Wednesday, 25 November 2015

City v Country Origin History (2013)

In 1987, the NSWRL amended the process for which players were selected, whereby any player who had played their first senior game over the age of 16 in a Country area, they could choose to represent Country in their annual clash against City. This was an enhancement on the rule put in place in 1983 which allowed the Country team to select a set number of Sydney based Country players in their side.

The first clash in 1987 saw players like Garry Jack, Andrew Farrar, Chris Mortimer, Brian Johnston, Peter Sterling, Ron Gibbs, Noel Cleal and Les Davidson all wearing the Maroon and Gold. The match was a game of two halves. City capitalised on a lot of sloppy play by Country in the first half, which saw them run in 5 tries to 1 and a 29-6 lead. But in the second half, the Country team started to gel and mounted great pressure on the city side, scoring 3 unanswered tries but ultimately ran out of time, going down 30-22 in front of 13,715 fans at Parramatta Stadium. Ron Gibbs and Les Davidson were devastating all match and Garry Jack was at his best at fullback.

1988 saw the Country fall agonisingly short of their first win over City since their 19-9 victory in 1975. Star fullback Garry Jack was suspended for 2 games for striking just 6 days earlier, ruling him out of the Country side. He was replaced by veteran John Dorahy, whose last appearance for Country was in 1973! In that game in 1973, Country’s captain was Warren Ryan, who was their coach in 1988. And it was a set play employed by Ryan in 1973 that almost saw Dorahy score the first try of the game in 1988, only for the final pass from Trewhella being ruled forward. John Ferguson scored a try late in the first half while Dorahy kicked 6 goals to give Country a 16-8 lead at the break. The second half however was dominated by City’s Terry Lamb, playing out of position at Lock. Lamb set up 3 unanswered tries for City in the second half to give City a remarkable 20-18 victory. Man of the match was Country’s David Trewhella. That Country side fielded representative debutant, Laurie Daley.

1989 saw a further improvement of the City v Country clash when the coaches were a major part of the selection process. The game also saw the first representatives from the 3 new clubs: Chris Johns (City – Brisbane), Tony Butterfield (City – Newcastle), Gary Wurth (Country – Newcastle), Mark Sargent (Country – Newcastle) and Ron Gibbs (Country – Gold Coast). Gibbs also became the first representative player for the Gold Coast team. The match itself was hindered by the atrocious weather and muddy ground, while the Country side were hit hard by a virus that impacted several players just days before the game. It was the Canberra connection that got Country on the board in the first half, when the oldest player for Country, John Ferguson made a break and then passed to the sides’ youngest player, Laurie Daley who ran in for a great try. At halftime, the scores were locked at 8 all. Some deft passing by Des Hasler put Terry Lamb over for a try that sealed the game in the second half. Country’s back three, Wurth, Walford and Ferguson were outstanding in trying conditions.

1990 was played in conditions that were a stark contrast to that of the previous year, and again the game went down to the wire. In total, 10 tries were scored in a game full of spectacular attacking flair, including many length of the field runs and passages of play. One such play travelled half the length of the field and included 13 passes before City captain and hooker Ben Elias scored. City’s exuberant play caught the Country side off their guard, and at halftime, they lead 16-6. However, the second half saw yet another mighty Country fight back, lead almost single-handedly by Laurie Daley, who scored a scintillating chip and chase try and was involved in 3 other tries for Country, as they racked up 20 points in the second half to City’s 12. A late try in the corner to Country gave winger Ricky Walford a chance to tie the game. Unfortunately his kick from the sideline sailed wide of the posts and City again triumphed, 28-26.

1991 saw a further adjustment to the eligibility criteria, this time allowing players who made their First Grade debut with country clubs, Canberra, Illawarra, Newcastle and Gold Coast to be eligible to play for Country. Country was without key players Laurie Daley and former City player Brad Clyde (who was now able to represent Country) which hindered the sides attack immensely. However it was still a tight contest with only the dazzling speed and brilliance of flyer Andrew Ettingshausen that proved to be the difference. He scored two tries in the first half to give City a 16-2 lead. Ricky Stuart led the Country resurgence in the second half, but again the boys from the bush fell short 22-12.

1992 saw Country win their first Origin match, ending a 17 year victory drought and it was orchestrated by the brilliance of captain Laurie Daley. The match was very intense, almost State of Origin like. The power of Daley’s running game was seen when he burst through a tackle by City halfback Brian Smith, which left Smith with a broken collarbone. Ben Elias scored a clever try to give NSW a 4-2 lead early in the game, but Country’s hunger and determination was too much for them. A try late in the first half by Paul Harragon gave Country a 6-4 lead at halftime. Harragon picked up his second try shortly after the break; however City hit back with a try to Mark Geyer to reduce Country’s lead to 2 points. But it was a crashing surge to the line by Daley where he scored the match winning try for Country with 7 minutes left in the game. John Simon sealed the victory with a field goal a minute later to give Country a 17-10 victory.

