1973 NSWRFL season

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1973 New South Wales Rugby Football League
Teams 12
Premiers Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah (2nd title)
Minor premiers Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah (3rd title)
Matches played 139
Points scored 4234
Attendance 1390810
Top points scorer(s) St. George colours.svg Graeme Langlands (183)
Player of the year Cronulla colours.svg Ken Maddison (Rothmans Medal)
Top try-scorer(s) Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Bob Fulton (18)

The 1973 New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership was the sixty-sixth season of the rugby league competition based in Sydney. Twelve district clubs from across the city, including six foundation clubs, competed for the J J Giltinan Shield and WD & HO Wills Cup during the season, which culminated in a grand final between Manly-Warringah and Cronulla-Sutherland. This season also saw the introduction of an under-23s competition as well as a five-team finals series (rather than the previous four).[1]

Season summary[edit]

The 1973 NSWRFL season saw the introduction of the metric system to the playing field, and a five-team semi-final series. Twenty-two regular season rounds were played from March until August, resulting in a top five of Manly, Cronulla, St. George, Newtown and Canterbury who went on to battle it out in the finals.

The 1973 Rothmans Medal was awarded to Cronulla-Sutherland forward Ken Maddison. Rugby League Week awarded their player of the year award to Manly-Warringah's halfback Johnny Mayes.

The 1973 season also saw the retirement from the League of future Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame inductee, Ken Irvine. A legendary speedster who started his career with North Sydney in 1958, Irvine finished his stellar career with two deserved premierships playing for Manly-Warringah. Irvine also finished his career as the highest ever try scorer in the Sydney premiership (the record still stands as of 2017). He crossed for 171 tries in 176 games for Norths and 41 in 60 games for Manly.


From 1973 onwards, Newtown were known as the Newtown Jets[2]

66th season
Ground: Leichhardt Oval
Coach: Leo Nosworthy
Captain: John Spencer
Canterbury home jersey 1969.svg
39th season
Ground: Belmore Oval
Coach: Malcolm Clift
Captain: Geoff Connell
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
7th season
Ground: Endeavour Field
Captain-coach: Tommy Bishop
Eastern Suburbs
66th season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Coach: Tony Paskins
Captain: Ron Coote
Manly home jersey 1972.png

27th season
Ground: Brookvale Oval
Coach: Ron Willey
Captain: Fred Jones
Newtown Jets home jersey 1972.svg
Newtown Jets
66th season
Ground: Henson Park
Coach: Jack Gibson
Captain: Lionel Williamson
North Sydney Bears home jersey 1951.svg
North Sydney
66th season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Noel Kelly
Captain: Ross Warner
27th season
Ground: Cumberland Oval
Coach: Dave Bolton
Captain: Bob McCarthy
7th season
Ground: Penrith Stadium
Coach: Bob Boland→Leo Trevena
Captain: Ron Lynch
South Sydney
66th season
Ground: Redfern Oval
Coach: Clive Churchill
Captain: Bob McCarthy
St. George
53rd season
Ground: Kogarah Jubilee Oval
Captain-coach: Graeme Langlands
Western Suburbs
66th season
Ground: Lidcombe Oval
Coach: Don Parish
Captain: Tommy Raudonikis


Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 22 17 1 4 500 226 +274 35
2 Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland 22 17 0 5 389 219 +170 34
3 St. George colours.svg St. George 22 15 0 7 372 213 +159 30
4 Newtown colours.svg Newtown 22 14 0 8 358 224 +134 28
5 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury 22 12 1 9 369 269 +100 25
6 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 22 12 0 10 415 314 +101 24
7 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 22 11 1 10 345 367 -22 23
8 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 22 7 1 14 239 350 -101 15
9 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 22 7 0 15 310 414 -104 14
10 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 22 7 0 15 254 495 -241 14
11 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta 22 6 0 16 275 492 -217 12
12 Penrith colours.svg Penrith 22 5 0 17 272 525 -253 10


Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
Qualifying Finals
Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland 18-0 St. George colours.svg St. George 25 August 1973 Sydney Cricket Ground Keith Page 37,778
Newtown colours.svg Newtown 13-2 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury 26 August 1973 Sydney Sports Ground Keith Page 17,778
Semi Finals
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 14-4 Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland 1 September 1973 Sydney Cricket Ground Keith Page 41,898
St. George colours.svg St. George 12-12 Newtown colours.svg Newtown Jets 2 September 1973 Sydney Cricket Ground Keith Page 24,390
St. George colours.svg St. George 5-8 Newtown colours.svg Newtown Jets 4 September 1973 Sydney Sports Ground Keith Page 27,791
Preliminary Final
Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland 20-11 Newtown colours.svg Newtown Jets 8 September 1973 Sydney Cricket Ground Keith Page 30,649
Grand Final
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 10-7 Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland 15 September 1973 Sydney Cricket Ground Keith Page 52,044

Grand Final[edit]

