Building the Bulls

Jock Mason (top) and Mat Chapman (above).

It took a humbling Saturday afternoon during the 2000 Southern Inland Rugby Union season to kick-start what would later become one of the strongest rugby clubs in the Riverina.

It wasn’t humbling because of defeat; it was humbling to a then 21-year-old captain Jock Mason, who could only field nine players; subsequently forfeiting their first grade match against Wagga Agriculture College. 

“I had to walk over and tell the Ag College captain that we didn’t have enough,” he said.

“That was pretty much rock bottom for our club.”

Nineteen years later and Mason, along with the likes of Mat Chapman and Bulls’ families such as the Grahams, Reynolds, Carmodys, Hardwick’s and others through the years have built the club to where it stands today. 

“We went back to Tumut and held an emergency meeting to establish if we could keep the club a float,” Mason said.

“We got through it and Chappy (Mat Chapman) and myself really wanted to create a culture that would make people want to come and be a part of the club.”

Chapman had a similar recollection of the darks days of Bulls’ rugby.

“When Jock (Mason) and I were thrust into administrative positions, we were pretty hell-bent on basing the club on a strong culture,” he said.

“It helped  that we had great, like-minded people who wanted to achieve the same things for the club.”

The group, pioneered by Mason and Chapman, has created a club that is much revered not only in Tumut but also across the Riverina.

On the back of recent days such as their Ladies Day or the club’s celebration of their indigenous history, it is easy to see why the club is moving forward in leaps and bounds.

The club is accepting of players with unique cultural backgrounds and has become a platform for players to express themselves, play rugby and be around a good bunch of people.

The next generation of committee members have bought into the culture of the club and have continue this trend in recent years.

Chapman was proud of the legacy.

“We have definitely worked hard to get the club to this point but that isn’t just Jock and I; that it is all of the families involved,” he said.

“Will (Reynolds) is a classic example of what the club is about.” 

“He is a second generation Bull and probably turned his nose up to a couple of premierships with the Aggies just so he could be a Bull – he got what it was all about from a young age.”

Chapman also pointed to their more recent progression within the Tumut community via junior rugby and women’s rugby.

“Introducing the Bullants gave us even more of a foot print in the community,” he said.

“We are now just starting to reap those rewards of that investment.”

The re-introduction of the Bullettes has only further developed the growing reputation of the club.

“Even seeing the girls come back in and do well and the families and friends of the Bullettes and Bullants all buying into the culture and club we have worked to build.”

“That is what this is really about.”

For everything the club has achieved, there is one thing Mason is particularly proud of.

“We couldn’t even get 25 for one grade back in the early thousands and then the other night, I turn up at Jarrah (Oval) and there is 25 blokes training for a spot in third grade,” he said.

“That is something Chappy and I probably couldn’t have envisioned back in the dark times,” Mason laughed.

The club’s success off the field has seen the Bulls be a competitive force on the field, always pushing for finals appearances and hovering in the top half.

“To be holding ourselves consistently in the top four across four grades is something we are proud of,” Mason said.

Mason didn’t want to fixate on the rugby that much though, highlighting the fun side to the club.

“50% of being a Bull is the 80 minutes you spend playing,” he said.

“The other 50% is all the other stuff you get to enjoy and the friendships you develop being around such a terrific club.”

Current Bulls president Jon Carmody believes the clubs owes its standing today to Chapman, Mason and all of the Bulls’ family.

“They have done a fantastic job to get the club to where it is today,” he said.

“They built a culture and supported people and that’s what the club is about.”