Meet ACT Oztag veterans, Phil and Charlie
Local teammates and Men’s over 50s rep players, Phil Bruce and Michael (Charlie) Rutter have been playing Oztag from day one. Not only have they experienced the game’s immense growth over the years, but they’ve become familiar with the joy, honour and sense of camaraderie that it brings.
Both Phil and Charlie shared their Oztag stories with ACT Oztag.
How long have you been playing Oztag locally?
CHARLIE: I played in the first Oztag competition in 1993. When trying to launch Oztag in Canberra, I played in a demonstration game at Bruce Stadium at half time of a Raiders game.
PHIL: I think my first game of Oztag was back in late 1994 or early 1995 and I have not missed a season since.
What was the first representative tournament you played in?
CHARLIE: I played in the 1995 Canberra Cup, 1996 State Cup and 1996 Nationals, all for ACT Mixed Open.
PHIL: My first tournament was the first Australian Championships at Tugun next to the Gold Coast Airport in 1996. I played in the ACT Men’s over 30’s and we played NSW in the final and won. I think the score was 7-6.
How many representative teams have you played in, for both ACT and Australia?
CHARLIE: I’ve played 15 Nationals for ACT plus a recent 2 for Cronulla. I’ve played in 4 State Cups for ACT and 7 Canberra Cups for ACT.
I’ve been part of 12 Australian Teams (Mixed Open, Men’s 35s, Men’s 40s, Men’s 45s, Men’s 50s and Men’s 55s. Including two World Cups).
PHIL: I think I may have missed 1 Australian Championships in the early 2000’s due to the ACT not putting a side in and we did not have the Players Pool we do now.
I have been picked for a few Aussies sides. First in the 1996 Australian Merit side, as well as the 2007 Men’s over 40’s side which travelled to New Zealand.
I was also part of the over 50’s Australian Barbarians side in 2014 and 2015. Myself and Dave Bell co-captain/coached this side at the 2015 World Cup.
For the 2018 City v Country tournament, I was picked for the Southern Country Pride team. In 2019, I had a late call up for the Men’s over 50’s City side.
It was always a bit hard to get into rep sides due to ACT not having a team of my age. Players often had 10 to 15 years on me as I always played down.
I will be playing with South Sydney Men’s over 55’s at this year’s State Cup. I think all my Christmas’ have come at once having the great South Sydney shirt on.
What position do you play in Oztag?
CHARLIE: Link and wing
PHIL: I have played in the centre all my playing life, I’m not quick enough for anywhere else.
What keeps bringing you back to play Oztag season in, season out?
CHARLIE: Being able to play alongside mates and over the last few years the opportunity to play alongside my two sons Andrew and Matthew.
When I had a sarcoma removed from my left leg back in December 2017, I lost the whole muscle running down the side of my left quad. Not only did I have plenty of support and hospital visits from Oztag teammates, but returning to the Oztag field was one of my main motivations.
Oztag has given me so much to be thankful for – friends for life, the opportunity to represent my Region and Country and it allows me stay active.
PHIL: I played Rugby League until I was 28, then touch football until I was 38, then got into Oztag and soon found out that Oztag was more like League and I enjoyed it a lot more.
I am now 64 in 4 weeks and still having a ball. I love playing, love bringing young sides into the comp and helping them learn the game.
I have had no problem with my body – legs, knees etc, so will keep playing while I can run.
Do you have any advice for up and coming Oztag players?
CHARLIE: Always respect and never under estimate your opposition.
PHIL: I look at our younger rep sides and you see a lot of small kids running around showing all the skills, and I think that with Oztag they have a game they can play without the worry of the big kids putting on the big hits. My advice is to learn your ball skills and defence patterns on the Oztag field and enjoy it for as long as you can, once you stop, it’s very hard to restart.
Interview: ACT Oztag