We will be celebrating 50 years of Eastwood's Ball boys and girls next Saturday when we welcome the Two Blues to Millner.
They are there every week in their white uniform walking along the side line for all Grades, ball and kicking tees in hand. Sometimes they also fill in for the other team. It is something you take for granted when you attend an Eastwood game. The Ball Boys and Girls are always there quietly going about their business of providing an important part of making sure the game runs as smoothly as possible. But it just doesn't happen. It takes a lot of behind the scenes effort from our Ball Boy co-ordinator Barry Budd and his wife Elaine who have been in charge of these dedicated young people now for over 24 years. Barry, and Colin Short before him, have set the gold standard for co-ordinating Ball Boys/Girls that other clubs can only try to emulate.
The protocols that are still used today were originally set up by Colin Short who co-ordinated the squad at Eastwood for a number of years. His reputation at organising this important part of the game was well recognised and with the introduction of Super Rugby he also became the co-ordinator for Super Rugby and Test matches played in Sydney.
Around the turn of the century Colin handed the job at Eastwood over to Barry Budd while Colin stayed involved with the Waratahs and Wallabies. The Rugby World Cup of 2003 saw Colin given the task of providing Ball Boys for all the Sydney games. This was an enormous task and so Colin enlisted the help of Barry. Colin supervised all the games at Homebush while Barry looked after all the games played at what was the SFS at the time. The Eastwood Way was well represented at this global event.
Colin eventually retired from his role shortly after the World Cup and handed the baton over to Barry who has been co-ordinating Ball Boys for Super Rugby and Sydney Test matches ever since, along side his weekly commitment to Eastwood.
Boys and girls join Barry's program from a number of avenues and are mostly between the ages of 9 to 15. Currently there are a dozen youngsters on Barry's Roster. Most come from village clubs however some just simply approach Barry.
After learning all about the side line as ball boys some venture across the side line and put on the Blue and White jumper of Eastwood.
To be a good ball boy/girl the ability to concentrate for the whole of the game is vital as is retrieving balls from trees. They start their apprenticeship in Fourths and once they have learned the ropes move up through the grades. Barry keeps in contact with the parents throughout the season and likes to know of any ground or time changes early so he can notify the parents as soon as possible. He draws up his weekly roster taking into account where the game is being played and the youngsters' own game commitments. He contacts the parents on Wednesday night with that week's roster and makes sure all the squad is available.
Barry is ably assisted by his wife Elaine and both can be seen in the grandstand watching over their charges.
They may not appear in the official program but they provide a vital service to the smooth running of our weekly games and making it more enjoyable for all of us. The Club thanks Barry, Elaine and the parents along with the children who add to the professional reputation of the Eastwood Rugby Club.