Our History


Founded in 1869, Hunter Rugby has an enviable reputation for holding one of the best Club based Rugby Competitions in the Nation.

As the largest non-Capital City Rugby Union organisation in Australia, we are the essence of Grassroots Rugby and we are committed to continue to ensure that we remain the custodians of all levels of the Game for the Hunter Region.

Rugby Union was born in Newcastle on 5 June 1869 when the Volunteer Artillery Team (8 players) challenged the United Cricket Club (11 players) to a match. The match was played in Centennial Park (Lowlands Bowling Club) over two weekends. The game erupted into a violent brawl (the Battle of St. John’s Green), with the result… undecided.

In 1888, a meeting of Newcastle, Advance, West Maitland, Union and Ferndale Clubs saw a branch of Southern Rugby Football (to become NSWRU in 1892) formed, called the Northern Branch, which would later become Newcastle Rugby Union in 1912.

The discontent with the focus of district Rugby saw the establishment of the Hunter District Rugby Union in 1900. Seniors competition continued until 1916, when suspended due to a shortage of players as a result of the Great War. Still, the Hunter District Rugby Union persisted and continued to foster Rugby football for through the Cadets Competition.

In 1996, the Hunter Valley Zone (HDRU) amalgamated with Newcastle Rugby Union to form Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union, which has become the Hunter Rugby Union Community of today. The Hunter Wildfires have adopted the colours inspired by the WWI 35th Battalion in recognition of the bravery and sacrifice of the men of the Hunter.

2020 and Beyond

In 2018, in direct response to the well documented issues faced by the sport of Rugby in Australia over the previous years, Hunter Rugby realised there was need for a refreshed focus, new ideas and a determined plan to ensure our sport and our organisation was addressing the needs of not only our Players, but our Supporters, Corporate Partners and Community as a whole. So we commenced working on a roadmap for greater success and bolder achievements for our Zone in 2020 and beyond.

Our Strategic Plan was endorsed by all the Hunter Rugby Clubs at our 2018 AGM and committed us to identifying ‘relevant talent pathways and programmes for players, coaches, referees, administrators, volunteers and staff that enables them to reach their potential’.

In the past, Hunter Rugby had followed a traditional Club structure of Premier and Divisional Rugby, but lacked a completely defined strategy to address a full pathway for Player fulfilment, and as such we were losing some top local talent to Sydney.

To be true to our history and honour our legacy, this needed to be addressed and the Hunter Rugby Board was ready to rise to the challenge – even during times of great stress realised upon our Game at a National level.

Our strategy included that in 2020, Hunter Rugby would embark on a determined Representative Programme. Commencing with a home game in February against the Western Force, followed by a curtain raiser to the Waratahs in Wollongong against Illawarra. Both were successful and resulted in reciprocal interest from Players, Community and media.

Then came COVID-19… Our ambitious plans for the remaining seven games and a planned end of season Tour to Argentina, were curtailed. Along with participation in sport from the school yard to National Stadiums. Overnight.

An invitation to join the truncated Shute Shield and Jack Scott Cup was endorsed by the Hunter Rugby Board of course – but with only a month to prepare players, administration and finance, it was a definite challenge. And again, one that we would rise to happily accept. Our teams have all been well complimented on their commitment and progress. They have earned the respect of their competition who are delighted to welcome the Wildfires back to these fields of play. These challenges and changes have infected our Clubs and Zone with an unrivalled positive energy, and we intend to tap into this energised and revitalised Community Rugby spirit to engage the Region.

This year, in the face of the startling realisations presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are delighted to have been able to offer our Players a full pathway to reach their potential in the Region, which they are determined that we should continue. Representative Rugby is key to Hunter Rugby, and is just as important as our commitment to our traditional Club base. And we believe, these two areas must continue to align in their focus.

This commitment is at the heart of our forward planning.