1993 provided yet another hard fought, intense battle, this time dominated by unwavering defence from both sides in a game which provided just 1 try, scored by City lock, Brad Mackay. Youngster Brad Fittler was a menace all game for the Country defenders who worked tirelessly to keep him at bay. City won the game 7-0.

1994 was a watershed year for the Country side. Country rewrote the record books to record their biggest ever winning margin over City, eclipsing the record from 1961 when Country won by 14 points, 19-5. It was also the first time that Country had kept City tryless in a game. Country had lost both their halves in the day prior to the match. Matthew Johns was ruled unfit the day before the game and Ricky Stuart succumbed to his hamstring injury just hours before kick-off. Front rower Dean Pay threw a neat pass to send Brad Clyde over for a try, before Pay himself charged over just minutes later to score late in the first half to give Country a 14-2 lead at halftime. Laurie Daley combined with Matt Ryan to send speedster Ken Nagas in for a try early in the second half, with a late penalty goal to Rod Wishart sealing the match, Country victors 22-2.

1995 saw both sides hampered by losses of star players who were suspended from playing representative football if they were aligned with Superleague. Despite the loss of these players, the game itself was still an intense hard fought game played in the rain at Wollongong. Country again had to come from behind but they left their run too late. A dour first half saw Country’s defence dominate the game and it was only a penalty goal to Country halfback Andrew Johns which separated the sides at halftime. Jason Taylor’s kicking game put the pressure back on Country in the second half. One of Taylor’s kicks lead to a try for Terry Hill. Shortly after, a grubber by City five-eighth Greg Florimo saw Tim Brasher win the race for the ball to score. Country scored in the dying minutes when a Paul McGregor offload gave David Woods a try. City winning 16-8.

1996 provided another breathtaking match that again went down to the wire. Both sides were allowed to select Superleague aligned players for the clash at Wollongong. An inside pass from Laurie Daley sent Brandon Pearson over for a try soon after City scored when Andrew Ettingshausen pounced on an Aaron Raper grubber. At half time Country lead 8-6. An Andrew Johns bomb was spectacularly caught by winger Rod Wishart who scored out wide for Country soon after the resumption of play. Two tries in ten minutes to City to Jamie Ainscough, who ran 75 metres to score, and Terry Hill. City looked set to win 16-12, but some razzle dazzle by Country sent Adam Muir over for a try, in a play that contained 9 passes, in the last seconds of the game to tie the scores. Andrew Johns converted the try to give Country a remarkable 18-16 win.

1997 to 2000 saw a temporary halt to traditional fixtures such as Tours and the City v Country game, due to the Superleague war and the ensuing ramifications and competition consolidation issues. The return of the fixture coincided with a new plan by the NRL to get more involved in Country Rugby League again, opting to play the match in Regional centres, as opposed to the previous arrangement where the games were played at Newcastle, Wollongong and Sydney.

2001 saw the City v Country fixture return in a new format. The game was played at Carrington Park, Bathurst and for the first time ever, Country went into the match as favourites. Lead by Halfback Brett Kimmorley, they quickly showed why they deserved that tag, as they racked up their highest score and biggest ever win against City. Kimmorley set up 5 tries and scored one himself. However it was City who got out of the blocks quickly, racing to a 10-0 lead very early in the game through tries to Mark Gasnier and Anthony Minichiello, but after that, it was all Country. A flick pass from Danny Buderus to Darren Britt put Country on the board, before Kimmorley injected himself. At halftime Country lead 22-10 and by fulltime they had scored 8 tries, winning 42-10. Scott Hill capped a stellar game for Country with 2 tries.

2002 saw the game travel to Wagga Wagga’s Eric Weissel Oval, hosting its second representative fixture, 14 years after its first, the 1988 Test match between Australia and Papua New Guinea. This time the game was dominated by controversial City player John Hopoate. City put the down immediately with Michael DeVere scoring a double and Kevin McGuinness picking up a try from an intercept. City advanced their lead in the dying minutes of the first half when prop John Skandalis barged over. Country winger Timana Tahu scored a try just before halftime to get Country on the scoreboard. At halftime City lead 20-4. Tahu and fullback Luke Patten both scored tries in the second half in a spirited comeback, putting Country within 4 points of City, but a cheeky try from dummy half by City hooker Craig Wing sealed the game, City winning 26-16. It was City’s first win over Country since 1995.

2003 provided another very tight contest in appalling conditions at Gosford. Despite the heavy rain, 17,674 fans turned up to see the closest game in the Origin era. Country fullback David Peachey opened the scoring when he backed up some strong running by the Country forwards. Country suffered a major loss shortly after when Trent Barrett was assisted from the field with an ankle injury. City pounced with winger Hazem El Masri scoring a try which he converted, before kicking a penalty goal just before half time to give City an 8-6 lead at the break. In a case of déjà vu, Craig Wing beat several Country defenders to score a great solo try from dummy half to give City a 16-6 lead. Newcastle team-mates Ben Kennedy and Timana Tahu combined to give the latter a try to reduce City’s lead to 6. Noticing a shift in momentum, City five-eighth Braith Anasta kicked a field goal to make the score 17-10. This didn’t deter Country, who rallied late in the game to see Andrew Johns score a converted try to reduce the deficit to just 1. As Country was on the attack, the siren sounded, City winning 17-16.

