The Cumberland Throw

Parramatta Stories – Issue 7, 2021: Rouse Hill Rhinos JRLC

“Crashing Into A Bright Future”

Back in 2007, a club in Sydney’s northwest had its humble beginnings in the kitchen of its first president. Those early committee members who met around Joanne Barry’s kitchen table would be rightly proud whenever they reflect on how far the Rouse Hill Rhinos club has come.

This week, The Cumberland Throw spoke with current President Paul Fuda to discuss all things Rhinos, including their future plans.

Naturally the first item on our agenda was to find out more about that growth. Though COVID has slightly reduced their 2021 numbers, the Rouse Hill Rhinos currently boast 30 teams and 417 boys and girls playing rugby league. That’s quite a journey from the five teams that took the field in 2007.

But don’t for one moment think that this club is prepared to rest on its laurels.

With such incredible growth through its junior ranks, the club is now looking to extend its own pathways into senior football.

A plan to enter an under 20s team in 2022 will soon be followed by an application to join the Sydney Shield competition one or two years down the track, as Paul Fuda explains:

“We’ll be looking to get some new facilities and grounds that the council have earmarked us for. We’ll get up to four international size grounds that will give us extra space for training. The grounds will be state of the art, up to NSWRL standard, which will allow us to play some senior football there.”

Sam Thaiday joined Paul Fuda and the Rhinos for Jake Arthur’s first home game in the NRL

After four Rouse Hill Rhinos players made their first grade debuts for the Eels during 2021, the young club from Sydney’s north west increasingly found itself in the media spotlight. The profiles on Jake Arthur, Will Penisini, Sean Russell and Samuel Loizou all referenced their Rhinos backgrounds.

As Paul shared, it was an exciting time for the club, especially as those boys in the NRL headlines had played together at the Rhinos from the time that their ages had barely hit double digits.

And back then, Brad Arthur simply did what many other parents do in junior sport – he volunteered to coach his son’s team. His NRL profile placed an unusual focus on the team, but the benefit of those years can be seen from the number of players in that team who find themselves progressing through the pathways of NRL clubs.

A look at the Eels Junior Rep team lists now sees a “crash” of Rhinos charging into the squads across numerous age group. And that crash is not limited to the Eels. There are Rhinos players to be found in the Rabbitohs, Storm, Bears and Roosters systems. Such player development is a tremendous nod to the coaching within the club.

Some familiar faces

With the Rhinos recognising the importance of quality coaching, Paul highlighted a couple of club initiatives.

Firstly the club has created “Coach the Coaches” opportunities, and everything from the basics to more advanced techniques have been taught to Rhinos coaches. Highly regarded Eels pathways coach Craig Brennan conducted the inaugural program and his expertise was a key reason for its success.

Secondly, the Rhinos pioneered their “Crash Development Program”. A herd of Rhinos is called a crash, and this coaching program targets the club’s 12 to 16 year old players in Division 2 teams, with the goal of elevating their skills to Division 1 standard and keeping such players involved with the club as they progress to older age groups.

Like all junior rugby league clubs, the Rhinos community is made up of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Having such a diverse community coming together around the common goal of providing opportunities for children leads to lots of fun, particularly on match days, and naturally, lifelong friendships. As Paul emphasises,

“We just want to see the kids happy, it’s not about us, it’s not the committee’s club, it’s the kids club. We want the kids to be able to turn up to train and play, and have some fun with their friends, make new friends, and enjoy playing footy.”

It comes as no surprise that volunteers are the heartbeat of the Rhinos, from those who cut bread rolls for the canteen and barbecue and set the ground up at every home match, to those who take on coaching and committee roles. As Paul proudly states, “a call for volunteers at any given moment normally results in 30-40 people putting their hand up.”

And when it comes to the bonds of their community, Pink Day has become synonymous with the Rouse Hill Rhinos.

Every year, the Rouse Hill Rhinos raise funds for Breast Cancer Research and a second charity via a special day when the club and its home ground turn pink. Importantly that second charity is often related to mental health, with The Black Dog Institute, and Headspace being recent beneficiaries.

Commencing in 2012, the pink jerseys and pink socks have been a popular attraction with up to 2000 people visiting the Rhino’s home ground at Wright’s Road. The Parramatta Junior Rugby League do their best to schedule as many home games as they can for the event, and it’s helped the club to raise well over $100K since it’s inception, including a record day which saw an amazing $23K donated to Rhinos’ charity partners.

Unfortunately, COVID restrictions have forced the cancellation of Pink Day for the last two seasons. However, this hasn’t dampened the spirit of giving within the Rhinos community, with club sponsors coming forward with donations. Even without an event this year, the kids will still receive the incredibly popular pink jersey.

Besides the terrific community of volunteers who are at the heart of the club, there are those who help to make ends meet financially.

Outside of the annual grant from Parramatta Leagues Club, and funds raised by this year’s raffle from Eels Junior League group partner Subaru, the Rhinos have a list of generous platinum, gold, silver and bronze sponsors.

The Australian Hotel and Brewery have come on board for the last two years, which has not been easy considering the COVID closures. Before that, The Vineyard Hotel were sponsors for 13 years, and other long term partners include Acacia Transport, Simtec and Rouse Hill Village.

Many sponsors either have a family connection to the club or just love what the club does for the community. That includes Empire Civil, Affective Building Services, Hills Self Storage, Shine Bright Dental, David’s Automotive, Bosetti Blinds Shutters and Awnings, Statewide Printing, Kitchen Art, Bravin Construction, Lexington Physio, DCO Plumbing, Newsline Carpets, Paul’s Doors and More, North West Trucks, MDS Marine, OzStyle Homes, Turtle Nursery and Landscape Supplies, and Cleary Plumbing Supplies.

