University of Wollongong and alumni of former Wallabies explore new rugby partnership

Academia, business and sport: Kym Aust-Howlett, Professor Alex Frino with Stephen Hoiles at the Classic Wallabies Luncheon in the McKinnon building at the University of Wollongong. Picture: Greg Ellis.
Academia, business and sport: Kym Aust-Howlett, Professor Alex Frino with Stephen Hoiles at the Classic Wallabies Luncheon in the McKinnon building at the University of Wollongong. Picture: Greg Ellis.

The University of Wollongong is exploring a partnership with the Classic Wallabies to help players transition to life after football and encourage future generations of players.

The Classic Wallabies are the alumni of all Wallabies who have retired from the game. 

Deputy vice-chancellor Global Strategy Professor Alex Frino invited Stephen Hoiles, James Holbeck, Justin Harrison to visit UOW and speak to business leaders and academics about how they transitioned from professional sport to life after football.

Prof Frino started by explaining his own passion for rugby which started after he grew up in the Illawarra.

“I played soccer as a junior and it was when I went to the United Kingdom that I learned a bit about rugby and learned to play a little,” he said.

“Just before I arrived back in Wollongong I was the Dean of the Macquarie Graduate School of Management. I had previously spent 22 years at the University of Sydney which had a great rugby tradition and a great rugby team. But when I went to Macquarie I couldn’t bring myself to back University of Sydney anymore.”

Prof Frino went looking for a new club to back. That was when he met former Warratahs’ marketing and commercial general manager Kym Aust-Howlett.

“She was with the Waratahs and I thought wouldn’t it be nice if I got Macquarie University as a front-of-jersey sponsor of the Waratahs. I went to speak to Kym and her team and she said “no problems that will be $2.2 million”.

Prof Frino informed her that was a little out of the price range. Then Ms Aust-Howlett called back a few days later and see she had a team he might be interested in (Northern Suburbs Rugby Club).

Macquarie Uni become front-of-jersey sponsor and Prof Frino joined the board and hoped the bottom-of-the-table team could one day beat Sydney University.

After two years of trying they finally did at Norths Oval in the grand-final to take out the Shute Shield.

“That was a very big moment for me. Unfortunately I had just left Macquarie University to come to Wollongong University,” he said.

When Macquarie University let go of the sponsorship Prof Frino talked UOW into picking it up. Now he wants to take explore a partnership to support Classic Wallabies 

As general manager Mr Hoiles spoke about the work being done to help rugby players transition and prepare for life after football. The program helps them continue mateship and camaraderie beyond the playing days by providing former Wallabies with opportunities to stay in touch and reminisce.

It provides a support network for players to transition to life after rugby as well as help with the ongoing growth and development of grass-roots rugby. The network of former Australian players help the rugby community and each other and are involved in junior skills development clinics and fundraising events.

Mr Hoiles said one of the things Classic Wallabies do is provide opportunities for former players to still feel part of the game by identifying opportunities for them to coach or speak to young players.

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