The Symbolism of the Risdon Cup
The Risdon Cup, a trophy steeped in history, represents the glory, honour and comradery of a team that has the commitment to perform at the highest standard for a whole season and finish the year victorious. For 53 years, teams across the Darling Downs have battled it out in a mission to seal the Risdon Cup upon their trophy cabinet to remind them of the strength they have as a club. Throughout the past 53 seasons, Institute became a University, Gatton Agriculture College evolved into UQ Gatton as the Black Pigs, the competition has grown from 5 to 12 clubs and thousands of players have graced the Rugby fields of the Darling Downs. The reminiscence of Risdon Cup victories are still in the forefront of many members memories, with current and next generations striving to create their own.
Before we embark on the 54th season of the Risdon Cup, we’ve spoken to members of the Rugby community across the Downs who’ve played, coached and administered our great game to find out what the competition means to them and what the great trophy symbolises in the region.
Michael Horan, Chairman of Downs Rugby, emphasised the true significance of this trophy due to the competition being uninterrupted for 53 years and the symbolism has remained the same since the inception in 1964. The history and tradition that encompasses the Risdon Cup is as much a wonder as the cup itself. Rugby had been played on the Downs since the 19th Century, however until 1964 there was no official trophy to symbolise the victory of a formal competition. Horan believes that the players still possess the same values of the game since 1964; friendship, enjoyment and team comradery, but underneath these foregrounded attributes is the mission to win the Grand Final and take the Risdon Cup home for your club.
The lifelong bonding that Rugby offers the Downs is an important aspect of the game. Geoff Makim was captain coach of the first ever Goondiwindi A Grade side, is a life member of Downs Rugby and is still an avid supporter across the teams on the Downs. Makim played in the first ever Risdon Cup match in Warwick in 1964, and even after all the years he has played and volunteered, you will still find him on the sidelines to this day. Makim believes that Rugby gives the region the chance to come together as teams and towns, because without the intercommunity bonding the game has no stimulation. The Risdon Cup gives this opportunity to the teams on the Downs and for the past 53 years it has been successful.
The Dalby Wheatmen are the current caretakers of the Risdon Cup, and under the guidance of Nathan Bradley were able to win their first A grade premiership in over ten years last season. Dalby is renowned for the community support and Bradley acknowledges and thanks the sponsors and supporters for their dedicated efforts throughout the season, without them the Risdon Cup victory does not taste as sweet. Many Downs Rugby athletes play their entire career without winning a Risdon Cup Grand Final; Bradley himself was one of these players affirming that such a feat is quite a rare occasion and takes an enormous effort both as a player and a coach. Bradley played in 3 Grand Finals himself, on top of work, family and other life commitments which many local players face the challenges of year in year out and believes that this commitment is the beauty behind the success of the competition. Bradley is in the process of rallying his troops one more time in an attempt to achieve the glory of winning the Risdon Cup back to back.
What the Risdon Cup is specifically iconic of is the Darling Downs area itself. Highfields A Grade will play in their first Risdon Cup in 2016, who will be coached by Cameron Donaldson, past General Manger of Downs Rugby, who once battled it out for the Risdon Cup for the Gatton Agriculture College in his youth. Donaldson believes that the Risdon Cup represents the characteristics of the Darling Downs and the specific brand of Rugby played here. The city competitions are vastly different from the Downs as the men from the country are brutal, daunting and tough further expressed through their style of Rugby. Donaldson knows the road ahead will be challenging for his young Redbacks side, but is proud to be leading the newest side into the competition he has so much respect for. The Risdon Cup epitomizes the essence of country Rugby that is played on the Darling Downs which is a correlation between the men that are produced from the region.
The supremacy of Rugby in the Downs, is how Goondiwindi stalwart and Downs Rugby board member Trent Raymond sees the Risdon Cup. Raymond can recall being at high school, and seeing his older brother hold the Risdon Cup, instantly becoming fixated on winning a premiership with his beloved Emus. Raymond believes the iconic silver cup, stands for the hard work that players, volunteers, supports and clubs as a whole put in year after year, and being able to hold the cup after a Grand Final victory is the ultimate reward
The Risdon Cup means something different to every individual, however the commonalities between players, coaches and supporters are all very similar. Friendship is a large factor; players bond more playing the game than anywhere else as the whole team joins as one to achieve a common goal. The whole community will get behind a team to give them the support they need to go further in the game, this is what makes the difference. Tradition is what keeps the game flowing; grandparents and parents pass down the love of the game to ensure that there is still a future for Rugby and the 53 year history of the Risdon Cup is explicit proof. The symbolism of the Risdon Cup is the reason Downs Rugby Senior Competition is still alive. Every team strives to earn the glory of having their name printed on the Risdon Cup and cherish the year that they were the champions of the Downs Rugby A Grade Competition.