Recently, the Rhinos emailed their sponsors letting those businesses know that the Rhinos understood if they couldn’t meet their commitments due to COVID. But, as Paul shared with us, “the money is still flowing in and we can’t ask for more than that and we really want to thank them from the bottom of our heart.”

With so much support for and from the community, it’s seems that there are many in the Hills District who are “Proud To Be A Rhino”. And given the club’s growth and future plans, I reckon that support is well-founded.

Anyone who wants to get involved at the Rouse Hill Rhinos can contact the club via their website or via their Facebook page. They are always keen to welcome new players, volunteers, coaches and sponsors into their community.

You can hear our extended chat with Paul on this weekend’s episode of The Tip Sheet podcast.


Eels forever!



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9 thoughts on “Parramatta Stories – Issue 7, 2021: Rouse Hill Rhinos JRLC

  1. Trouser Eel

    With a booming population, thus club can only go from strength to strength provided they continue to get the support they need. The club and their sponsors should be commended for their resilience and persistence through Covid-19.
    it’d be nice to see the club embrace the NRLW and put together teams with a view to becoming a development pathway for that competition.

    1. sixties Post author

      Cheers Trouser. It’s a measure of that strength of a rugby league community. What we are learning as we do these stories is how people come together around these junior teams/clubs. And sponsors and volunteers might often have a family connection to the club, but because the club becomes so important to local people, there are businesses and individuals who have no family connection but they just want to get involved.
      Another important factor is the local council. The Hills Shire council is investing in sports facilities – as evidenced by the Eels relocation to Kellyville Park. Now with the Rhinos impending move to larger grounds, further growth is possible.
      The amazing thing is that this club has only been in existence for 15 years and there are so many teams that they wouldn’t be able to fit every team into a home match on the same day.
      The girls program is part of their plans as there are girls playing throughout their 6-12 age group teams.

  2. Old timer

    The dynamics of parramattas catchment area for juniors has shifted greatly , cabramatta and the likes are no longer growth areas that the club can rely on , our future now lies out in the population explosion of rouse hill , schofields , hills district etc , smart move by the club to make kellyville their hq and excellence centre , kudos to the hills council for joining this venture with us and giving the support the parramatta council were remiss in , rhinos really are the foundation club of our new era 👏👏

    1. sixties Post author

      It is a massive catchment area in Parra when you traverse south to north. I suppose that southern end contains some of the traditional clubs, but the northern area continues to grow and could potentially stretch to Wisemans Ferry.
      With their new home ground facilities, who knows how much the Rhinos could grow with that north west corridor development all around them.

  3. Colin Hussey

    I enjoyed the read and I guess a mini history of the Rhino’s and the way it has advanced, in what really is a short period of time, well done by all involved.

    I just did a google earth to find where the ground they play on, and for an ex Northmead boy, the whole area of western Sydney is expanding at a rate that I do not really recognise. Our old street is all high rise as such and no “”normal”” houses exist in that street now.

    The last time I drove to Sydney, I got lost, owing to the improvements to the road system down there has changed so much.

    A great read and wonderfull story/history of another junior eels club, great that there are ex Rhino’s players now spread across the NRL scene, a great reference for the years to come.

    The surrounding areas are now really the primary growth areas in Sydney really, as so many of the old strong clubs seem to be fading, with changed ethnicity of the inhabitants, Cabramatta, Toongabbie, & Guildford were strongholds of the 2nd division, I would say that Cabramatta would be struggling as mentioned by another poster.

    Although a slight reflection as an eels supporter, how many players have been part of the RL scene that have wide ethnic numbers especially in the Cabra area? I remember it being the home of the Austrian/German social club not far from the station and as the area became more an Asian area, I can remember one player only who played for the eels, Dave Cheong. A good winger and had some speed but his career did not blossom.

    I would say that the way Sydney is now, RL has its primary strength, much on the North East side of the M4.

    1. sixties Post author

      Colin, we are going to feature every club in our stories. That means that every club will tell their story. We get to travel to Cabramatta around half a dozen times each season when we cover junior reps and it’s a good facility for junior footy. We learn something about the importance of every club to their community from every chat, and that’s something which I enjoy.
      I too am a Northmead boy. Played my footy at Redbank Oval (Union) and so much has changed in that suburb. The old housing commission homes are certainly disappearing.

      1. Colin Hussey

        Looking forward to those stories Mate.

        Redbank oval? I honestly do not remember the oval, used to go to Redbank Ck a lot there was a real nice spot there down from Balfour St big rock ledge near where the creeks divided. An easy walk there from where we lived.

        1. sixties Post author

          Redbank Oval is also known as Arthur Phillip Park now, it’s on the northern end (Using Briens Rd as a divider) of Redbank Rd. That creek spot is the confluence of Parra River, Toongabbie Creek and Darling Mills Creek. I remember how wide it looked as a kid when we discovered it.
          I’m planning to profile another 6 – 7 clubs by Christmas.

          1. Colin Hussey

            I have to honestly say that I never saw that park, or age and memory has affected the memory. I should have known it as two of my close mates lived in Hayes Ave the next street before Redbank Road.

            I also do not reccolect that Redbank Road was extended to the hospital area, certainly the only way from my old st was to go all the way along Briand Rd and turn at the end.

            Look forward to those profiles coming up. You’re doing a great job.

            In saying that, the big thing I am looking forward to is the NRL signings, there’s already a couple of RL sites listing out players off contract and the latest one is the targetted players for the new Brisbane team. Gutho and & Reed are listed as the key targets to sign.

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