2004 was greeted with a new stipulation, that Test players would not be considered for selection for either side, so as to allow more fringe players a chance to play representative football and to preserve more State of Origin players for NSW. The game again was played at Gosford, this time the weather was more favourable and so was the result for Country. Scott Hill was the best on field and played a pivotal role in Country’s victory. The game ebbed and flowed in the first half. Country scored two quick tries before City returned with two of their own late in the half to make the score 12 all at halftime. City had the momentum early in the second half and scored shortly after the break, but Country replied quickly to cut City’s lead to just 2 points before Hill and fullback Luke Patten combined to put Matt Cooper over for the match winning try just 5 minutes shy of fulltime, Country winning 22-18.

2005 saw some great attacking football, in which 9 tries were scored. It was also a game of two halves. The people of Lismore were treated to another thrilling finish. Country started the game very poorly, allowing City to dominate the game. City raced in 4 unanswered tries in the first half to lead by a whopping 22-0. Country switched Trent Barrett from halfback to five-eighth for the second half, the move paying dividends when Country ran in 3 converted tries in 12 minutes to trail City by just 2. However a brilliant solo try by City backrower Anthony Watmough took City to a 28-18 lead. Country winger Amos Roberts scored a late try but an ugly last minute field goal by City half Brent Sherwin ensured a City victory, 29-22.

2006 travelled to Dubbo for another close match. The first half was a tough battle for the playmakers, the only try coming from a deft short ball from Country half Brett Finch to back rower Anthony Laffranchi who burst through some defenders to score to send Country into the sheds at halftime with a 6-0 lead. City reserve back rower Paul Gallen lead a City revival in the second half, as he played a hand in two unanswered tries to give City a 10-8 lead after an hours play. A well timed long pass by Finch put Anthony Quinn over out wide to seal a hard fought victory for Country 12-10.

2007 had the City v Country game travel to Coffs Harbour for the first time, in what was hotly tipped to be a great contest between both sides halfbacks, Craig Gower for City and Brett Kimmorley for Country. However Kimmorley copped a concussion in the first half and Gower failed to captilise. City hooker Robbie Farah scored the sole try of the first half, to give City a 6-0 lead at the break. Anthony Quinn scored a try for Country midway through the second half to get his side back in the match, but Ryan Hoffman charged onto a Braith Anasta pass and crashed over for a try for City to give them a 12-6 victory.

2008 provided the NRL with an unusual quandary after the City v Country game, which ended in an entertaining 22 all draw. Fans at WIN Stadium, and watching at home were left in dismay when the game ended after 80 minutes and there was no Golden Point time played, as it wasn’t applied to the annual fixture. Both sides scored early, Anthony Laffranchi for Country and John Sutton for City, before Country took control of the half to run in two tries before the break to lead 16-6 at half time. City however came out firing in the second half, scoring 3 tries to take the lead 22-16. It took some great individual work by Country five-eighth Todd Carney, whose stepping and speed allowed him to score a try to lock the scores. Both sides battled for field position to kick a field goal, but the deadlock couldn’t be broken.

2009 saw the game played in Orange. It also saw the Country side completely blown off the field by City half Peter Wallace and Hooker Robbie Farah in the second half of the game. Country started strongly with tries to Jamie Lyon and Luke Patten to give Country a 12-6 lead at halftime. City dominated the match after the break, running in 6 tries, while Country scored just one via Alan Tongue. City winning easily 40-18.

2010 travelled to Port Macquarie where young Country fullback Josh Dugan dominated the match, assisted by the experienced half Brett Kimmorley. City started the match strongly with tries to Kris Keating and Lachlan Coote, but precise kicking from Kimmorley landed tries to Dugan and Jamal Idris to see the scores level at halftime 12 all. Country then overpowered City in the second half, scoring 4 unanswered tries, Lock Dean Young picking up a double. Veteran City fullback Anthony Minichiello scored the last try of the game to add some respectability to City’s score, Country winning in style 36-18.

2011 provided Country with back to back victories for just their third time. The game was played in front of 8056 fans at Albury and as had happened many times under the Origin format, the game went down to the wire. City opened the scoring in the first half when Beau Champion crossed. Country quickly responded when winger Michael Gordon won the contest from a Jarrod Mullen bomb to give Country a 6-4 lead at the break. City half Mitchell Pearce lead a resurgence, when he set up tries for Jarryd Hayne and Simon Dwyer to put City ahead 12-6. Country hooker Ryan Hinchcliffe scored a clever dummy half try to tie the scores before Newcastle winger Akuila Uate raced away to score the winning try for Country, who won 18-12.