Manly-Warringah Position Cronulla-Sutherland
Graham Eadie FB Warren Fisher
Ken Irvine WG Ray Corcoran
Ray Branighan CE Steve Rogers
Bob Fulton CE Eric Archer
Max Brown WG Bob Wear
Ian Martin FE Chris Wellman
John Mayes HB Tommy Bishop (c)
Bill Hamilton PR Cliff Watson
Fred Jones (c) HK Ron Turner
John O'Neill PR Grahame Bowen
Peter Peters SR Ken Maddison
Terry Randall SR John Maguire
Mal Reilly LK Greg Pierce
John Bucknall Bench Rick Bourke
Ron Willey Coach Tommy Bishop

After Cronulla-Sutherland's 14-4 loss in the major semi-final, Manly-Warringah expected the Sharks would be fired up for the Grand Final. And they were. Ian Heads wrote in the Sunday Telegraph the next day that It was a Grand Final as tough and dirty as any bar-room brawl.[3] Alan Clarkson wrote in the Sun Herald The fare served up in the first half belonged in the Colosseum.[4] The first half was not how the game's administrators would have wished to show-case rugby league, every tackle was loaded with menace and meant to damage. But from the melee Bob Fulton emerged and showed his unrivalled skill. Heads and Clarkson wrote of his "towering genius" and "football brilliance" respectively.

Manly's English import Malcolm Reilly, himself never one to take a backward step, was the first victim of the carnage. In the opening minute, Cronulla hooker Ron "Rocky" Turner set his sights on Reilly as the Englishman got an early kick away to take advantage of a strong breeze blowing towards the Bradman Stand (Paddington End). Turner missed Reilly the first time around, but didn't miss him a few minutes later. The Manly lock was left in agony from a badly bruised hip and had to leave the field for pain-killing injections. Knowing he probably wouldn't last the first half he then returned to the field and created mayhem despite the injections he received failing to work properly. He set about doing as much physical damage to Cronulla players as he could, but bowed out in the 25th minute and was replaced by reserve forward John Bucknall, who had played in Manly's winning Reserve Grade Grand Final side earlier in the day. Bucknall didn't think he would be needed and actually had a full lunch and soft drink shortly before the first grade game began.

After a number of brawls in the first half, referee Keith Page eventually called in all 26 players twice for mass cautions, threatening that any more foul play would result in players being sent off. Despite his warnings the back-alley tactics continued from both teams, and Page didn't send anyone from the field.[5]

Then Fulton took over in the 29th and 58th minutes. 'Bozo' demonstrated power and pace in both tries. The first came from a brilliant Fred Jones flick pass [6] which saw Fulton split Eric Archer and Steve Rogers just twenty-five metres from the line. Fulton ran around to touch down near the posts and give Graham Eadie an easier shot at conversion which he duly slotted through the posts. Manly took a 5-0 scoreline to the half time break.

The second Fulton try came after Eadie took a pass from five-eighth Ian Martin, then looked for Fulton and set him up perfectly. Fulton raced for the Brewongle Stand corner and managed to put the ball down before being bundled into touch by Rogers and replacement fullback Rick Bourke. From out wide Eadie missed the conversion to make it 8-2 (Steve Rogers had kicked a penalty goal before Fulton scored his second try).

Cronulla had to wait a long time before they dented the Manly line. It was in the 70th minute that the crack appeared. Trailing 8-2, the Sharks struck when lock Greg Pierce positioned Rick Bourke for a try (Bourke was flattened by Manly winger Max Brown as he scored, resulting in a broken thumb for Brown). Rogers easily kicked the conversion to reduce the deficit to just one point. Eadie stretched the lead to three points from a penalty kick and then the Sharks rallied and bombarded Manly. Ultimately, the Manly defence of John Mayes, Terry Randall, Peter Peters, Eadie and Fulton were up to the task. It will, however, go down in Sharks folklore that a Tommy Bishop flick pass in the dying moments failed to go to hand with the Manly line wide open. It was a set move Cronulla had successfully played all year, but had adjusted for the Grand Final in anticipation of Manly's familiarity with the standard move. As expected, the Manly defence reacted to snuff out the set play, leaving a gap that Bishop's pass managed to pinpoint. But in the heat of the moment, Sharks second-rower Ken Maddison also played for the old move, ran the wrong line and the ball went to ground - and with it went the premiership.

Manly-Warringah 10 (Tries: Fulton 2. Goals: Eadie 2/6)

Cronulla-Sutherland 7 (Tries: Bourke. Goals: Rogers 2/5)

Man of the Match: Bob Fulton (Manly)
Referee: Keith Page
Attendance: 52,044


  1. ^ "Form over five years". The Sun-Herald. 19 March 1978. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  2. ^ "A history of the Newtown Jets". thefinalwinter.com. Archived from the original on 2008-07-07. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  3. ^ Sydney Sunday Telegraph 16 Sept 1973
  4. ^ Sydney Sun Herald 16 Sept 1973
  5. ^ Coady, Ben (2009-09-28). "Grand final dramas". WA Today. Australia: Fairfax Digital. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  6. ^ Harker, Jon (25 September 1993). "I'll walk off, says Referee". The Sun-Herald. Australia: Fairfax Media. p. 72. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 

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