play rugby in Australia

How to Move to Australia and Play Rugby

It is the dream of many rugby players to play rugby overseas, where better than one of the oldest playing nations, Australia. The country has beautiful scenery, pristine beaches and plenty of sunshine! It’s the perfect place to play rugby. This article will explain how to move to Australia to play rugby.

It is worth noting that there is less money involved in the amateur game in Australia compared to its counterparts in the UK or France for example. What there may not be in financial reward is made up for in the level of competition. A season or two in Australia will put you in an excellent position when returning to your home country.

The opportunity to play with some of the best players in the southern hemisphere on fast paced pitches will no doubt take your game to the next level. I can safely say that I’m a much better player than when I arrived in Australia 2 years ago.

Although rugby union isn’t the most popular sport in Australia it is still fiercely competitive amongst those who play. Fans and players of the code are passionate about the rich history of rugby in Australia.

Australia play Queensland

Where to Play

First things first – you need to decide where you want to play and live. This can be quite a daunting task as Australia is a massive country with lots of rugby teams. I will briefly explain the main rugby regions in Australia but some of your own research will still be required to find an individual club. 

If you’re looking to play the top level of amateur rugby in Australia you need to start your search at the country’s cities. Arguably the highest level of competition is found in Sydney, New South Wales (Shute Shield) and Brisbane, Queensland (Queensland Premier Rugby). But Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart and Perth also have strong leagues.

New South Wales Rugby

New South Wales (NSW) is home to the oldest team in Australia and this illustrious history continues today. A popular rugby region, centres around its capital Sydney and the Shute Shield competition. There are currently 11 clubs that compete for the trophy in Sydney.

If you’re looking for an amateur club in the Sydney area look no further than the New South Wales Suburban Rugby Union, known as ‘subbies’. With over 55 clubs across 6 divisions, it will be easy to find your next team here.

For players who want to be away from the big smoke there are plenty of other options in NSW. There are 9 zones from the Far South Coast to the Far North Coast, with over 100 clubs available to choose from. 

Sydney Australia Overseas

Queensland Rugby

Queensland (QLD) is on par with NSW as a big rugby state. The Queensland Premier Rugby league plays host to 8 Brisbane based teams and one from the Gold Coast.

Just like in NSW, there are also suburban leagues in QLD based around Brisbane city. These clubs offer opportunities to players not wanting to play at the highest level to experience Australian city life. 

If you want a more rural experience of the sunshine state there are clubs up and down QLD waiting to hear from you. In the south of the state, the Gold Coast offers a mix of beach and city life with a tough rugby competition to go with it. Or why not head up to the Sunshine Coast for a relaxed beach lifestyle to go alongside your training and matches?

Queensland Australia Beach

Rugby in Other States

While there aren’t as many competitions in other Australian states there is still ample opportunity to play rugby. The Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia and Victoria all have premier divisions based around their capital cities. With a number of leagues in suburban areas and beyond.

There really is a club in every corner of the country so don’t let the process overwhelm you. It’s simpler than you may think to move to Australia to play rugby.

What Next?

Once you’ve picked a location, get in contact with clubs in the area you like the look of. Have a chat with them and see what they have to offer. You should get a good feel of whether it’s a potential match and can take the next necessary steps. I would advise speaking to a number of teams to get a feel of your options, you have a big decision to make. You need to do your research and make sure the area suits you. If you’re not a fan of cities then picking a team in Sydney probably isn’t wise!

If you haven’t got the time to research and find your own club, there is another option. There are a number of companies that specialise in matching players and clubs from all over the world. They will ask where you want to be located so it is still important to find out where you think you could live. 

When to Travel

The season in Australia begins in March, most pre season training will commence in January but some clubs may start before Christmas. If you’re organising your time away well in advance then you will be able to ask your individual club about when training starts. It’s worth deciding if you want to do some travelling before the season starts, whether that be in Australia or elsewhere in the world. If you have the time, I highly recommend stopping off in Asia for a few months. 

How to get an Australian Visa and Book Your Flights.

