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100 Years of Black & Blue Rugby

WHERE IT ALL STARTED – The Original Game Against Sydney Uni

In 1908, the University of Sydney challenged the students of University of Melbourne to play a game of Rugby Football. The game was played with great success, and while the ultimate scores were either never recorded or lost forever in the annals of time, the seeds of a yearning for more of this “foreign” game were sown.

The Melbourne University Rugby Football Club (MURFC) was subsequently founded in 1909, as one of 5  foundation clubs to establish the Victorian Rugby Union. The Club won its first premiership in 1910 and has always fielded a team in the top grade of any Victorian Competition, winning its fair share of premierships over the years. MURFC has experienced two periods of dominance in the local rugby competition – the late 1920s/early 1930s and the late 1950s/early 1960s.

Peter (C P) Hone - past First Grade Coach & Esteemed Club President (1994-2004).


In 1926, MURFC competed in its first intervarsity match against Sydney University. Melbourne University fielded two teams in the local competition, who finished runners-up in A grade and premiers in the B grade in 1927.

Other clubs at this time were Old Boys, St Kilda and Melbourne. 

By 1931, MURFC had four teams in the local comp and an estimated 100 members. The club won the inter-varsity competition against Sydney and Queensland universities in 1934, while also winning the local premiership.

The first two representative players selected from MURFC, Harry Yoffa & Gordon Sturtridge, played for Victoria against New South Wales in 1927. Gordon Sturtridge became the first Victorian to be selected for Australia in 1929 and he went on to become “one of the most elusive backs” in world rugby at that time.

Other MURFC players of this era to represent Victoria were N R Burns, George Pearson, D M Lombard, Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop and CHM Haydon: with Pearson and Dunlop also playing for Australia.

Gordon Sturtridge was also instrumental in inviting Weary Dunlop to join the Club.

An additional key club figure of this era was B K (Mike) Phelan, who played from 1926, coached from after the war and was president from 1958 to 1977. The Club continues to remember Mike’s contribution through the Phelan Bar, and those players who played under him will often hum a rendition of the Marseillaise at functions when his name is mentioned.

This is due to the fact that he bore a similar resemblance to Charles De Gaulle: the former French President. Hence the link to the French anthem.

MURFC - late 1980's.

Back Row (L to R): 1...2. Andrew Cormie 3...4...5...6...7. Tim Hone 8...9...10. Tony Davis 11...12. Damien Kelly 13...

Front Row (L to R): 1...2. Bill Gillies 3...4...5... 6. Steve Williams

The Golden Era of the 1950s and 1960s

Clearly the most successful period in the club’s history was the late 1950s and 1960s. The period saw the club grow again and produce a new crop of state and national representatives.

Most prominent of these players was Geoff Vaughan. Vaughan played for the University with distinction from 1957 to 1964, played intervarsity, captained Victoria, and played for Australia. 


Other key club players of the 1950s and 1960s included John Cocks (played for Victoria (Captain), Combined Universities and Australia), Ken Alexander, Bob Cowper, Trevor Cowper, Chris Foster, Bruce Jacobs, Bob Humphries, Paul Waylen, Phil Spence, Jock Langlands, Robert Burnet, and Peter Hone who all represented Victoria, with John Cocks and Peter Hone having captained the state team.

Melbourne Uni sides played in 9 consecutive Grand Finals, and were Premiers in 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, and 1967.  The dedication of this group of players is still seen around the Club today, through the Peter Hone scholarship and the Geoff Vaughan Trophy for the Best Front Rower.​

MURFC Colts 2010:

Back Row (L to R): 1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8... 9. Chris Bellhouse 10...11...12...13...14...15...16...17...18...19...20

Front Row (L to R): 1...2... 3. Jimmy Yates 4. Netani Qicatabua Jr. 5... 6. Reg Stowers 7...8...9...

The End of the Century

By comparison to the golden years of the 50s and 60s, the period from 1970-90s were lean times for the club.

Melbourne Uni struggled for consistency against the demands of the transient University population, and building team stability was a constant challenge year to year.

The Club did not have a permanent Clubhouse and used local hotels and the Carlton Bowling Club for home functions.  Hearing the call of the drums, ex 1960s player Peter Hone returned to the club as first grade coach in 1989, followed up by a sustained period as President (1993-2004), establishing a more stable club management.

In a partnership forged between Hone, club secretary Rick Boykett (1980/90s player), the City of Melbourne and the University of Melbourne, the Smith Oval Pavilion was redeveloped, and in 1996 provided the club with its first permanent home.

Success on the field has been more sporadic for the club in recent years.  Since that time, with the expansion of the University and rugby generally in Victoria, the Club expanded its player base. In addition to fielding three or four sides in the 1st Division, now has a strong Colts side, a Gents team, and a base of over 100 players.  

Colts teams won premiership flags in 1980, 1987, 2008, 2012 and 2017.

The Third Grade also have the rare hat-trick of premierships in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and the Womens team were premiers in 2000. Most recently, Second Grade won the premiership in 2011.

Melbourne Uni Rugby is very proud of our history!

We are continually building our Archives to ensure we chronicle our great memories.

We would gratefully receive any photos, videos, uniforms or documents that you wish to share.

If you can assist in naming players in our historical photos, please email

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