Classic Wallabies to face ‘pretty strong, pretty tough’ Blue Bulls legends

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK: From left, former Blue Bulls Craig Campbell, Matt Greatbatch, Stu Brisbane and ex-Wallabies James Grant, John Williams and Adam Freier.
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK: From left, former Blue Bulls Craig Campbell, Matt Greatbatch, Stu Brisbane and ex-Wallabies James Grant, John Williams and Adam Freier.

Lote Tuqiri, Wendell Sailor and Nathan Sharpe, all in Orange, playing against some of this Central West region’s best, ever, rugby players.

It’s happening. And it’s happening this year.

The Classic Wallabies will take on a Central West Barbarians side at Endeavour Oval in November, a match designed to bring the rugby community together and one that will help raise money for charity.

Former Wallabies hooker Adam Freier was in Orange on Friday for the announcement and as a member of past Classic Wallabies sides, outfits that have included as many as 600 test caps, he’s excited to bring the concept to a region where rugby can continue to “grow and prosper”.

Either side is yet to be confirmed – a selection panel will put together the 25-man Central West team – but Freier is confident the Wallbies line-up will feature a ton of class.

“All I know is, this is a lot of fun … the whole mantra of the Classic Wallabies is to bring the game back to the community,” Freier said.

“We’ve had the likes of Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri, Nathan Sharpe, Stephen Hoiles, there’s some good players in there and they still go alright … the whole thing about it is getting to communities to make the game grow and prosper.

“I’ve played for the NSW Country Eagles in the NRC and I’ve got so much respect for country rugby.

“I’ve just had a couple of handshakes with some of the old Blue Bulls and if their handshake is anything to go by they’ll be pretty strong, pretty tough.”

A similar game in Toowoomba generated a crowd of 3500 people while another in Lismore was used to raise money for flood relief.

The Classic Wallabies against the Central West Barbarians match will cap a bumper three days for the code in the region.

The ex-Australian players will conduct clinics for juniors in the lead-up while a fundraiser will be held as well.

While on game day, there will be women’s sevens, golden oldies and a GrainCorp Cup north versus south clash. Merit teams for both competitions were named at the Central West Rugby Union presentation breakfast on Friday.

Freier said with less than 1000 people representing the Wallabies, the group was an elite one, which would make the Classic side a tremendous outfit to watch.

“As much as rugby can take a bit of a battering, our whole ethos is saying yes to the nos and sometimes it’s hard for the current players to make all of these appearances, so (the Classic Wallabies) fill that gap and to date it’s going well,” he said.

One of the Central West Barbarians selectors, Matt Greatbatch was stoked the concept was landing in the central west.

“It’s something Tinky ran by us and I thought it’d be a lot of fun,” Greatbatch said, before looking back at the 1997 Caldwell Cup winning Blue Bulls side he was part of.

“I haven’t seen half of those blokes for a long time, if anything it’ll just be great to be able to catch-up.”

Greatbatch said he was already thinking of players that could join him in what is essentially a Blue Bulls old boys’ team.

“But it’s hard to remember the backs,” Greatbatch laughed.

“We can remember all the forwards we played with but the backs have slipped our minds.

“We’ll have to try and find one of those in a team photo and have a yarn to him.”

The Classic Wallabies and Central West Barbarians clash on Saturday, November 17 at Endeavour Oval.