1908 NSWRFL season

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1908 New South Wales Rugby Football League
Teams 9
Premiers South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney (1st title)
Minor premiers South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney (1st title)
Matches played 43
Points scored 1108 (total)
25.767 (per match)
Top point scorer(s) Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Horrie Miller (47)
Top try scorer(s) Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Horrie Miller (15)

The 1908 NSWRFL season was the inaugural season of the New South Wales Rugby Football League's premiership, Australia's first rugby league football club competition, which was based in Sydney. Nine clubs competed for the first premiership and the Royal Agricultural Society Challenge Shield, culminating in a grand final between Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney.[1]

History[edit]

Early in the 20th century in Sydney, the game of rugby football was contested in competitions that were affiliated with the Rugby Football Union based in England. In 1895 the breakaway Northern Rugby Football Union was formed and its own version of rugby started to evolve. The reasons for this split were ultimately based around the fact that clubs had wanted to compensate their players for time away from work due to injuries and travelling. After the Rugby Football Union denied the clubs' requests for compensation, many northern English clubs split away from the Rugby Football Union and entered a new competition, which implemented gradual rule changes to the rugby game in an attempt to make a more attractive game for crowds. When crowd numbers started to rise, clubs were able to afford to pay players benefits as a direct result of increased gate takings.

In 1906 in Sydney, crowd numbers for rugby matches began to increase significantly following the emergence of special player, Dally Messenger, whose skill was considered a pleasure to watch. It was around this time that the discontent of players with their rugby clubs for continually failing to shift away from the amateur culture of the Rugby Football Union was starting to show. Even though bigger crowds had brought increased revenue to the game, players ended up failing to see any of the increased revenue going back to them. But in the latter half of 1907 and unknown to the general public, Dally Messenger secretly agreed to sign on to play in a professional rugby competition that would start the following year, run by the New South Wales Rugby Football League. It would turn out to be Messenger's popularity that would ensure the success of the new competition.

On 8 August 1907 a group of leading rugby players and supporters met at Bateman's Hotel, George Street, Sydney and resolved to form the New South Wales Rugby Football League.[2] Early in 1908, a number of Rugby Football Union clubs held meetings across Sydney and Newcastle to decide whether or not breakaway clubs should be formed in preparation for the new Rugby Football League's premiership that was to start in the following months. The popularity amongst players in support of the new competition was overwhelming, with only some players deciding to continue playing in the traditional amateur Rugby Football Union competition. The Rugby Football League clubs that were formed were essentially breakaway clubs, and in most instances, teams continued the use of their team colours into the new competition. A key aspect of the new code was that players would be paid for playing the game. Adopting the playing rules of the rebel Northern Union of England, the new competition began in earnest in Australia on Easter Monday, 20 April 1908.

Touring parties[edit]

The 1907–08 All Golds arrived back in Australia on 9 April. They spread themselves around the eight clubs that were preparing for the season and helped advise them on the rules of rugby league.[3] The team watched the first round of the competition before heading to Newcastle and playing the first game of rugby league in that city. They then played matches against New South Wales and Australia before heading north to Queensland. The final test was held on 6 June and Australia defeated New Zealand 14–9 for their first test win.[4]

A New Zealand Māori side had arrived in Sydney in the first week of June and watched the All Golds' final test. They played four matches in New South Wales before also heading north to Queensland. On their return they played three more matches, including one against Australia, before financial and legal disputes ended the tour.[5]

Teams[edit]

Eight teams contested the first round of the season; seven teams from Sydney and one team from Newcastle. Another Sydney team, Cumberland, joined the competition in the second round, making it nine teams in total, however the club exited the League at the end of the season.[6]

Balmain home jersey 1908.svg
Balmain

Formed on 23 January 1908
at Balmain Town Hall
Ground: Birchgrove Oval
Captain: Bob Graves

