If you thought you saw the University of New England’s emblem on the shorts of the winning NSW Blues team on Wednesday night, you weren’t imagining things.
Last year, NSW Rugby League approached the university to forge a partnership to develop high performance sporting programs and educational opportunities for players of all levels.
A Centre of Exellence will be built at Homebush which will house a sports science teaching and research laboratory run by the university and will cooperate with the Armidale campus.
The new state-of-the-art facility will not only benefit athletes using it, but rugby league at all levels.
The follow-on effect has already been felt locally with Country Rugby League and the National Rugby League bringing referee camps to the university campus in November and January.
UNE Chancellor James Harris said the state’s rugby league body were impressed with the university’s strong sporting programs and their reputation as one of the country’s leading distance education institutions.
“It was an invitation from them because we have a growing sports science and high performance field and we are recognised that our lecturers, students and tutors are some of the best in the country,” he said.
“Also, I think they asked us on because of our distance education abilities.
“The prime site is the Centre of Excellence at Homebush but also it will enable us and NSW Rugby League to get information and education material out to all the clubs in Sydney and regional and rural NSW.
“We are very good at that through our educational processes.”
Harris said the partnership will also have the potential for students and current programs offered at the university to benefit from gaining hands-on experience at the facility.
“It gives them an opportunity to work with some of the leading players in league in the country but also the best trainers, referees who have to be as fit as anyone else, the whole gamut of the game,” he said.
“The other thing is it will give UNE the opportunity to bring people to Armidale to use our sporting facilities as well, which will not only help the university but help the town – there would be more people to stay in motels and use the great facilities Armidale offers.”