2012 saw yet another free-flowing game that went down to the wire. The people of Mudgee were treated to a great days football which saw 8 tries scored. It was City who got off to a flying start when Mitchell Pearce set up 3 of their 4 first half tries. Just as the game looked set to be a blowout, but a length of the field try from an intercept to Country winger Blake Ferguson gave Country hope, despite being down 24-6 at halftime. The second half belonged to Country five-eighth Todd Carney, whose incisive running and passing game left City guessing. Country scored 2 tries in quick succession after the resumption of play to reduce the margin to 8. With 15 minutes remaining, Country forward Tariq Sims scored to make the score 24-22 in City’s favour. Country threw everything at City in the dying stages of the match, but was unable to breach their desperate defence, with the score remaining unchanged.

2013 saw the clash played again at Coffs Harbour in front of a small crowd. Country capitalised on some sloppy play and brittle defence by the City team early in the game, leading to tries to Josh McCrone and Akuila Uate to give the Country side a 12-0 lead at the break. The second half saw a resurgence by City who put on two quick tries shortly after play resumed through Andrew Fifita and Adam Reynolds. But with just over 10 minutes remaining, and the scores locked at 12 all, Country winger James McManus scored to hand Country an 18-12 victory.

*This appeared on the history section of the Country RL NSW website, along with a list of all results, sourced from*

Stan Carpenter – Newcastle’s Rugby League Pioneer (2015)

Stanley Franzien Carpenter was born in 1879 and grew up in the Newcastle region with his brother Leslie (whom he would play football alongside) and sister Lily.

Stan started his Rugby Union career as a junior with the Carlton club based in central Newcastle where he became friends with Pat Walsh, who would go on to achieve success in three football codes across four different countries. Carpenter’s size and strength for a hooker (he weighed 80kgs and was 178cms tall), from working in the coalmines in Newcastle and on the construction of the railway line near Dungog, saw him quickly become one of the premier forwards in Newcastle.

After winning premierships at Carlton, Stan played for Central Newcastle, regularly earning representative honours.

In 1906 he married local girl Jean McDonald.

In early 1908, the New South Wales Rugby League was set to commence, but after talks to create a St.George side had broken down, League President Henry Hoyle decided to look outside Sydney for his competitions 8th side.

After a failed attempt in February to form a Newcastle side, Hoyle returned in early April with greater success, thanks largely to a small group of players who were angry towards the Rugby Union after the treatment of local Test star Pat Walsh, who had been dropped from the state and test sides for seemingly political reasons. This group was led by Stan Carpenter.

The Newcastle club was formed and they agreed to adopt the red and white striped jumper of the Carlton club, as a tribute to Walsh who was arguably their best player.

Walsh himself had left the country a long time prior, winning a premiership in Australian Rules football in an expatriate competition in South Africa before returning to Rugby Union in New Zealand.

Carpenter was elected as the club captain for its inaugural season, a testimony to the great respect he earned from the players in Newcastle who joined the League, most of whom he’d only ever played against.

Newcastle’s first game was against Glebe, who were considered the best team in the competition based on their overwhelming success in the Union game prior to changing codes. Glebe had to work very hard for their 8-5 victory.

Two days later, Carpenter captained a Newcastle representative side who suffered a heavy loss to the New Zealand All Golds side who were returning home after their tour of Great Britain.

Carpenter took on the All Golds again just 3 days later as he captained the Northern Districts team. His side was again on the receiving end of a heavy loss.

Carpenter led Newcastle in two losses against the visiting New Zealand Maori team before earning selection in the New South Wales side for their second match against Queensland. Despite playing well in a convincing victory, Carpenter was not selected for the state side again in 1908.

With James Giltinan successfully luring Pat Walsh from New Zealand Rugby Union across to Rugby League, Walsh lined up alongside Carpenter for the first time in years for Newcastle’s last two games of the year against the two competition leaders Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney. The impressive Eastern Suburbs side were unstoppable, with star recruit Dally Messenger scoring 18 of his sides 34 points to Newcastle’s 17, which pushed Newcastle out of the top 4 and the finals. The next week saw South Sydney work very hard to come away with an 8-3 win.

Carpenter played in a Possibles v Probables match to determine which players would travel to Great Britain for the inaugural Kangaroo’s tour. Carpenter was selected as the tours second hooker, however he suffered a broken leg and had to withdraw from the tour.

The 1909 season saw Newcastle get off to a slow start, winning 1 of their first 4 games, before they almost pulled off a miraculous victory over the visiting New Zealand side. The strong performance lifted the side, who went on to beat Glebe 26-8 and Western Suburbs 34-0 in successive weeks.

Carpenter’s form again earnt him state selection, in a game against the Kiwi’s and in 3 more games against the returning New Zealand Maori side. But most importantly, he represented Australia in all 3 test matches against the Maori.

Upon returning to club football, Newcastle pulled off arguably their greatest victory when they beat the undefeated South Sydney 5-0 in the last game of the year before the finals. The win secured Newcastle’s place in the finals, however they were trounced a week later against South Sydney 20-0.
Carpenter’s last match of the year was for the Kangaroo’s in a hastily organised fourth exhibition game against the Wallabies to be played straight after the 1909 final between Balmain and South Sydney.

