1976 NSWRFL season

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1976 New South Wales Rugby Football League
Teams 12
Premiers Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah (3rd title)
Minor premiers Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah (4th title)
Matches played 138
Points scored 4390
Attendance 1594183
Top points scorer(s) Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Graham Eadie (233)
Player of the year Parramatta colours.svg Ray Higgs (Rothmans Medal)
Top try-scorer(s) Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Bob Fulton (24)

The 1976 New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership was the 69th season of Sydney's professional rugby league football competition, Australia's first. Twelve teams, including six of 1908's foundation clubs and another six from around Sydney, competed for the J. J. Giltinan Shield and WD & HO Wills Cup during the season, which culminated in a grand final between the Manly-Warringah and Parramatta clubs. NSWRFL teams also competed for the 1976 Amco Cup.

Season summary[edit]

This season Eastern Suburbs became the first rugby league team, and one of the first in Australian sport, to have a sponsor's name appear on their jersey.[1]

Twenty-two regular season rounds were played from March till August resulting in a top five of Manly-Warringah, Parramatta, St. George, Eastern Suburbs and Canterbury-Bankstown, who battled it out in the finals.

In a one-off match that would form the foundation of the modern World Club Challenge, the previous season's premiers, Eastern Suburbs played British Champions St Helens R.F.C. on the 29th of June at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 26,865 turned out to see the Roosters beat the Saints 25 to 2.

This season Parramatta front-rower and captain Ray Higgs won both the Rothmans Medal and the Rugby League Week player of the year award.

The 1976 season also saw the retirement from the League of future Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame inductee, Graeme Langlands.


Balmain Tigers
69th season
Ground: Leichhardt Oval
Coach: Paul Broughton
Captain: Dennis Manteit
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Canterbury home jersey 1966.svg
42nd season
Ground: Belmore Sports Ground
Coach: Malcolm Clift
Captain: Tim Pickup
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
10th season
Ground: Endeavour Field
Coach: John Raper
Captain: Greg Pierce
Roger Millward
Eastern Suburbs Roosters
69th season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Coach: Jack Gibson
Captain: Arthur Beetson
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
30th season
Ground: Brookvale Oval
Coach: Frank Stanton
Captain: Bob Fulton
Newtown Jets
Newtown Jets home jersey 1972.svg
69th season
Ground: Henson Park
Coach: Clarrie Jeffries
Captain: John Floyd
North Sydney Bears
North Sydney Bears home jersey 1951.svg
69th season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Noel Kelly
Captain: Bruce Walker
Parramatta Eels
30th season
Ground: Cumberland Oval
Coach: Terry Fearnley
Captain: Ray Higgs
Penrith Panthers
10th season
Ground: Penrith Park
Coach: Barry Harris
Captain: Mike Stephenson
South Sydney Rabbitohs
69th season
Ground: Redfern Oval
Coach: Johnny King
Captain: Gary Stevens
St. George Dragons
56th season
Ground: Jubilee Oval
Captain-coach: Graeme Langlands
Captain(from May 76): Steve Edge
Western Suburbs Magpies
69th season
Ground: Lidcombe Oval
Coach: Don Parish
Captain: Tom Raudonikis


Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 22 16 0 6 499 252 +247 32
2 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta 22 14 2 6 347 238 +109 30
3 St. George colours.svg St. George 22 14 0 8 328 298 +30 28
4 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 22 13 1 8 399 250 +149 27
5 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown 22 12 3 7 361 337 +24 27
6 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 22 12 1 9 318 287 +31 25
7 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 22 11 2 9 379 313 +66 24
8 Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland 22 9 1 12 378 393 -15 19
9 Penrith colours.svg Penrith 22 8 1 13 352 333 +19 17
10 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 22 8 0 14 297 421 -124 16
11 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 22 6 1 15 272 526 -254 13
12 Newtown colours.svg Newtown Jets 22 3 0 19 264 546 -282 6


Parramatta were first into the Grand Final, triumphing 23-17 in a bloody and brutal major semi-final against Manly. Manly earned a grand final berth the following week, surviving a Canterbury comeback to win 15-12.[2]

Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
Qualifying Finals
Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta 31-6 St. George colours.svg St. George 28 August 1976 Sydney Cricket Ground Greg Hartley 28,264
Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 13-22 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown 29 August 1976 Sydney Cricket Ground Gary Cook 27,203
Semi Finals
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 17-23 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta 4 September 1976 Sydney Cricket Ground Greg Hartley 30,999
St. George colours.svg St. George 9-25 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown 5 September 1976 Sydney Cricket Ground Gary Cook 27,261
Preliminary Final
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 15-12 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown 11 September 1976 Sydney Cricket Ground Gary Cook 31,381
Grand Final
Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta 10-13 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 18 September 1976 Sydney Cricket Ground Gary Cook 57,343

