Former prime minister Tony Abbott runs out for Forest in a Sydney club rugby match.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott runs out for Forest in a Sydney club rugby match.

From frontbench to frontrow: Former PM pulls on rugby boots

FORMER Prime Minister Tony Abbott is used to frontbench battles - but none will have prepared him for his most recent clash of heads.

Twenty-two years after leading Sydney University to a fourth-grade premiership, Abbott dusted off the boots and put the tape around his head as he took the field in a local third-grade rugby match.

At the ripe old age of 60, Abbott took the field for Forestville-based club, Forest, who compete in the NSW suburban second division competition.

His rugby return at Melwood Oval lasted just eight minutes, before succumbing to a calf injury.

Abbott played loose-head prop and packed down in a number of scrums.

He didn't carry the ball, but threw himself into a number of rucks.

Forest beat University of New South Wales 25-14 and Abbott sang the team song in the change rooms.

Tony Abbott packs into a scrum at loose-head prop.
Tony Abbott packs into a scrum at loose-head prop.

His late-season cameo appearance came about after participating in a charity sleep-out last year, where he promised to run out for the club.

Abbott's personal assistant is a regular in the fourth-grade side, but with the side in contention for the finals it was decided that the Member for Warringah would play third grade instead.

Forest Rugby Club president David Dickerson said that Abbott was an "honorary guest" and therefore didn't have to pay registration fees.

He added that Abbott had expressed a desire to lace up the boots again in 2019.

A former second-grade regular for Sydney University, MAbbott also coached at the prestigious university and even mentored former Wallabies forward Peter FitzSimons who recalled Mr Abbott's enthusiasm for torrid scrummaging sessions.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott following his rugby return.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott following his rugby return.

"One time, when he was coaching me in 1989, Sydney Uni No. 2 was a quagmire of mud, and sensible players had long since retired to the dressing room," Fitzsimons said.

"Situation perfect.

"Again and again and again Abbo put the first and second XV packs through scrums, running from spot to spot to set the new scrum, as we maddened muddy wombats staggered after him.

"Forty minutes in, as our eyeballs rolled with exhaustion, I remember looking at his own beatific countenance, all grin and ears, the rain pouring off his uncovered head and having this distinct thought: 'I think he's a little bit insane … in a hugely likeable way'."


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