Ever since the games inception there has been deceit, lying and cheating. They involved individual players, teams, team officials, even referees. Below are some of the most prominent of controversies.
Some reports state that Balmain and Souths came to an agreement to boycott the Final, which was listed as the undercard to the fourth exhibition game between the Kangaroos and the Wallabies. Balmain true to their word, stood outside the ground, however Souths arrived earlier, kicked off, scored a try against no-one and declared premiers by forfeit.
Dan Davies was a player from Newcastle whom Glebe brought to Sydney. The residential rule stipulated that players outside each clubs region had to live in the area for 28 days before they could play. Davies, however, was living in the region of the Annandale club. Glebe officials changed his address, but not before Annandale officials realised. Davies first and only game for Glebe coincidentally, was against Annandale. Glebe won and Annandale protested, demanding the game be forfeited by Glebe. The NSWRL agreed and deducted the two premiership points from Glebe. Glebe players and officials were outraged and most of their first grade squad boycotted the next game. The players who refused to play were suspended for the rest of the season.
The finals structure in the 1940’s meant that if the minor premier lost any finals match, they could challenge the winner of the final, in a grand final to determine the Premiers. 1944 premiers Newtown annihilated St.George 55-7 in the Semi-Final and automatically advanced to the Final, where they were to meet Balmain. It was revealed that Newtown decided to ‘throw’ the final, knowing they could challenge, and in doing so, earn extra gate takings from a second game. Newtown lost the final to Balmain 19-16 then challenged Balmain to a rematch. Newtown initially denied the claims before their Secretary revealed it was true a week later. Newtown lost the Grand Final to Balmain.
The Grand Final many remember for the immortal image of Norm Provan and Arthur Summons. However, prior to the match, Jack Gibson informed Wests players he heard that the referee, Darcy Lawler, had put money on St.George to win the Grand Final. Two contentious decisions marred the game. In the first half, Wests’ Peter Dimond dived on a ball and seemingly scored a try, however after grounding the ball, it squirted out. Lawler ruled a knock-on. Late in the second half, St.George winger Johnny King made a short run down the left wing before being tackled. Wests players believed Lawler said “Let him up”. King got up and kept running and scored the match-winning try in the corner. Lawler retired after the game.
Conspiracy theories are still doing the rounds regarding referee Greg Hartley and an alleged affiliation with Manly. He awarded a try to Manly on the seventh tackle against Parramatta in a semi-final, ensuring Manly advanced to the Grand Final. Hartley officiated the Grand Final which Manly also won. He was invited to tour with the 1978 Kangaroo’s to England and France, allegedly by Manly officials. Many believed it was Manly’s gift to Hartley.
The 1984 Grand Final was a torrid, low scoring affair which saw Canterbury defeat Parramatta 6-4. It was revealed after the game that some Canterbury players, notably Michael Hagan and Steve Folkes, wore illegal shoulder pads made of fibreglass.
Extensive drug testing of players had been undertaken throughout all clubs, with a number of Souths players tested positive for illegal drugs. Souths immediately sacked the players, much to their own detriment. They won just 2 of their 22 games, finishing dead last, after being minor premiers the previous season.
One year after the introduction of a salary cap, it was revealed Canberra had exceeded the cap in 1990-91. Canberra were premiers in 1990 and Grand Finalists the next year. In 1992 they were forced to shed a number of their players so as to fit under the cap again. Several other teams went on to breach the cap between 1991 and 2009, most notably Canterbury in 2002 who lost all their premiership points, finishing last.
Melbourne Storm were found to have elaborately exceeded the salary cap for five consecutive years. They were stripped of their premierships in 2007 and 2009 and were denied the opportunity to accrue any premiership points for the 2010 season.
As the game advances, unfortunately, so too does the deceit.