If you are from outside of New Zealand, you will need a visa to move to Australia to play rugby, live and work. Depending on where you are from I suggest the working holiday visa (417) or the work and holiday visa (462). Both visas let you stay for 12 months in Australia and work to help fund your stay. The cost of the visas are $485 (AUD) and some clubs may help you financially with this – it’s always worth asking. You will also need to prove you have an extra $5,000 (AUD) to support yourself for your initial stay. Have a quick look on the Australian Immigration website to find out which visa you need.

If you wish to stay for a second year, don’t forget you’ll need to plan to complete 3 months of regional work.

With many of the top club teams also being university sides, another option could be to study and play in Australia. To do this you’ll need a student visa.

Once you’ve applied for a visa it will be time to book your flights! Do your research online and try to find the best deal. It is also worth speaking to a travel agent, especially if you want to discuss doing other travel. 

Australia Visa Passport

Insurance & Rugby Medical Cover

You will need to get international clearance from both the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and the union you currently play in. This was something I didn’t know, but is a straightforward process so don’t panic. You can do this once you arrive at your new club, but it’s always helpful to get the forms signed before you leave. Registration to the ARU is mandatory but this does mean that you are covered by insurance at training and matches. 

Outside of rugby I would advise registering for Medicare when you arrive in Australia, this is a free healthcare service for tourists from certain countries. You don’t want a hefty bill if something goes wrong!

For those of you unable to access free health care, travel insurance is recommended. However, this can be expensive so be sure to look around for the best deals.

Getting a job 

It’s important you get a job whilst you’re away to be able to financially support yourself for the entire season. You don’t want to be caught short at the clubhouse bar after a game!

Many clubs will help you and may already have a job lined up for you, that’s great! If not, make sure you’ve got an updated resume handy. It may be worth sending off some applications before you leave but it’s not necessary as you’ll be able to quickly find a job once you arrive.

To start a new job you’ll need an Australian bank account to be paid into. Personally, I’d recommend doing this within your first week just to get it out of the way. 

What are you waiting for?

There are rugby clubs the length and breadth of Australia eagerly awaiting new players. If you’re sure that you want to move to Australia to play rugby, then start researching which region you want to live in. Decide whether you want to be in the city or a bit further out and start contacting clubs. Then begin to tick off the admin tasks listed above that will get you ready and set to go. Start with our blog page or Australia location page and go from there.

kangaroo play rugby Australia
Play Rugby Overseas

3 Steps to Playing Rugby Overseas

Are you interested in playing rugby overseas but struggling with where to start? This article will talk you through the steps you need to take to make your dream a reality, and will touch on my own personal experience after moving overseas from London to play rugby in Byron Bay, Australia.

3 steps to playing rugby abroad


Step 1: Decide Where to Go 

Most commonly players travel to play rugby overseas in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. These are the countries where you will find most clubs actively seeking players to join them. They offer opportunities for all levels from professional to amateur, making them highly sought after places to play rugby. Players can also try other big rugby playing nations such as South Africa and France. 

Some emerging countries on the rugby scene can also offer an unforgettable experience such as Japan, the USA and other European countries. Pretty much every country that plays rugby will have opportunities available if you look hard enough. Whether you are heading on a working holiday, to a new job abroad, or anything in between – there are rugby playing opportunities all over the world.

If you are hoping to get paid to play while you are abroad it is much more common in the UK and Europe for clubs to offer their rugby players monetary packages – so I would recommend starting your search there. Unfortunately it is much harder in Australia and New Zealand. 

Players looking to develop their game in the best leagues in Australia and New Zealand should head for the major cities, in particular Sydney and Brisbane. However, if you’re after a more rounded rugby experience, then rural areas and smaller communities can be a great fit.  

Step 2: Find a Rugby Club

Speak to the experts – they know what they’re doing. Agencies create mutually beneficial relationships between players and overseas rugby clubs. Honing in on what both the club and player require makes the experience extremely straightforward. It saves you time aimlessly searching for rugby clubs on the internet, connecting you instantly with teams actively recruiting players abroad. 