Cumberland home jersey 1908.svg
Cumberland

Formed on 20 April 1908
at Horse and Jockey Hotel, Homebush
Ground: RAS Showground
Captain: Harry Bloomfied

Eastern Suburbs
Formed on 24 January 1908
at Paddington Town Hall
Ground: RAS Showground
Captain: Henry Flegg, Dally Messenger, Albert Rosenfeld
Glebe

Formed on 9 January 1908
Ground: Wentworth Park
Captain(s): Alex Burdon, Peter Moir

Newcastle Rebels home jersey 1908.svg
Newcastle

Formed on 8 February 1908
at Pike's Rooms, Bolton Street, Newcastle
Captain: Stan Carpenter

Newtown Jets home jersey 1908.svg
Newtown
Formed on 8 January 1908
Ground: RAS Showground
Captain: Harry Hamill
North Sydney Bears home jersey 1908.svg
North Sydney

Formed on 7 February 1908
Ground: Birchgrove Park
Captains: Denis Lutge & Albert Broomham

South Sydney
Ground: RAS Showground

Formed on 17 January 1908
at Redfern Town Hall
Ground: RAS Showground
Coach: Arthur Hennessy
Captain: Arthur Conlin

Western Suburbs

Formed on 4 February 1908
Ground: Wentworth Park
Captain: Jim Stack

Season summary[edit]

All four games of the premiership's opening round were played on 20 April 1908. Two games were held at Wentworth Park and the other two at Birchgrove Oval. In total, 3000 people attended at each venue for the back-to-back matches, with Glebe, Balmain, South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs winning their respective matches over Newcastle, Western Suburbs, North Sydney and Newtown. In all, ten regular-season rounds were played, to be followed by two semi-finals and then a final.

The season was a financial disaster for the New South Wales Rugby Football League. The competition had a distinct lack of star players, was hurt by a number of refereeing problems and suffered from a lack of exposure from the conservative press. Many players who had switched over from rugby union were sacked from their weekday jobs and were no longer allowed to enter the Sydney Cricket Ground, home of the New South Wales Rugby Union. The five captains that had moved from rugby union were also publicly ostracised.

The season's highest crowd came in the second round when South Sydney beat Cumberland in front of 20,000 people. Due to Cumberland having just been admitted into the premiership, this match was played 2 weeks after the other 3 games of round 2 had been completed. South Sydney consequently played their second match of the "round" because of this.

At the end of the season, Eastern Suburbs' Horrie Miller was the competition's top points scorer and top try scorer.

Results[edit]

