The Victorian Schools Rugby Union (VSRU) 1st XV competition kicks off this weekend with a fresh face at the helm.
Recently appointed VSRU Chairman Michael Wilson steps into the hot seat following the departure of Kevin Culliver, who had assumed the role for over 20 years.
"To say that I have big shoes to fill is certainly an understatement," acknowledges Wilson.
“He’s been absolutely wonderful for the Victorian game and still stays in contact regularly to ensure there’s a smooth transition. It’s certainly been greatly appreciated.”
As a former Development Manager for Rugby Victoria (Wilson actually hired current Rugby Victoria CEO Chris Evans) the Xavier Grammar teacher is better placed than most to observe the opportunities and challenges the code is facing.
“To come up against the juggernaut that is AFL can be quite daunting,” explains Wilson.
"That said, I see it as a new opportunity, a fresh opportunity.
"Rugby in Victoria and Australia has seen some difficult times of late. Looking ahead on the horizon, many exciting events are coming up that can help promote the game that we love."
A recently announced Bledisloe Cup fixture, an impending World Cup and the presence of Rugby 7s at the approaching Commonwealth Games certainly will raise the exposure of rugby within schools, according to Wilson.
"Any promotion of the term rugby and the global term rugby is a good promotion.
“My other role is Head of Sport at Xavier College, looking after 24 different sports.
“It’s really interesting seeing the difference in all those communities. By far and away though, the rugby community is the most passionate and dedicated towards growing the game.”
With recent VSRU graduates Josh Canham, Jordan Uelese, Mosese Tuipulotu and Sione Tui forging out careers in the professional ranks, the pathway from schoolboy sensation to professional has never been so clear.
“The Rebels have certainly helped and certainly help create that exposure rugby needs,” explains Wilson.
"When you speak of those players (who have turned professional), they often do come back to watch games when they are in Melbourne.
"I recall Jordan Uelese had a chat here at Xavier with the media one day. He was mentioning how great it was to be back and how he could recall the day he played here against Xavier back in his school days."
“You never forget the grassroots or where you came from when you’re a professional athlete.
"You want to inspire people to follow in those footsteps and walk in their shoes.
"Using these homegrown heroes for us is vital in developing the game so that you can see the products of school rugby in front of you."
The VSRU season kicks off this weekend.