Make sure you know what kind of package you are after. For the right player, some rugby clubs may offer a retainer or match fees. Others will help cover the costs of flights and visas or even just assistance finding a job and accommodation. But, it’s not all about the money, the experience is invaluable and the networking opportunities at clubs can be helpful both while you’re there and in the future. Be clear with what you want when speaking with clubs, have honest conversations and don’t sell yourself short.

How to find a rugby club overseas

Once you’ve found a club or clubs you’re interested in they will more often than not ask for some video footage of you playing rugby. Being on the other side of the world, coaches can’t just come and watch you play, so the best way to show off your skills is through a highlights reel. In the past, I have used iMovie which is a great free video editing software found on apple devices. If your club or school uses Hudl they also have an easy to use function, helping you clip together and edit your video. Try to include the best aspects of your game across a whole season, not just from a couple of games. A lot of players make the mistake of only including tries and mammoth runs. Make no mistake these are important and an integral part of your attacking ability, but this doesn’t give the coaches a well rounded view of your rugby ability. You need to show prospective clubs that you’re not a one trick pony and can produce performances consistently. Think about what coaches over your playing career have always highlighted as important aspects of the game and include these within 3-5mins of footage. Player specific skills obviously also play an important part of rugby, for example lineout throwing for a hooker and box kicking for a scrum half.     

Step 3: Arrange Your Visa & Flights

You’ll need a visa for the majority of overseas countries you may want to play in, especially if you want to work alongside playing rugby. On the whole, visas are quick, easy to acquire and allow you to work and stay for 12-24 months. Keep in mind if you’re heading to Australia that you’ll need to do 3 months of regional farm work if you want to stay for longer than a year. So don’t leave it too late because I guarantee you won’t want to leave after playing a season down under. 

For a lot of these countries you can only get a visa once so make sure you’re prepared to make the most of it. Plan what you want to do and make sure you don’t leave with any regrets. 

You’re definitely going to need a little bit of money in the bank to support yourself and have to prove this to immigration via bank statements when applying for your visa. Obviously, the cost of flights will need to be covered as well and they aren’t cheap when you’re travelling abroad over such a long distance. If you’re serious about making the move then you’d better start saving!

What’s it like?

After moving from my hometown of London to spend the past two years playing rugby abroad in Australia, I can confidently say that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. The opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and head to the other side of the world on my own was one that I have relished. 

What's it like to play rugby overseas?

In my first year in Australia I played for Byron Bay, a small surfing town on the East Coast. The rugby club is notorious for welcoming travellers and backpackers from all over the world. I got to play alongside both Aussies and other overseas players from Northern Ireland to New Zealand, helping me to develop my rugby. The post match rugby culture is synonymous all over the world and is one of the best aspects of playing the sport in my opinion. The songs you sing and games you play don’t differ very much whether you’re on the south coast of England or the shores of Sydney.     

Before moving overseas to Australia, living in the city was all I had ever known. In Byron Bay, the small beach town / laid back vibe was a totally different experience for me. It didn’t take long for me to embrace my new lifestyle – walking around in boardies (or budgies) and thongs is the new me!  

Playing in a new country opens your eyes to different styles of rugby and different coaching methods. Having moved from the UK to Australia, I definitely noticed the desire to keep the ball in hand a lot more. I certainly wasn’t box kicking as much as I’m used to! Learning from players and coaches from across the globe has definitely improved my game, it has given me the confidence to step up to a higher level and play in the Brisbane Premier competition this year. 

Play rugby union Byron Bay

As cliche as it might sound, meeting new people and making friends for life is the best thing about playing rugby overseas. Meeting like minded people bound by a common goal allows you to quickly create meaningful friendships. In particular with other international players that are just settling into their new home. I have found that the local players and fans appreciate the sacrifices you make to come and play for their rugby club. You definitely feel special and valued as an overseas player which was something that I found really comforting.

What you need?

Most of all you need an open mind, be open to experiencing new places, people and lifestyles. Travelling and living overseas in a new country is a great way to broaden your horizons as a person but also as a rugby player.