1971 NSWRFL season

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1971 New South Wales Rugby Football League
Teams 12
Premiers South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney (20th title)
Minor premiers Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah (1st title)
Matches played 136
Points scored 4477 (total)
32.919 (per match)
Attendance 1,562,338 (total)
11,488 (per match)
Top point scorer(s) St. George colours.svg Graeme Langlands (196)
Top try scorer(s) Balmain colours.svg Paul Cross (18)

The 1971 New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership was the sixty-fourth season of Sydney's professional rugby league football competition, Australia's first. Twelve teams, including six foundation clubs and another six admitted since 1908, competed for the J. J. Giltinan Shield during the season, which culminated in a Grand Final match for the W.D. & H.O. Wills between the South Sydney and St. George clubs.

Season summary[edit]

The season saw the number of tackles in a set increased from four to six. In addition, the number of points awarded for a field goal was reduced from two to one.[1]

Each side met all others twice in twenty-two regular season rounds, resulting in the top four teams consisting of Manly-Warringah, South Sydney, St. George and Parramatta who fought out three finals for the right to play in the Grand Final.

The 1971 Rothmans Medal was won by South Sydney's five-eighth Denis Pittard while Rugby League Week awarded their player of the year award to South Sydney's halfback Bob Grant.

This season marked the end of a 23-year run where all but two of the premierships were won by St George or South Sydney.

The 1971 season saw a ban imposed by the NSWRL on TV coverage of games in the Sydney premiership. It was believed that TV coverage was a contributing factor to falling attendances at games. As a result, only the Grand Final was televised, and even then as a one-hour late night highlights package rather than live coverage. The ban was lifted for the 1972 season onwards, as in practice it was shown to have a negligible effect on match attendances.

Teams[edit]

Balmain
64th season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Coach: Leo Nosworthy
Captain: Keith Outten
Canterbury home jersey 1969.svg
Canterbury-Bankstown
37th season
Ground:Belmore Sports Ground
Coach: Bob Hagan
Captain(s): Johnny Greaves / Terry Reynolds
Cronulla-Sutherland
5th season
Ground: Endeavour Field
Captain-coach: Tommy Bishop
Eastern Suburbs
64th season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Coach: Don Furner
Captain: Kevin Junee
Manly-Warringah
25th season
Ground: Brookvale Oval
Coach: Ron Willey
Captain: Fred Jones
Newtown Jets home jersey 1908.svg
Newtown
64th season
Ground: Henson Park
Coach: Harry Bath
Captain: Brian Moore / Barry Briggs
North Sydney Bears home jersey 1951.svg
North Sydney
64th season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Merv Hicks
Captain: Noel Cavanagh
Parramatta
25th season
Ground: Cumberland Oval
Coach: Ian Walsh
Captain: Dick Thornett
Penrith
5th season
Ground: Penrith Park
Coach: Bob Boland
Captain: Ian McKechnie
South Sydney
64th season
Ground: Redfern Oval
Coach: Clive Churchill
Captain: John Sattler
St. George
51st season
Ground: Kogarah Jubilee Oval
Coach: Jack Gibson
Captain: Graeme Langlands
Western Suburbs
64th season
Ground: Lidcombe Oval
Coach: Ron Watson
Captain: Tommy Raudonikis

Ladder[edit]

Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 22 19 0 3 528 260 +268 38
2 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 22 17 0 5 499 308 +191 34
3 St. George colours.svg St. George 22 15 1 6 392 283 +109 31
4 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta 22 12 0 10 383 355 +28 24
5 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 22 11 0 11 366 398 -32 22
6 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown 22 11 0 11 355 422 -87 22
7 Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland 22 10 0 12 352 310 +42 20
8 Panthers colours.svg Penrith 22 10 0 12 283 372 -89 20
9 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 22 9 1 12 344 339 +5 19
10 Newtown colours.svg Newtown 22 7 1 14 282 401 -119 15
11 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 22 5 1 16 265 446 -181 11
12 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 22 4 0 18 336 471 -135 8

Finals[edit]

Under the guidance of revolutionary head-coach Jack Gibson who was in 1971 beginning to embrace the attitude and training methods used in the United States' National Football League, St. George in 1971 had reached the Grand Final in all three grades. They were to lose all three matches. (5-11 v Canterbury-Bankstown in 3rd Grade; 5-19 v Canterbury-Bankstown in Reserve Grade and 10-16 v South Sydney in the top grade).

Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
Semi Finals
St. George colours.svg St. George 19 - 8 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta 28 August 1971 Sydney Cricket Ground Keith Page 38,157
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 13 - 19 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 4 September 1971 Sydney Cricket Ground Keith Holman 50,261
Preliminary Final
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 12 - 15 St. George colours.svg St. George 11 September 1971 Sydney Cricket Ground Keith Page 45,883
Grand Final
South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 16 - 10 St. George colours.svg St. George 18 September 1971 Sydney Cricket Ground Keith Holman 62,838

Grand Final[edit]

St. George Position South Sydney
Graeme Langlands (c) FB Eric Simms
Ken Batty WG Keith Edwards
Bob Clapham CE Paul Sait
Ken Maddison CE Bob Honan
Geoff Carr WG Ray Branighan
Tony Branson FE Denis Pittard
Billy Smith HB Bob Grant
Harry Eden PR John Sattler
Colin Rasmussen HK George Piggins
Grahame Bowen PR John O'Neill
Peter Fitzgerald SR Bob McCarthy
Barry Beath SR Gary Stevens
Ted Walton LK Ron Coote
Mick Dryden Reserve
Russell Cox Reserve
Jack Gibson Coach Clive Churchill

Against a battle-hardened Souths side with a larger pack, the young Dragons went into the Grand Final as clear underdogs. Only Smith, Madison and Langlands for St George had big match experience of the level enjoyed by the entire Souths pack - many of the Rabbitohs were playing in their fourth or fifth successive Grand Final.

The first half was a gruelling affair with the sole point coming from an Eric Simms field goal. McCarthy crossed the Dragon's try-line in the sixth minute but was called back on a forward pass ruling by referee Holman. Simms attempted a long range field goal in the eighth minute which was unsuccessful and Grant took another vain field-goal shock minutes later. Souths dominated possession and field-position in the first fifteen minutes and were just held at bay by the rugged defence of the Dragons especially from their centre, Clapham. Pittard made a 75m break at the fourteen minute mark and was brought down 3m from the Dragons line by a desperate diving tackle from Smith. In the fifteenth minute mark Simms took another field-goal attempt from dead in front and was successful. Souths attack was free-flowing and they kept the play alive with late offloads whilst St George adopted a more structured play of one-off running or moving the ball across the backline. In the twentieth minute Beath was stopped in the Souths' corner by a classy Coote cover tackle.

Langlands missed two penalty goal attempts in the first half, one the mid-way through the period and another shortly before the break. Only Beath and Smith regularly broke through Souths' defences. At the interval Souths were in front by the unlikely scoreline of 1-0.

When play resumed Souths continued with their adventurous style of keeping the ball alive, they broke through poor Dragons defence and Branighan scored in the corner. Simms hit the post with the conversion attempt. Cox had replaced Bowen for St George at half-time. Sattler tested out Cox early in the half with niggle and surreptitious fouls and appeared to eye-gouge Langlands in the 55th minute. The match began to turn spiteful at that point when Beath was penalised for using his knees on McCarthy. Coote scored the second try after a break by Sait, Simms converted and then added a penalty goal a few minutes later. At this stage Souths held an 11-0 lead and looked to be racing away with the match as St George failed to complete tackles allowing the Rabbitohs to continually off-load.

The Dragons then rallied and fought back with a try to Barry Beath after a brave blind-side fifth tackle move by Billy Smith which was followed by a a magnificent sideline conversion from Langlands. Smith was proving to be the Dragons only attacking spark until he was collared by Piggins and Sattler in a cynical head high tackle at the 65th minute. With the penalty that ensued Langlands took play to the other end of the field and Ted Walton scored for St George. Langlands again converted from out wide. With the score at 11-10 and only 12 minutes remaining, Saints looked to be getting on top of their more fancied rivals. However a match-winning try two minutes from full-time by Bob McCarthy running freely off Ron Coote, showed the experience of the Rabbitohs, who took their fourth title in a five-year period.

McCarthy and Coote had starred for Souths and continually threatened to split the Dragons' defence. Souths hooker George Piggins who had been called into the side to replace regular season rake Elwyn Walters, was hailed as a hero, playing himself to a standstill in what was ultimately a closely fought encounter.

The victory was to be South Sydney's last for a period of 43 years, with the club not to win another Premiership until 2014.

South Sydney 16 (Tries: Branighan, Coote, McCarthy. Goals: Simms 3. Field Goal: Simms.)

St George 10 (Tries: Beath, Walton. Goals: Langlands 2.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Middleton, David (2008). League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia. National Museum of Australia. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-876944-64-3.