The Newcastle side decided to leave the NSWRL and form its own local competition. Carpenter joined the South Newcastle side.

After such a stellar season, Carpenter was eagerly awaiting the new season with high hopes, however in March 1910, his young wife Jean passed away at their family home in Newcastle.
Despite the tragic loss, Stanley changed clubs, turning out for the newly created Eastern Suburbs Newcastle side, earning representative honours for Newcastle and Northern Districts against the visiting Great Britain team.

From 1911 to 1914, he continued his stellar representative career, representing Newcastle, Northern Districts, Hunter & Northern Districts and NSW Country against touring nations, interstate sides and other local representative teams. Meanwhile at club level, he achieved premiership success with Eastern Suburbs in 1913.

Within two weeks after war broke about, the widowed Stanley Franzien Carpenter enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force in the 2nd Battalion Infantry before transferring to the Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer.

Carpenter was part of the infamous mass of Australian soldiers who landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 with the third wave of troops. On the very next day, Carpenter and fellow stretcher bearer, Edward Roberts, travelled along the beach by foot under heavy fire, looking for wounded men. They came across a boat that had been beached since the landing some 30 odd hours earlier. All of the men inside had suffered gunshot wounds, with all but five of them killed. Carpenter and Roberts waded and swam to the boat and rescued the survivors, carrying them ashore, one-by-one, to the aid station while constantly being fired upon by sniper fire. Carpenter’s bravery was observed by well known Australian War Correspondent Charles Bean and Lieutenant Colonel Braund. Braund was one of only two serving Australian politicians who died while serving in World War I. The other was former NSWRL secretary Edward Larkin. This incident was reported back to the Australian media by several soldiers.

Braund and later Lieutenant Herrod nominated Carpenter and Roberts for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Both were later recommended for a Military Cross for their heroic actions.

Carpenter then was transferred to the battle in Pozieres in mid-1916, the scene of one of the most horrific trench battles during the war. It was while serving here that Major General Walker recommended Carpenter for the Victoria Cross, the first Australian to receive such a recommendation in the Great War. Carpenter instead received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and a Military Cross:

“For conspicuous bravery during protracted operations under heavy shell fire. Time after time he went into ‘No Man’s Land’ to collect and tend wounded and it was owing to his fine courage that so few of his Battalion’s wounded were missing.

The Major General also added in his recommendation that “Officers and men are unanimous in their expression of admiration for him.”

Despite his heroics and constantly seeing death and destruction around him, he still ensured that every year while he was on duty, he placed a family notice in the Sydney Morning Herald dedicated to the memory of his wife on the anniversary of her passing.

Surprisingly enough, Carpenter met fellow serviceman Pat Walsh while they were both on active duty and spent some time convalescing near the end of the war.

In 1919, Stan’s sister Lily passed away after a severe bout of influenza.

Carpenter remained on active duty for the duration of the war before finally returning home in 1920, where he immediately joined South Newcastle. Later in the year he married Olla Stokes and they moved into their own home in Kempsey, ending his career in the Newcastle competition. Two years later they had a baby boy, also named Stanley.

Stan Carpenter went back to playing Rugby League and despite his age and absence from the game, managed to gain representative honours for the Northern Districts before eventually retiring at the age of 43 and took up coaching junior teams before moving on to senior coaching roles.

Tragedy struck his life once again when in 1933, his son was riding his bike home from school and was hit by a vehicle, killing him instantly, just 2 days after his 11th birthday.

Carpenter slowly removed himself from all forms of sport and lived a quiet life with his wife Olla up until his death on May 31, 1962, aged 82.

****************This article appeared in the Rugby League Review magazine***********

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Birth of Balmain (2015)

On August 5, 1905 Balmain took on Newtown in a club Rugby Union match which, unbeknownst to anyone that day, would be the catalyst for the formation of the Balmain Rugby League Football Club.

Newtown was leading 16-0 in a rough game when a penalty against Balmain drew the ire of their forward Joe Apolony, who began remonstrating with the referee, Mr H.Nelson. Apolony claimed that the referee’s decisions were unfair towards him before he was sent off for allegedly striking the referee.

Balmain officials produced 25 pages of witness accounts of the incident in the hope that it would prevent their forward from any severe punishment; however the Metropolitan Rugby Union sided with their official, who provided only 1 page of supporting evidence.

The MRU agreed to ban Apolony from playing the game for ten years. The decision incensed Balmain players and officials alike. At the club’s next meeting they submitted a motion “That the Balmain team withdraw from the competition as a protest against the action of the Union.” The motion defeated by just one vote.

This incident was the beginning of what would become a fractious relationship between the Balmain Rugby Union club and the MRU.

In 1906 Balmain played more games outside their area than within it. This trend continued in 1907, to the extent that their home ground, Birchgrove Oval was even seeing a reduction in senior and junior level games.

