Club History

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The Bushpigs got started over a beer at the Lake Jindabyne Hotel early in 1983.

Jindabyne Builder Harry Cummins was challenged by Cooma Electrician Brian Kaufline to raise a rugby team out of Jindabyne and play Cooma. Harry rounded up a bunch of guys who were interested the majority from the Westpac bank along with a few Snowy River Bears. The team travelled to Cooma, played in Monaro High School Jumpers and proceeded to beat Cooma. During 1983 this bunch of guys organised mainly by Steve Gibb and Mick Mugridge chipped in and bought a set of Irish Green Jumpers and proceeded to play 9 games up and down the South Coast.

The name Bushpigs arose from a cruise trip some of the boys went on in late 1982 many of the boys ended up in jail on the ship and were very lucky that the next port they would be kicked off at was Sydney. Bushpig colours have always predominantly been Irish green, the founder of the Club, Harry Cummins wouldn’t let the club playing in anything else. Many variations of the clubs logo’s and jumpers have been used over the years and these have been very successfully marketed on all styles of merchandise.

In 1984 the Club entered a team in the ACT Sub districts competition, this was a big step for a bunch of guys in a Rugby league orientated district. The first team encountered lots of opposition from the local league fraternity but many of the league players actually ended up having a game or two of union to help the new boys out. That first year the team went through undefeated and actually beat Wests in the Grand Final 7-3.

The next few years were extremely difficult as many of the Westpac boys moved on and Rugby League blossomed in Jindabyne. The team never forfeited over these years but many games were played with not a full compliment of players or with what was known as the “Dirty Dozen”. In those days without the Mugridge boys, all 4 of them, the club would not have had any chance of fielding a team.

The Club seemed in the early years to stick to the Olympic timetable by winning grand finals in 1988, 1992 and 1996. The club then won their next Grand final in 1999 with the latest success being a fantastic win against Boorowa at Boorowa in 2006. The club has never hosted a home Grand Final but who knows in 2008.

In 1997 after winning the Grandfinal in 1996 the club was moved to a higher division which required the club to field 2 senior teams. Whilst the club managed this with some much appreciated help some long time retired players it was too hard to field 2 teams regularly and in 1998 the club moved back to Monaro division 2 Competition.

Over the years the bushpigs have been associated with many community events and have always been ready to assist in any way possible. One of the biggest undertakings of the club was to establish the Berridale Bush Races in the late 1980’s. the club firstly had to build a racetrack, this was helped by the donation of some land behind the berridale Gun Club by David Woodhouse, Transfield one of the large contractors on construction of the Skitube assisted with the heavy machinery and in 4 weeks we held our first race meeting, the races continued for 4 years until interest waned and the event was closed. The Club ran the bar at the Jindabyne Boxing Day Rodeo for many years and more recently have assisted at the Jindabyne Flowing Festival.

The Club has an unofficial motto of ” A social club with a Rugby Problem” this has been very true over the years with the club proving to be very social and at times having problems with it’s rugby. One of the funniest incidents happened after the 1988 Grand final win. The boys were still celebrating hard on the Sunday and they set up a road block on the Kosciusko rd outside The Banjo Paterson Inn. Then they proceeded to charge entry to Jindabyne, needless to say the police arrived soon after and ensured it was packed up and traffic could flow freely, but they weren’t quick enough to stop the boys earning $100 for their bar tab. Another incident happened after the team was beaten in a semi-final by Royals in Canberra. The team went back to the Royals club for after game presentations and were very upset by the gloating of the royals team after their win. Whilst a couple of players kept the doorman busy, the rest of the team packed all the pot plants, tables, sign-in books from the foyer on to the bus. Theses were set up in The Banjo’s main bar when they got home, unfortunately the club president was asked to return the gear the next day.

