Plenty of people would respond to the news that Campbelltown’s rugby club, the Harlequins, are turning 50, with something like: and they said you’d never make it.
“Putting Camden aside, there is only one rugby club in this part of the world – the Harlequins,’’ says Col Packer, president of the club.
It’s true that rugby is rarely found in working class areas like Campbelltown, but the Harlequins have proved that there are exceptions.
One reason for their success over five decades is that they have lived up to the meaning of their name, Harlequin.
The word can mean a jester, an entertainer, that type of thing, but it boils down to just having fun.
And the Harlequins have provided that in spades for their players, their fans and their sponsors for half a century.
To good, clean family fun you can add a club that has moved with the times to make sure it represents the community around it.
So just as Campbelltown has become more and more multicultural in the past 50 years, so have the Harlequins.
“A cross section of the community has always supported the club over the past 50 years,’’ says Tony “TC’’ Cartwright, another long time committee member of the Harlequins.
“The club represents a diverse number of cultures,’’ he says.
President Col Packer says rugby is one of those sports where you make friends for life, and it’s been no different at the Harlequins.
“We’re a family orientated rugby club, and we do a lot with the Indigenous community and schools,’’ he says.
The pandemic knocked the club around for two years, but they are hoping to bounce back in this very special year.
“We’re very grateful to Patrick Duffy from Duffy Law Group, who have supported us as a major sponsor for a few years,’’ says the president.
“Now Wests Group Macarthur have come on board this year, and have saved us from a very difficult situation.’’
Tony Cartwright says sponsors enable the Harlequins to subsidise the cost of playing rugby in Macarthur.
“In return, you’re not just a sponsor, you’re part of the family here at the Harlequins,’’ he says.
The season launch on Friday, March 25 at Wests Leumeah will be the start of several celebrations to mark the club’s 50th anniversary.
They include a ball on June 11, the launch of a book on the history of the Harlequins and an extra special Back to Campbelltown day when they host Camden during the season.
Which sounds like a lot of fun and that just means the Harlies living up to their name.
However, as Col Packer, Tony Cartwright and Paul Parkinson – another long time servant of the club – make clear, there are plenty of challenges ahead.
“We’re absolutely ecstatic the club is in existence 50 years after it was kicked off by a couple of stalwarts down at Lack’s Hotel,’’ says Packer.
Tony Cartwright points out that the core of the current committee aren’t getting any young, while at the same time the demographics of the area are changing,
“We’re at the crossroads in our 50th year,’’ he says.
“That’s one of the challenges we’ve got, having the people to take the club forward the next 10 years.
“The next 10 years will be crucial in seeing the club go on for another 50 years.’’
It will require energy and hard work, and lots more of the family fun magic the Quinnies are famous for in local sporting circles.
But don’t worry, they Harlequins are on to it with initiatives such as a children’s playground at their home ground, the old Campbelltown Showground.
On game day, the Harlequins famous spirit of hospitality that extends to the visiting teams will be bigger and better in their 50th year.
And no matter where you come from, if you want to sign up and play rugby at the Harlequins they will accept you with open arms.
“All are welcome at the Harlequins,’’ says Col Packer.
“So long as the family ethos continues and stays strong in the Harlies, the more we can grow that ethos the more people that will want to be part of it,’’ he says.
Mr Packer himself knows first hand how irresistible is the brilliant culture at the Harlequins.
“At a time the club was undergoing a lot of financial difficulties and [club legend] Paul Hughes said to me, would I be prepared to come in for 12 months as the president and try and dig it out of the hole a bit.
“I said, yes, and I am still here, my tenth as president.
“I absolutely love it, I’d bleed for this club.’’