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The University of Melbourne will host the historic Victorian Mile Championships tomorrow, fifty years since former Olympian Merv Lincoln broke the four minute mile in the event on the same track.

The University of Melbourne will go head to head against Sydney University for the second straight year in an Oxford v Cambridge style rowing showdown, this time on Sydney Harbour.

The School of Historical Studies’ Professor Joy Damousi talks about this weekend’s grand final, the role of the AFL in Melbourne’s history and culture, why Collingwood and its supporters evoke such extreme reaction, the professionalisation of football and the associated expectation for players to behave professionally off and on the ground.  A lifelong Magpies supporter….she tips Collingwood to win this weekend.

“The AFL grand final is a huge weekend in Melbourne, and always a massive day in the Melbourne calendar.  It has been part of the city’s history for over 100 years, after all.

“But especially this week, with two of the oldest teams, two of the great teams in St Kilda and Collingwood, both hungry for success, there’s a great interest, not just from those teams’ supporters but among Melburnians and just among supporters who love the game.  These are two teams who have played very well and whose style of play is a beauty to watch, so we’re looking forward to a fantastic game on Saturday afternoon.”

Professor Damousi says that in many ways Collingwood is a victim of its own success, and because of that, draws a lot of passion from supporters and haters alike.

“Collingwood has been a very glamorous team for much of its history: it has a glamour and an aura associated with it.

“Their supporters love them because they’re a winning team, usually performing well each season, and opposition teams hate them because of that.  They’re a consistently impressive team, but still, premierships have not come too readily. That inspires a desperation among supporters, which I think you’ll find Saturday in large numbers.”

Speaking more widely about the professionalisation of football, Professor Damousie says football clubs used to be tied to suburbs in Melbourne, with supporters going to their local grounds on Saturday afternoons – something which has all gone now, and is a loss that people lament.

“But things are just different, not necessarily better or worse but different, and certainly football and the MCG is a fundamental part of Melbourne’s history. The connection to the MCG is still very strong and it gives people a sense of place, and of history.  Football is also a generational thing.  Support for a team is passed down in families and can help define family history.”

The University of Melbourne has become the first Victorian University to win the National Indigenous Tertiary Education Student Games after four days of intense competition in Newcastle late last week.

The University of Melbourne has come out on top in at an Oxford v Cambridge style showdown at  this afternoon’s  51st Head of the Yarra.

The University of Sydney has challenged the University of Melbourne’s crown at this year’s Head of the Yarra in a university showdown at the nation’s rowing classic being held this year on Saturday 28 November.

Dr Geoffrey Vaughan, a former Wallaby and Melbourne University Rugby Football Club player, says the University has had a long history against the University of Sydney.

"Melbourne University started in 1909, the same year as the Victorian Rugby Union.  And the VRU to promote rugby in Victoria paid for an invited Sydney University team to come to Melbourne for a Melbourne University-Sydney University and we celebrate that this Saturday.  That started the Melbourne Uni-Sydney Uni games, which continued on regularly until the First World War, when rugby in Melbourne faded."

"After the war, funnily enough, Melbourne University started playing rugby league, which had started up in Victoria in a very junior sort of a way, but by 1923 the University club switched back to union specifically so they could play in the thriving intervarsity competition."

"There's been a number of intervarsity matches of note.  Intervarsity rugby has generally been dominated by Sydney University and Queensland University, the home states of rugby union, but Melbourne won several intervarsity matches in the 1930s." 

"We've also had a strong impact on rugby internationally, as a number of wallabies have come from MURFC.  For example, in 1934-35 Weary Dunlop became the first Victorian born Wallaby, and he had a long association with the club."

The Melbourne University Rugby Football Club (MURFC) will celebrate its 100th anniversary with an exhibition match against Sydney University Football Club on Saturday 6 June on the main University of Melbourne oval.

While all eyes were on Beijing Olympic gold medallist Steve Hooker last night in his attempt to break the world pole vault record at Olympic Park, the University of Melbourne will host an elite athlete meet tomorrow featuring the next generation of Australian pole vaulters.