On August 8, 1907, Rugby League was formed after weeks of speculation surrounding its existence. Key players from many of the Rugby Union clubs had already sided with the new code, including Balmain test player Robert Graves and State player Alf Dobbs. The committee selected a squad of 20 players to participate in the 3 games against the touring New Zealand professional side who were en-route to England. Present at the meeting were Graves, fellow player Tommy O’Donnell and official Robert Hutchison.

The games were scheduled for the latter half of August, which coincided with a Country NSW tour that Balmain were embarking upon. While the team was in Mudgee, Dobbs was reading a newspaper which named him as one of the players taking part in the matches against the Kiwi professionals.

Dobbs immediately knew that his secret alliance with the professional code was now exposed, so he immediately asked his club officials on the tour if he could have his return train ticket so that he could begin training with the Professional New South Wales side. The Balmain officials contacted the MRU who made it very clear, that if Dobbs was requiring a ticket back home to partake in a professional game, then he should buy his own ticket.

Balmain secretary Pat McQuade was so furious at this decision that he demanded Balmain forfeit their next match against Lithgow and all players return back home. The players and officials all agreed and they abandoned their remaining fixtures.

McQuade attended the next MRU meeting where he defended Dobbs, but all this did was see him accused of being a professionalism sympathiser.

Dobbs played in the second of the 3 games against the Kiwi’s, while Graves appeared in all 3 games.
Apolony began the push within the Balmain club to abandon the MRU. He organised a meeting with club players and officials but was unable to hire a venue. Undeterred, he held the meeting outside the Leichhardt Council Chambers, where he called on the club to join Rugby League.

On January 23, 1908, a meeting was held at the Balmain town hall “for the purpose of forming a Balmain club to affiliate with the NSWRL.”

Future NSW State Premier John Storey MLA presided over the meeting, where 600 players, officials and club supporters were present. Fellow Labor politician Henry Hoyle, who was the inaugural president of the Rugby League, addressed the meeting and explained the objects of the league. “His remarks were frequently applauded.”

NSWRL Secretary James Giltinan also spoke before Hutchison moved “That a Balmain club be formed to affiliate with the NSW League.” Robert Graves seconded the motion and it was carried.
Local lawn bowler and long-time Balmain Rugby official Cecil Turner was appointed the club’s inaugural President, Hutchison treasurer and Horace Davis was secretary.

One of the provisional members of the inaugural committee was Mr F Napier. Napier was a key member of the new League side, as he was also a trustee for Birchgrove Oval. He brought exclusive use of the ground with him to the League.

March 19, 1908 saw Balmain’s Rugby Union club hold a heated general meeting, where the discussions focussed almost entirely on the club’s mistreatment by the MRU. Napier attended the meeting and revealed that the trustees of Birchgrove Oval had opted to abandon the MRU and side with the NSWRL because they want to see more games being played at their ground.

Hutchison chimed in, saying he felt that he and the club hadn’t been treated with any respect by the MRU, who barely made an effort to attend Balmain meetings.

Many members at the meeting felt that the MRU was not trying to help the game grow in the area, via Balmain’s lack of games in their own area and seemingly abandoning Birchgrove Oval.

A week later, the Balmain Rugby League Club held its general meeting at Oldfellows Hall on Darling St. Hoyle was again present and was greeting with great enthusiasm.

Unlike the clubs who had already agreed to join the NSWRL, where there had been hesitations and uncertainty amongst the players whether to join the professional game or not, Balmain joined almost entirely, decimating the playing ranks within the Balmain Rugby Union side so much that the MRU announced at a meeting at the end of March, that Balmain would not be competing in the 1908 season.

On April 18, 1908, Balmain played its first Rugby League game, a trial match against, fittingly, Newtown. The match ended in a 6 all draw.

The official competition kicked off a week later, Balmain winning their opening match with an emphatic 24-0 demolition of Western Suburbs.

The club had the services of Apolony once again, along with Dobbs, Graves, Alf Latta (who scored the clubs first try and goal) and O’Donnell, won 3 games, drew 1 and lost 5.

Apolony went on to get selected as a reserve in the NSW side to face the visiting Maori side of 1909; however he didn’t take the field. He was eventually made a life member of the NSWRL and of the Balmain Club.

The Endeavour Cup (2015)

The 1970’s in Australia saw the introduction of many minor competitions. The Wills Cup which was a preseason competition running from 1962 til 1981, the mid-week, mid-season competition which ran from 1974 til 1989 and even a mid-season Challenge Cup in 1978.

But none of those had a lasting impact on the game as the short lived Endeavour Cup.

For a number of seasons, there had been some concerns from players whose club didn’t make the finals, that they were being overlooked for end-of-season Test and Tour selections, in favour of players participating in the finals.

In 1970, the Cronulla-Sutherland club put forward a proposal to the NSWRL to host an end of season competition between the teams finishing 5th to 8th on the ladder. They had secured Toyota-Thiess to sponsor the event. The competition would be played over the first two Sunday’s during the NSWRL finals series, to allow players to remain match fit and in contention for selection in the World Cup squad at the end of the year.

