008 season, Easts made the grand final … only to go down to the Queanbeyan Whites.

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There was also the famous victory over Royals in round four in 2018, and there was a win earlier in the season, which was the club’s first in the John I Dent Cup in three years.

Like I said, few and far between.

Six months after that glorious win over the Eagles last year and Easts were teetering. They were struggling to get numbers to training and many had drifted away to other clubs or rugby league. Some players had walked away from the game altogether.

I wrote a story for RiotACT around the time that the dark clouds on East’s future started to form, but I pulled it at the last moment at the request of some who felt as though it had the potential to frighten players away from the club.

Easts alumni

Easts Rugby is the ACT’s oldest rugby union club, with a host of significant alumni. Photo: Easts Rugby.

Several months later and Easts, the ACT’s oldest rugby union club, with an alumni which includes George Gregan and Matt Giteau, announced they would be ending their 82-year run in the first-grade competition.

They weren’t folding but simply going into hiatus as they developed a strategy and gauged interest and enthusiasm for a possible return.

The moment to gauge that interest and enthusiasm has arrived with the club calling a public meeting for Thursday night at the Croatia Deakin Soccer Club.

The meeting’s agenda will enable time for discussion about the ongoing viability of Easts, if it is to be resurrected.

It won’t be an easy task to effectively re-establish a club with a competitive first-grade side given the overall development of the competition. However, there is talk of a three-year plan at Easts, starting with developing lower grades and the colts, before returning to the John I Dent Cup.

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There needs to be a realignment of the relationship with rugby-playing schools on the southside, which won’t be easy with the strong links between St Edmonds and the Whites and Marist with Royals. A relationship with Canberra Grammar could be an option, with a competitive group of juniors coming through the younger age teams.

The change in the demographics in the inner south hasn’t helped Easts, but it is by no means insurmountable.

It can be done with an enthusiastic committee determined to see it through, coupled with a strong junior program. Kids need to have a pathway and the best way to do this is by having senior players involved in their development as well as a vision for the future beyond juniors.

But it will take time and energy, and knowing many people at Easts, they are more than capable of achieving this if everyone’s united in the single cause.

The meeting to determine the future of the East Rugby Club will be held at the Croatia Deakin Soccer Club, 3 Grose St, Deakin on Thursday, 10 December at 6:30 pm. All welcome.

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