29 May 2024

Yass junior rugby club tries for a world-first with potentially life-saving jerseys

| Sally Hopman
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Two boys playing rugby

A young Rams player, wearing the new jersey for the first time, takes off with the ball against Batemans Bay. Photo: Kim Gourlay.

A small junior rugby club in Yass is leading the world when it comes to promoting sportsmanship – and, hopefully, saving lives.

When the Junior Rams took to the Yass field for their game against the Batemans Bay Boars, they were wearing new jerseys featuring a yellow strip across the front. The line tracked across the sternum of their standard black and white jerseys, showing exactly the legal tackle height for players and referees. This translates as any contact above the bottom of the sternum is considered to be a high tackle.

For president of the Yass Junior Rams, Fred Clark, who is the brains behind the move, it was a good day to see the players wearing the new jersey, but it was also a matter of common sense that they were.

He said the world rugby body had approved the move but, as far as he knew, no other club had taken it up yet. “I’ve been asking around a lot, to other clubs and apparel makers, and they all say it’s the first time they’ve seen jerseys like this.”

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As a supporter of Rugby Australia and World Rugby, he said he was following their regular debate about tackle height. He said overseas trials had shown that a lower tackle height reduced the chance of head-to-head collisions and concussion.

“As a big supporter of anything that makes the sport safer, when they approved the sternum line as the height, that was it,” he said. “I proposed it to the club about 12 months ago. Not everyone was committed to it but as I was the one placing the order, I insisted that the yellow line go across it.

“The apparel maker ignored the instruction to put the yellow line on it, it took three emails from me for him to get the message. Now, since it’s been in the newspapers, he wants me to send him photographs of the players wearing them,” Mr Clark laughed.

Boys playing rugby

Yass Rams Under 11s defeated the Batemans Bay Boars in a nail-biter last weekend, 49-48, in their first game wearing the new jerseys. Photo: Kim Gourlay.

He said the decision to make the sternum the level made a lot of sense. “Unlike the one in the UK that caused such a furore when they wanted it to be at belly button level. That was never going to happen.”

Mr Clark, who teaches English and history when he’s not coaching or refereeing rugby, said he would always support anything that made the sport safer and encouraged more children to take part.

“It seems so obvious to me that this is such a valuable visual cue for coaches, referees and players,” he said.

Mr Clark said he did feel “a bit chuffed” when, as referee for last weekend’s game against the Batemans Bay Boars, the Yass youngsters trooped onto the field wearing the new jerseys.

“These days, we have to be clear when it comes to safety – and we want to ensure that the fun game can continue.”

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on About Regional.

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