On July 27, 1970, the NSWRL board held a meeting and agreed to let the competition go ahead. It was to be held entirely at Endeavour Field.

The competition was to have a total prize pool of $10,500. First place winning $5000, Second $3000, Third $1500 and fourth $1000.

With two rounds of the main competition remaining, Cronulla were sitting ninth on the ladder and looking like they may not qualify for their own competition. But they snuck in thanks to two convincing victories. A 23-2 win against Penrith in Round 21 and a 34-6 hiding of Parramatta.

On August 30, the Endeavour Cup began with a double header at the Sharks home ground. Hosts Cronulla took on Newtown in the first game at 1.30pm and then Balmain played Eastern Suburbs in the 3.30pm game. These games were the first played under the 6 tackle rule, purely as a trial, as opposed to the 4 tackle rule that was in place.

The first game was a sloppy affair and the full merits of the new rule were not seen. Cronulla’s captain-coach Tommy Bishop copped a stray elbow to the face which resulted in him losing two teeth. With 12 minutes remaining in the game, Bishop was sent off for tripping. Newtown won the game 13-11.

The second game was much better and provided everyone with the full benefits of the 6 tackle rule. Most notably was the reduction in scrums. The first game had 38 scrums which was on par for most games played during the year, however there were only 16 scrums in the second game. There was also the extra involvement of ball playing forwards, most notably Arthur Beetson, who was getting involved 2 or 3 times per set.

Balmain defeated a bits and pieces Easts side 34-12 which saw them advance to the final against Newtown on the following Sunday, while Easts and Cronulla will play off for 3rd.

After the match all coaches were in agreeance that the new rule looked to improve the game.

Harry Bath (Newtown and Australian Test coach): “I like it. The six tackles give a team that little extra to work with and provide more continuity to the play. The element of panic is not as prevalent and there aren’t as many dropped passes. The players have more time to settle down.”

Tommy Bishop (Cronulla captain-coach): “The rule could bring the forwards into the play a bit more but there would be no chance of going back to the old bash and barge because, after all, there are only six tackles to work with. I can see the forwards driving the ball in attack but this is good football. I would like to see another couple of matches under the rule before finally making up my mind on its merits.”

Don Furner (Easts coach): “In our game there were only 16 scrums, and this has to make the match better. I like the idea of the six tackles. The best football will come on the fourth, fifth and sixth tackles, when the defence is starting to tire a little.”

Leo Nosworthy (Balmain coach): “From our match it was obvious there was not the panic from the players that has been there at times. Nor was there as much useless kicking and this has to be better.”

The final saw Newtown beat Balmain 12-8, to claim their first title of any kind since they won the City Cup in 1945, 25 years ago. The win was more impressive given Newtown played the last 30 mins with 12 men, after forward John Oakley was sent off for a deliberate high tackle.

Despite Easts fielding a poor side and Cronulla failing to reach the final, the competition saw the Cronulla club financially “almost square.”

So successful was the trial of the 6 tackle rule that the NSWRL decided to implement it fully for the upcoming season.

Toyota-Thiess decided to continue their sponsorship for the competition in 1971, due to the Cronulla club deciding to expand the competition to include more teams, possibly from Wollongong, Newcastle and Brisbane.

The 1971 competition would see trainers being allowed to attend to injured players without stopping play, as well as each game being just 25 minute halves. Every game of the competition would also be televised live. All 8 sides not involved in the finals would be taking part.

The final of 1971 saw Cronulla pick up their first ever title, defeating Canterbury 20-13. The trial of trainers being allowed to treat players without stopping play was seen as another success from the Endeavour Cup and was introduced from the start of the 1972 season. Half of the gate takings were donated to the NSW Paraplegic Association.

With the competition being used as a sounding board for new rule ideas, it was thought that the Endeavour Cup would continue functioning beyond 1971, especially given that it was the only post-season competition on the calendar.

However, a lack of major sponsor and the concern by the NSWRL that some clubs were not taking the competition seriously, with some clubs using the competition as an opportunity to allow suspended players to serve part of their suspension, it was decided not to continue the competition any more.

But in the space of two years and just 12 games, the Endeavour Cup provided the competition with the 6 tackle rule and no stoppages to allow injured players to be treated, making it arguably the most successfully innovative competition in the post-war era.

1970 Competition
August 30 – Newtown 13-11 Cronulla
August 30 – Balmain 34-12 Easts
September 6 – Playoff for 3rd – Cronulla 30-2 Easts
September 6 – Final – Newtown 12-8 Balmain

1971 Competition
August 30 – Canterbury 19-15 Newtown
August 30 – Cronulla 15-3 Penrith
August 30 – Norths 7-5 Easts
August 30 – Wests 22-3 Balmain
September 5 – Semi-Final – Canterbury 17-7 Norths
September 5 – Semi-Final – Cronulla 20-19 Wests
September 12 – Playoff for 3rd – Wests 25-21 Norths

September 12 – Final – Cronulla 20-13 Canterbury

************This article appeared in the Rugby League Review Magazine***********

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Annandale – The Perennial Battlers (2015)

In 1900, the strongest Rugby Union clubs resided in Glebe, Balmain, Newtown and South Sydney. These clubs were all required to field three grades of teams which saw them drawing players from neighbouring suburbs.