Being a club that has to travel the long distances from the Snowy Mountains to the ACT and beyond, transport has always been a major issue for the Club. In 2002 the club purchased an old coaster bus off Thredbo and this is still running today. In early 2006 the Club received a major donation of a bus from Pete Abbott at Sponars Chalet, whilst the bus needed some work it is now running. Both buses are a great assistance to the club, but with the possibility of fielding 7 teams in 2008 transport will once again be a major issue.

Ironically, the 1999 Grand Final win of the Bushpigs was the catalyst for the start of junior rugby in Jindabyne: the “Piglets”. That year the Bushpigs played their grand final before the main game between the Brumbies and Queensland. At the after match function, Nick Elliott and Johan Moolman along with several young Jindy boys met the ex-Wallaby and Fox Sports commentator Chris Handy. He remarked the the Bushpigs should have juniors if they wanted to further progress and offered to help.

With the help of the principal at Snowy Mountains Grammar, Stuart Walker, and the CEO of the Brumbies, Mark Siderbury, who offered financial assistance, two teams were entered in the ACT Junior Rugby Union competition for the 2000 competition. The under 13 side went on to be beaten 7-5 by Royals in the grand final that year, with the under 16s making the semi finals. This was a remarkable achievement by the Jindabyne boys, the majority having never played rugby, with the exception of our gun player, Matthew Caldwell, who over his twenty five years has played a pivotal role on the field for both the Piglets and Bushpigs with his courage ,tenacity and skills.

The Piglets continued for five years playing under the SMGS banner, fielding at least two teams and sometimes three. Chris Handy stayed as our Patron and attended the season presentations with his lively orations and rugby jokes. Bruce Marshall and Kevin Blyton both as SMGS Board members and major sponsors were key elements in the Piglets successes.

In 2005, the Bushpigs formally took over responsibility for the Piglets from SMGS. This resulted in the development of more teams, a complete unification of rugby in Jindabyne, the start of girls teams, and the Bushpigs taking on the running of the touch competition in summer. The seamless transition was the hard work of life members Mick “Mags” Swinney, Matt Fish and the Piglets secretary Terry Pillage.

In 2006 a few of the local girls decided they would like to try rugby. A team was assembled with the majority having never played rugby before. They trained hard and played their first game against a mixture of Wests and ADFA girls from Canberra. The “Miss Piggies” were soundly beaten but the enthusiasm they generated and the interest it created throughout the town was unbelievable, another game was organised. In 2007 the “Miss Piggies” played 5 social games winning 2 of them. Despite a few years where the club was unable to field a women’s team, the Miss Piggies returned to the field in 2021 and have played consistently since.

Over the club’s 40+ year history it has had many sponsors and at sometime or other all the Businesses in Jindabyne have contributed in some way to the club. Its s inaugural sponsor was Aspen Chalet, then the Banjo Paterson Inn, making significant contributions which without the club would not survive. Jindabyne Bowling Club stepped up as major sponsor briefly before the club returned to the Banjo until 2008. The club switched to the Lake Jindabyne Hotel from 2009 and their significant backing helped our club grow immensely and achieve great success on and off the field. It was arguably the most successful era for the club with five Bushpigs premierships during that time: 2012, 2013, 2015, 2022 and 2023. Another long time supporter of the Club has been Mr Bruce Marshall who through his various businesses has made a major contribution to the club.

The Club so far has 18 life members who without their hard work and dedication to the club it would not have survived. Learn more about them here.

In 2023 the club celebrated it 40 year anniversary with a fantastic weekend of reunion festivities including a huge local derby match against Cooma, where the Bushpigs wore a replica of their borrowed Monaro High strip from their first matches. Over 260 revellers celebrated that evening with a gala dinner event, where two new life members were elected (Nicole Raine & Jake Roarty), Classic Wallaby Mark Ella and Classic Wallaroos Sharon O’Kane were among the guests of honour, and the club exhibited hundreds of photos, clippings, bios and jerseys from its 40 year history.

Learn more about the achievements and people involved with Jindabyne Rugby Union Club by checking out the Club Honours page.