From the time James J. Giltinan introduced the football code of Rugby League to Australia in 1908, the summer sport of many Rugby League players was to sail in 18 Footers on Sydney Harbour.
De’Longhi-Rabbitohs heads the fleet under spinnaker
The association between the two sports was such that in 1935 when Australia’s 18 Footer sailors formed their own club - they named it the NSW 18 Footers League and held their meetings in the Rugby League’s headquarters in the city.
The sailing club’s first secretary was also the same James J. Giltinan.
Rabbitohs NRL squad with Giltinana Trophy and De'Longhi Rabbitohs skiff
Mr. Giltinan’s drive was such that the major trophies in both sports carried his name – ‘Giltinan Shield’ in Rugby League and ‘Giltinan Trophy’ in 18ft Skiff Racing.
South Sydney (famously known as the ‘Rabbitohs’) was one of the original Rugby League clubs in Australia and won the first ever premiership for the Giltinan Shield in 1908. The club has since won more competitions than any other club in the League’s history.
Since the sailing League’s origin in 1935, it has become the world’s leading 18ft Skiff Racing organization and boasts the honour of having some of the world’s greatest sailors and designers pass through its racing ranks.
In recent years, the professionalism and technology in both sports has been heavily dependent on corporate sponsorship to enable it to retain the high standards they have set over such a long period.
With the links already established between the two sporting organizations, it is not surprising that they also share two corporate sponsors, which allows each to retain its position of excellence in their respective sports.
De’Longhi Australia and Kenwood ‘Create More’ are major sponsors to both sports and have linked the two ‘Leagues’ even closer with their co-sponsored skiffs – De’Longhi-Rabbitohs and Rabbitohs-Kenwood – in the Australian 18 Footers League fleet.
Kenwood at speed downwind
Driving force behind the ‘co-sponsorship’ and sporting link is the De’Longhi’s General Manager – Sales and Marketing, Mr. Tom Mitchell.
Never one to stand back and wait for something to happen, Tom was determined to strengthen the link even further and organized a ‘family-style get together’ day for the Rabbitohs at the sailing club in Double Bay.
The champion NRL Rabbitohs team began the day with a two hour training session in the park adjacent to the sailing club and stunned onlookers and locals with the club’s level of intensity and degree of professionalism.
Following a morning tea in the sailing clubhouse with their families, several players and coach Michael Maguire went for a sail on Sydney Harbour in the two Rabbitohs skiffs.
The day was an outstanding success and showed how sporting organizations can work together with their corporate sponsors to provide mutual benefits and to show how much their support is really appreciated.
Tom Mitchell’s passion, drive and vision is beginning to make him look a little like a modern day James J. Giltinan.
Summing up, Tom commented: 'To introduce the De’Longhi and Kenwood brands into sponsorship several years ago was one thing but to be associated around good people doing great things through sport has been the key driver to continue what is a unique relationship.
As a company over the last several years, we have grown through passion. Our new theme is passion with discipline.
The South Sydney Football Club and 18 foot skiff clubs have this in spades, so we are mutually benefiting whilst learning to be better every day.'
Rabbitohs players take a short break during training session
Rabbitohs great British international Sam Burgess with 18ft skiffs Angela Radojcic
18 Footers website