Grand Final[edit]

Manly-Warringah Position Parramatta
Graham Eadie FB Mark Levy
Tom Mooney WG Jim Porter
Russel Gartner CE Ed Sulkowicz
Bob Fulton (c) CE John Moran
Rod Jackson WG Neville Glover
Alan Thompson FE John Peard
Gary Stephens HB John Kolc
John Harvey PR Graham Olling
Max Krilich HK Ron Hilditch
Terry Randall PR Denis Fitzgerald
Steve Norton SR Ray Higgs (c)
Phil Lowe SR Geoff Gerard
Ian Martin LK Ray Price
Gary Thoroughgood Res. John Baker
Mark Willoughby Res. Graeme Atkins
Frank Stanton Coach Terry Fearnley

In 1976, after 30 years of competition, Parramatta reached their first grand final since their admission into the NSWRFL premiership in 1947. Their opponents were Manly-Warringah, who had also joined the premiership in 1947, but were playing in their 8th Grand Final, having previously won in 1972 and 1973 with captain Bob Fulton, fullback Graham Eadie, prop forward Terry Randall and lock Ian Martin having played in those two premiership teams.

Jim Porter scored first, getting Parramatta to a 5–0 lead. A penalty goal to Graham Eadie closed the score to 5-2 before Alan Thompson sidestepped through to send Phil Lowe in for Manly's first and only try. Scores were locked 7–7 at half time.

Geoff Gerard scored an unconverted try for the Eels early in the second half, then two penalties gave Manly an 11-10 lead.

Parramatta missed a critical opportunity to win the game and their first ever premiership with ten minutes of the match remaining: 15 metres out from a wide-open try line,[3] Eels winger Neville Glover dropped the pass from John Moran which would have given the Eels the match-winning try in the Paddington Hill corner.[4][5][6]

Another penalty gave Manly a 13–10 lead. In the frantic dying minutes Parramatta threw everything they had at the Manly defence including the infamous "flying wedge" of dubious legality which had Ron Hilditch at the apex of a phalanx of players driving him towards the line. The wedge was somehow stopped by Eadie a foot short of the try line.[citation needed]

The Manly defence held and the Sea Eagles secured their third premiership in five seasons, while the Eels would have to wait five more years for their first.

It was Bob Fulton's 213th and final match for Manly after a brilliant ten-year career with the club and the grand final victory was largely credited to his experience and brilliance.[7] He was full of emotion as he accepted the J J Giltinan Shield and was able to end his playing career at Manly on the highest note. He would later return to the club as a successful coach in the 1980s but first he would finish his playing years and then commence coaching at the Eastern Suburbs Roosters (Fulton would join Easts in 1977, unable to resist a big-money offer from the club that was backed by one of Australia's richest men and a big supporter of the future rugby league Immortal, Kerry Packer).

Manly's win was a triumph for the powerful triumvirate of Fulton, coach Frank Stanton and Secretary Ken Arthurson who would all go on to higher honours in the game. For Stanton, it was his first success in a coaching career which was to bring two premierships and two Ashes-winning Kangaroo tours. Arthurson had brought to the club players of a calibre to enable five Grand Final appearances in the 1970s for four victories. He would go on to become the Chairman of the New South Wales Rugby League and later the Australian Rugby League.

Manly-Warringah 13 (Tries: Lowe. Goals: Eadie 5/6)

Parramatta 10 (Tries: Porter, Gerard. Goals: Peard 2/3)

Referee: Gary Cook
Attendance: 57,343


  1. ^ Jacquelin Magnay and Jessica Halloran (19 August 2006). "How to win games and influence people". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Heads, p365
  3. ^ Top 10 finals blunders, The Daily Telegraph (2010 News Limited)
  4. ^ O'Neill, Matthew (2007-09-14). "Eels vs Bulldogs Classic - Triple Mortimer Magic". rleague.com. Rleague.com PTY LTD. Archived from the original on 2009-06-26. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  5. ^ Ryan, Stephen (2001-09-28). "Not a Neville Nobody". Manning River Times. Australia: Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  6. ^ Rothfield, Phil (2010-08-23). "Buzz names his top 10 NRL chokers". The Daily Telegraph. Australia: News Limited. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  7. ^ "Form over five years". The Sun-Herald. 19 March 1978. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 

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