Round Date Home Team Away Team Venue Crowd
1 Monday, 20 April 1908 Glebe 8 5 Newcastle Wentworth Park 3,000
1 Monday, 20 April 1908 South Sydney 11 7 North Sydney Birchgrove Oval 3,000
1 Monday, 20 April 1908 Balmain 24 0 Western Suburbs Birchgrove Oval 3,000
1 Monday, 20 April 1908 Eastern Suburbs 32 16 Newtown Wentworth Park 3,000
2 Saturday, 25 April 1908 Glebe 7 2 Newtown Wentworth Park
2 Saturday, 25 April 1908 South Sydney 42 7 Western Suburbs Royal Agricultural Society Showground
2 Saturday, 25 April 1908 Balmain 5 10 North Sydney Birchgrove Oval 1,500
2 Saturday, 9 May 1908 South Sydney 23 2 Cumberland Royal Agricultural Society Showground 20,000
3 Saturday, 16 May 1908 Glebe 25 8 Western Suburbs Wentworth Park 3,000
3 Saturday, 16 May 1908 South Sydney 12 13 Eastern Suburbs Royal Agricultural Society Showground 3,000
3 Saturday, 16 May 1908 Balmain 13 13 Newtown Birchgrove Oval 2,500
3 Saturday, 16 May 1908 Newcastle 37 0 Cumberland Wentworth Park 3,000
4 Saturday, 23 May 1908 Glebe 7 2 North Sydney Wentworth Park
4 Saturday, 23 May 1908 Western Suburbs 2 24 Newcastle Royal Agricultural Society Showground 1,500
4 Saturday, 23 May 1908 Cumberland 6 16 Newtown Birchgrove Oval
4 Saturday, 23 May 1908 Eastern Suburbs 21 8 Balmain Royal Agricultural Society Showground 1,500
5 Saturday, 30 May 1908 Glebe 22 7 Cumberland Wentworth Park 1,200
5 Saturday, 30 May 1908 North Sydney 21 9 Newcastle Birchgrove Oval
5 Saturday, 30 May 1908 South Sydney 31 3 Newtown Royal Agricultural Society Showground 800
5 Saturday, 30 May 1908 Eastern Suburbs 9 8 Western Suburbs Royal Agricultural Society Showground 800
6 Saturday, 13 June 1908 Newtown 8 17 Newcastle Royal Agricultural Society Showground 14,000
6 Saturday, 20 June 1908 Glebe 5 21 South Sydney Wentworth Park 1,500
6 Saturday, 20 June 1908 Balmain 16 4 Cumberland Birchgrove Oval 1,200
6 Saturday, 20 June 1908 Eastern Suburbs 19 11 North Sydney Royal Agricultural Society Showground 1,500
7 Saturday, 27 June 1908 South Sydney 30 11 Newcastle Royal Agricultural Society Showground 4,000
7 Saturday, 27 June 1908 Western Suburbs 8 23 North Sydney Wentworth Park 800
7 Saturday, 27 June 1908 Balmain 3 16 Glebe Birchgrove Oval 3,000
7 Saturday, 27 June 1908 Eastern Suburbs 26 5 Cumberland Royal Agricultural Society Showground 4,000
8 Saturday, 4 July 1908 Glebe 11 5 Eastern Suburbs Wentworth Park
8 Saturday, 4 July 1908 Newtown 7 15 North Sydney Wentworth Park
8 Saturday, 4 July 1908 Balmain 5 28 Newcastle Birchgrove Oval 3,000
8 Saturday, 4 July 1908 Cumberland 14 6 Western Suburbs Birchgrove Oval 3,000
9 Saturday, 25 July 1908 Newtown 5 6 Western Suburbs Wentworth Park 200
9 Saturday, 25 July 1908 Balmain 2 16 South Sydney Birchgrove Oval 800
9 Saturday, 25 July 1908 Cumberland 0 45 North Sydney Wentworth Park 200
9 Saturday, 25 July 1908 Eastern Suburbs 34 17 Newcastle Royal Agricultural Society Showground 400
10 Saturday, 8 August 1908 Glebe 5 10 Balmain Birchgrove Oval 3,000
10 Saturday, 8 August 1908 Newtown 0 21 North Sydney Birchgrove Oval 3,000
10 Saturday, 8 August 1908 South Sydney 8 3 Newcastle Wentworth Park
10 Saturday, 8 August 1908 Eastern Suburbs 24 2 Western Suburbs Royal Agricultural Society Showground 200
Minor Semi Saturday, 15 August 1908 Eastern Suburbs 23 10 North Sydney Royal Agricultural Society Showground 400
Major Semi Saturday, 15 August 1908 South Sydney 16 3 Glebe Wentworth Park 1,200
Final Saturday, 29 August 1908 South Sydney 14 12 Eastern Suburbs Royal Agricultural Society Showground 4,000

Ladder[edit]

The geographical locations of the foundation teams across Sydney.
Team Pld W D L B PF PA PD Pts
1 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 9 8 0 1 1 194 53 +141 18
2 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 9 8 0 1 1 183 90 +93 18
3 Glebe colours.svg Glebe 9 7 0 2 1 106 63 +43 16
4 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 9 6 0 3 1 155 66 +89 14
5 Newcastle foundation colours.svg Newcastle 9 4 0 5 1 151 116 +35 10
6 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 9 3 1 5 1 86 113 −27 9
7 Cumberland colours.svg Cumberland[7] 8 1 0 7 2 38 191 −153 6
8 Newtown colours.svg Newtown 9 1 1 7 1 70 148 −78 5
9 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 9 1 0 8 1 47 190 −143 4

