Exactly one year after the Weekender revealed their desire to return to the Shute Shield, the Penrith Emus are officially back in business.
Like a phoenix – or Emu – rising from the ashes, the Penrith Rugby Club announced last Friday night that they had accepted an invitation from Sydney Rugby Union (SRU) to compete in the 2020 competition.
Following a two-year hiatus the beloved Emus will finally return to the field once the competition start date is agreed upon by the SRU and NSW Government.
The Emus were turfed from the Shute Shield in 2018 and declared an embarrassment to the league; however plenty of hard work and determination behind-the-scenes over the last 24 months has ensured their return.
One of the driving forces behind their comeback, Emus President Gary McColl said the club was “delighted” to accept the SRU’s invitation to compete in an abridged competition this year.
“Our re-entry into the competition is just our first step into the growth and development of not only the club but rugby in western Sydney as well,” he said.
“A lot of hard work has been undertaken by the club since we last competed in 2018, for example our Board of Directors have met every single month during the hiatus working towards this moment.
“However, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. The hard work is being done and there’s an enormous amount to do. We are not looking at coming back just to exist; we are coming back to be competitive and to get rugby back on the map for the young men and women of Sydney’s west.”
Team training will resume at Nepean Rugby Park this week and the club has already hired a coach to lead them into the future in respected mentor John Muggleton.
“John is a western Sydney man and has returned from a stint with Toyota in Japan where he was an assistant coach to Jake White who won the 2007 Rugby World Cup as coach of South Africa,” McColl said.
“Previously John has been head coach of the Greater Sydney Rams in the NRC, assistant coach at the Melbourne Rebels and NSW Waratahs, assistant at Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership in England, and of course played an instrumental part as assistant coach in the Wallabies winning the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
“To have a coach and a man of John’s quality and integrity involved with the club is huge and cannot be underestimated.”
Muggleton, who is the Emus’ seventh head coach in nearly a decade, said he’s ready to tackle one of the most challenging jobs in Australian sport.
“There’s no question Penrith has a lot of work to do. However I have been encouraged by how the club has worked at improving its standards behind-the-scenes and I am very much looking forward to developing a side that will be more than competitive,” he said.
“The results of the past are just that, in the past, and we’ll endeavour to build a strong competitive squad to give the region and the code some much needed positive attention.”
The SRU are expected to announce competition start dates shortly.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.