Inaugural Rugby Benefit Dinner in NYC

18 Nov 2014

The University of Queensland’s Business, Economics & Law (BEL) Faculty lured serious rugby star power to its highly successful inaugural rugby benefit dinner in New York on 6 November.

The discussion panel for the event, held at the Manhattan Club, read like a rugby honours roll-call with Wallabies Captain Stephen Moore and ex-Captains Mark Loane, Nathan Sharpe, Michael Lynagh and John Eales, along with former US team Captain Tim Usasz.

UQ BEL Alumnus and former UQ Rugby player Brian MacNish, now a New York resident, was the driving force behind the event, working with BEL, UQ Rugby and The University of Queensland in America Foundation.

The rugby legends led a panel discussion in which they reflected upon their careers and discussed the important issues facing Australian Rugby ahead of the World Cup in 2015.

The event raised funds for the UQ Rugby Club and provided an opportunity to engage with key alumni and friends of UQ in the States. The centrepiece of the night was the launch of a new scholarship program, the Mark Loane Medal, to offer an American rugby player the chance to study business at UQ.

The Mark Loane Medal will involve an inner-city youth rugby program and a scholarship fund to send promising American players to UQ and build greater ties between US and Australian rugby.

The award, named after Wallaby Captain and UQ alumnus Mark Loane, will be offered to an outstanding United States collegiate rugby student-athlete who demonstrates exceptional character and ability, and is intended to reflect Dr Loane’s exemplary conduct and superlative sporting and academic success. The medal will be first awarded in 2015 with the intention that the student arrives at UQ in 2016.

Dr Loane captained the Australian Wallabies throughout the late 70s and early 80s after a successful career playing for Queensland and UQ. The Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame inductee is also a highly respected ophthalmologist, and has carved a strong legacy in delivering eye health services to indigenous and remote communities across Australia.

The benefit dinner also raised awareness and support for Play Rugby USA – a non-profit organisation that helps disadvantaged children. Founded by Mark Griffin in 2005, the ground-breaking foundation uses rugby as an educational tool to help underprivileged children in New York, Los Angeles and other United States cities.

The philanthropic efforts of the event involved auctioning items including signed Wallabies and Waratahs jerseys, a Spicers Retreat package, a case of classic vintage Australian wine, and ten commemorative Rugby balls signed by the panel.

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, Professor Iain Watson, was extremely pleased with the outcome of the benefit dinner, as over 250 former UQ rugby alumni and friends of UQ gathered to celebrate and raise funds for the most successful rugby club in Queensland’s history and the inaugural Mark Loane rugby student scholar.

“This inaugural event was a highly enjoyable and successful night. It provided an excellent opportunity to profile BEL and UQ more generally in the USA while at the same time supporting an excellent initiative, the Mark Loane Scholarship. The first Thursday in November each year will be the date of all future events and hopefully this date will become a major part of the rugby sporting calendar in the USA for years to come.” said Prof. Watson.

The panel were effusive in their desire for the game in the US to grow, with Lynagh describing the country as a sleeping giant of rugby and Eales saying the US team, the Eagles, were becoming more competitive with the traditional powerhouses of the game.

“The US is getting a lot more respect as time goes on,” said Eales.

If you are interested in learning more about supporting UQ Rugby student scholars or Philanthropic related enquiries, please contact Director of Advancement of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, Dr Jason Ketter on +614 2803 7283 or