Ladder progression[edit]

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 2 6[8] 6 6[8] 8 10 12 14 16 18
2 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 14 16 18
3 Glebe colours.svg Glebe 2 4 6 8 10 10 12 14 16 16
4 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 0 2 4 4 6 6 8 10 12 14
5 Newcastle foundation colours.svg Newcastle 0 2 4 6 6 8 8 10 10 10
6 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 2 2 3 3 5 7 7 7 7 9
7 Cumberland colours.svg Cumberland[7] 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 4
8 Newtown colours.svg Newtown 0 0 1 3 3 3 5 5 5 5
9 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 2 4 4

Finals[edit]

The competition was decided on which side had the most premiership points at the end of the year. After the regular season had completed, the top four teams played an extra round in order break the deadlock between South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs which both ended up on 18 points. After these two teams won their respective semi-finals, a final was played. South Sydney overcame a depleted Eastern Suburbs side to take away the inaugural premiership.

Semi-finals Final
15 August 1908 – Agricultural
  Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 23  
  North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 10  
 
29 August 1908 – Agricultural
      South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 14
    Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 12
15 August 1908 – Wentworth
  South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 16
  Glebe colours.svg Glebe 3  

Final[edit]

South Sydney Position Eastern Suburbs
Webby Neil FB Bill King
Frank Storie WG W. Smith
F. Jarman CE Percy McNamara
Ed Fry CE Dave Brown
Leo Senior WG Horrie Miller
Arthur Conlin (c) FE Harold Kelley
Jack Levison HB Lou D'Alpuget
Tom Golden PR Percy White
Jack Coxon HK Herb Brackenreg
Dick Green PR Mick Frawley
A. McCallum SR Jersey Flegg (c)
J. Cochrane SR Ted Briscoe
Harry Butler LK Bob Mable
Arthur Hennessy Coach

Both teams were weakened by the absence of players selected to travel to England on the first Kangaroo tour.[9]

The following is a report from The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on the final between South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs.

"The final match to determine the premiership in the first grade of the Rugby League was played on the Agricultural Society's Ground on Saturday in perfect weather. The match was shorn of much interest on account of prominent members of both teams being absent, on their way to England. In accordance with the League rules, one-third of the profits of the match will be devoted to charity. The game, which was brilliant, and at times rather rough, resulted in a victory for South Sydney by 14 points to 12. The winners deserved their victory.

South Sydney lost the toss, and kicked off from the southern end, an easterly wind blowing across the ground, and the sun shining strongly against them. Play hummed from the beginning. South Sydney having the better of matters, the forwards putting in splendid work. Getting the ball from the scrum repeatedly, South Sydney's backs executed several brilliant bursts, but the tackling of their opponents was very safe. However, they broke through once, Conlin making a beautiful feinting run, and then passing to Senior, on the wing, the latter scoring a pretty try.

Immediately afterwards Herb Brackenrigg kicked a penalty goal for Eastern Suburbs. South Sydney now attacked strongly, and appeared likely to score, but Horrie Miller, intercepting a yard or so from his own line, raced the whole length of the ground and scored a beautiful try behind the posts. Brackenrigg converted, making the scores 7 points to 6 in favour of Eastern Suburbs.

On resuming South Sydney obtained the upper hand, forwards and backs playing brilliantly. They made repeated dashes, but could not break through for a long time. Once Storie got across, but was tackled. Then the three-quarters made fine dashes on either wing. From the last of these, which ended on the line, Golden scored a try, which Green failed to convert. Just before half time, Edward Fry marked at Eastern Suburb's 25, and Conlin kicked a fine goal, South Sydney leading by 8 points to 7.

