Article by Stuart McLennan
From 2017 when they both started studying at the University of Canberra, Jacob (Cob) Howard and Luke (Wilso) Wilson have spent a fair bit of time in each other’s company.
After arriving in the capital from NSW country centres, Howard (Glen Innes) and Wilson (Coleambally), share accommodation, play footy and enjoy the odd beer together.
Stars hooker and captain Howard, and five eighth Wilson are now keen to share a premiership victory in 2020 and will be doing everything in their powers to ensure that UC raises the CRRL Cup Reserve Grade trophy this Sunday.
If the Stars do crack a win there is no doubt the celebrations will start and probably finish at the ‘Griz House’, the accommodation the boys share with another UC player Luke (Skipper) Bray. It’s the unofficial social centre for the club and a nod to the previous UC Grizzlies name.
Howard believes the club’s welcoming culture has been a big factor in the boys enjoying their time at UC Stars.
“We were mates from day one at uni first year and have lived together for the last three years on residence then into a share house.
“A big part of the friendship has been based on footy and the socialising after footy with the team.
“We both felt very accepted by the old Griz, (senior UC Grizzly players), which really helped our progression in the club.”
Luke Wilson almost didn’t play this season but was coaxed back when he found out his mate had taken up a leadership role in the club.
“I was going to have a year off footy but when I heard Cob was named captain I said I would come back and play,” Wilson revealed.
“After spending so much time together you get a sense of how each other play and a greater level of trust.
“It would be pretty special to win a comp for Cob as captain. I think he is the exact mould of what it is to be a grizzly.”
The last time UC won a premiership was in 2016 when the ‘Grizzlies’ took out the NSW Tertiary reserve grade title.
The only remaining player from that victory is Dylan (Barto) Barton who is also the club’s president.
Barton has noticed similarities around the club this year.
“The feeling, (2016 Grand Final win), was unreal. It was the first and so far the only premiership the club has won. We had lost to the Polecats two weeks before the grand final which was our only loss for the year, so getting back to our best and rolling over them when it mattered was a huge relief.
“Like this year, we had more players than we do positions on game day which kept things competitive and kept everyone playing their best.
“The culture is also pretty similar. The 2016 squad were more like brothers than team mates. There is a lot of that kind of love around the boys this year and I think that always helps everyone dig a little deeper on game day.”
UC Stars head coach Matt Cox believes close friendships and having a positive team culture has given the club an advantage.
“Combinations and friendships absolutely help on the field. Both of these men understand each other very well and therefore communicate and fill gaps on the field in a seamless manner. This is great for me because it is hard to coach intuition.
“Good culture is essential, but often a very difficult ingredient to bring together and it is never perfect. I believe we have been lucky this year because we have a good balance between ‘old boys’ and new players.
“Rising above personal issues for the collective team is the ideal goal, and taking accountability and responsibility for your actions, (which has been a key focus of mine), the coach included.
“In short, our motto this year has been we never lose we learn. As a result we got better as a team each week.”
UC Stars will meet Woden Valley Rams in the grand final of the 2020 Blumers Lawyers CRRL Cup Reserve Grade competition at Seiffert Oval on Sunday 27 September starting at 1:15pm.
Photo credit: Morgan Hain Photography