1973 NSWRFL season
|1973 New South Wales Rugby Football League|
|Premiers||Manly-Warringah (2nd title)|
|Minor premiers||Manly-Warringah (3rd title)|
|Points scored||4234 (total)
30.46 (per match)
10,006 (per match)
|Top point scorer(s)||Graeme Langlands (183)|
|Top try scorer(s)||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).
The 1973 NSWRFL season saw the introduction of the metric system to the playing field. Twenty-two regular season rounds were played from March until August, resulting in a top four of Manly, Cronulla, St. George and Newtown who went on to battle it out in the finals.
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 2015). 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
|Date and Time||Venue||Referee||Crowd|
|Cronulla-Sutherland||18-0||St. George||25 August 1973||Sydney Cricket Ground||Keith Page||37,778|
|Newtown||13-2||Canterbury||26 August 1973||Sydney Sports Ground||Keith Page||17,778|
|Manly-Warringah||14-4||Cronulla-Sutherland||1 September 1973||Sydney Cricket Ground||Keith Page||41,898|
|St. George||12-12||Newtown Jets||2 September 1973||Sydney Cricket Ground||Keith Page||24,390|
|St. George||5-8||Newtown Jets||4 September 1973||Sydney Sports Ground||Keith Page||27,791|
|Cronulla-Sutherland||20-11||Newtown Jets||8 September 1973||Sydney Cricket Ground||Keith Page||30,649|
|Manly-Warringah||10-7||Cronulla-Sutherland||15 September 1973||Sydney Cricket Ground||Keith Page||52,044|
|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|
|Malcolm "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. Alan Clarkson wrote in the Sun Herald The fare served up in the first half belonged in the Colosseum. 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.
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  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
- "Form over five years". The Sun-Herald. 19 March 1978. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- "A history of the Newtown Jets". thefinalwinter.com. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
- Sydney Sunday Telegraph 16 Sept 1973
- Sydney Sun Herald 16 Sept 1973
- Coady, Ben (2009-09-28). "Grand final dramas". WA Today (Australia: Fairfax Digital). Retrieved 2010-01-15.
- Harker, Jon (25 September 1993). "I'll walk off, says Referee". The Sun-Herald (Australia: Fairfax Media). p. 72. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
- Rugby League Tables - Notes The World of Rugby League
- Rugby League Tables - Season 1973 The World of Rugby League
- Premiership History and Statistics RL1908
- Clarkson, Alan (1997) The Greatest Games We Ever Played (Essay Collection, ed Geoff Prenter) Ironbark Publishing, Sydney
- 1973 Grand Final at eraofthebiff.com
- Results:1971-80 at rabbitohs.com.au
- 1973 J J Giltinan Shield and WD & HO Wills Cup at rleague.com
- NSWRFL season 1973 at rugbyleagueproject.com