The second half proved exciting from start to finish, Eastern Suburbs at first attacked and South Sydney got out of the difficulty by forcing. South Sydney now became aggressive, the three-quarters combining very neatly. They repeatedly penetrated the defence, but could not put the finishing touch to the movements for some time. At length Levison obtained a scrum and passed to Conlin, on the wing. The latter dashed for the line, and scored. The kick at goal failed. South Sydney 11 points to 7.

Eastern Suburbs put in fine work. Dan Frawley and Brackenrigg dribbling almost to the line. Then McNamara dropped a field goal from centre, which reduced South Sydney's lead to 2 points. McNamara almost repeated the performance a few minutes later, South Sydney rallied, and Levison getting from a scrum at the 25 passed in to Butler, who scored. The kick at goal failed.

Play now became very rough, several players being knocked out temporarily, and the referee had to administer cautions. Near time, Eastern Suburbs came with a rush, and Miller scored a good try, which Brackenrigg failed to convert.

There was no further scoring, South Sydney winning by 14 points to 12."

14 South Sydney
Tries Senior, Golden, Conlin, Butler
Goals Conlin 1/4
Field Goals
12 Eastern Suburbs
Tries Miller 2
Goals Brackenreg 2/2
Field Goals McNamara

Statistics[edit]

Points[edit]

Player Team P T G FG Pts
1 Horrie Miller Eastern Suburbs 15 1 0 47
2 Herb Brackenreg Eastern Suburbs 2 17 0 40
3 Arthur Butler South Sydney 6 11 0 40
4 Stan Carpenter Newcastle 2 16 0 38
5 Albert Conlon Glebe 1 17 0 37
6 Dick Green South Sydney 6 8 0 34
7 Harry Glanville North Sydney 2 14 0 34
8 Alf Latta Balmain 4 10 0 32
9 Bill Bailey Newcastle 9 1 0 29
10 Jack Scott Newtown 5 6 0 27

Tries[edit]

Player Team P T
1 Horrie Miller Eastern Suburbs 15
2 Bill Bailey Newcastle 9
3 Daniel Frawley Eastern Suburbs 8
4 Dick Green South Sydney 6
4 Harry Butler South Sydney 6
4 Arthur Butler South Sydney 6
4 Frank Storie South Sydney 6
4 Tommy Anderson South Sydney 6
4 Billy Cann South Sydney 6

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Premiership Roll of Honour at rl1908.com
  2. ^ Cunneen, Chris (2001). The best ever Australian Sports Writing. Australia: Black Inc. p. 315. ISBN 1-86395-266-7. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Kiwis Were Out For Keeps RL1908.com, Accessed 8 August 2009. Archived 2009-08-11.
  4. ^ Coffey, John; Wood, Bernie. The Kiwis: 100 Years of International Rugby League. HLNZ Sport Hardback. ISBN 1-86971-090-8. 
  5. ^ John Coffey, Bernie Wood (2008). 100 years: Māori rugby league, 1908–2008. Huia Publishers. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-86969-331-2. 
  6. ^ "History of the Premiership". centenaryofrugbyleague.com.au. Australian Rugby League. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Two Byes see Whiticker/Collis The History of Rugby League Clubsp120
  8. ^ a b South Sydney played two matches in two weeks in what was still designated as round two. This was because Cumberland, a new team applying for inclusion in the competition after it had started, played a trial game in the first week of round 2 against Eastern Suburbs. Once the league approved of their inclusion, they played their first premiership match against South Sydney a fortnight later in the only game of the weekend. Because of this, South Sydney was allocated no game nor a bye in round 4, bringing them level with other teams in terms of matches and byes allocated to date.
  9. ^ "Football". The Sydney Mail. 2 September 1908. p. 644. Retrieved 20 November 2009. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]