Glebe were the most dominant and successful club during these early years of the 1900’s while their neighbouring suburb Annandale were a second grade feeder club for Glebe.

In 1908, when Glebe moved from the Metropolitan Rugby Union to the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL), soon followed by the Newtown, Balmain and South Sydney clubs, Annandale officials were optimistic that this might provide them with an opportunity to finally move into the first grade competition, however was not an option that the Metropolitan Rugby Union (MRU) were even contemplating.

The NSWRL had a reasonably successful debut season followed by a tumultuous beginning to their 1909 season, however a daring coup on the Rugby Union’s elite playing ranks, financed by entrepreneur James Joynton-Smith saw the MRU decimated for a second year.

The rebel Rugby Union players of 1909 played in 3 exhibition games billed as the Kangaroos v the Wallabies. After the third game, The NSWRL had failed to raise enough funds to repay Joynton-Smith, so a fourth match was scheduled to be played on the same day as the 1909 final between South Sydney and Balmain on September 18.

On August 28, 1909, Annandale announced that they had disbanded from the MRU and had joined with the NSWRL. On the same day five Annandale players, coupled with some Newtown Rugby Union players, participated in an exhibition game against Eastern Suburbs, in the undercard match before the Australia v Maori Test at the Royal Agricultural Ground. With some lenient officiating by the referee towards the newcomers, as they were new to the rules, they won the game 8-5.

On September 3, 1909, the MRU gathered to discuss the rebel players and decided to formally expel Jack Barnett, Alby Burge, Jack Hickey, Paddy McCue, Chris McKivat, Peter Burge, Robert Craig, Edward Mandible, Arthur McCabe and William Farnsworth for their involvement in the Wallabies exhibition games.

The following day, the MRU cited the Annandale club and the Newtown players who participated in the exhibition game against Eastern Suburbs

After these players were expelled, the MRU board then turned their attention to Annandale and ruled that a decision would be made on their fate at a later date.

On September 18, the Kangaroo’s and Wallabies played their fourth exhibition game which, despite Balmain refusing to participate in the final, still generated just enough income to fully repay Joynton-Smith.

Four days later, the MRU met again and decided to expel Newtown players R.Gavin and Viv Farnsworth, along with five Annandale players and a second grade Newtown player for their involvement in the exhibition game with Eastern Suburbs.

Two of the expelled Annandale players were Angus Lennon and Robert Gray who both spoke about the code switch. Lennon revealed that “we went over (to Rugby League) because Annandale will never have a decent show of forming a district club while we are Glebe’s district.” This sentiment was one that run deep within many at the club.

Gray revealed, “I had one night’s meeting to learn the rules. Arthur Hennessy was there; we met at the corner and went to the training room. The only reason I went over was because I thought I would like the League rules better.”

On March 14, 1910 the Annandale Rugby League Club held its first official meeting at the Collondale Hall. The meeting was presided over by Horrie Miller, Harry Flegg and Edward Larkin, officials of the game’s governing body.

It was at this meeting that the New South Wales Rugby League officially declared that Annandale would be the eighth team to join their first grade competition for the 1910 season, effectively replacing the recently departed Newcastle side, despite not having a designated home ground. They would take the field wearing maroon and gold coloured jumpers.

The first secretary of the Annandale club was Walter Henry Clutton, a member of the Liberal Party and a Police Sergeant. The vice-president elected at the same meeting was Alderman James Robertson, who was also the Mayor of Annandale. In mid-August 1910, Clutton resigned from role with the Annandale club to focus on his political career. Both Clutton and Robertson put forward nominations to be the Liberal candidate in the seat of Kahibah at the 1910 federal election. Clutton won the nomination, however his joy was short lived when he managed to obtain just 15% of the votes in his seat. In 1918 he served in WWI in Rabaul, before contracting malaria and being discharged.

Annandale’s first game was on April 30, 1910 against Newtown, where they were overwhelmed by eventual premiers Newtown 31-6. They then went down in a close contest to neighbouring Balmain 8-2 the following week before facing their former parent side in the MRU, Glebe. Annandale again put in another spirited display but went down 17-10. After losing to Easts 20-12 in their 4th game, Annandale then won 5 and drew 1 of their next 9 games to finish the season respectably. One of those wins came in Round 9 against Glebe by 10-7. It would be the only time in 23 games that they achieved the feat.

1911 saw Annandale again win 5 and draw 1 of their 14 games, this time finishing 5th. Utility forward Robert Stuart became the first man playing for Annandale to be selected to represent Australia when he was named in the Kangaroo squad to tour England in 1911-12. He played 2 games on tour but no Tests.

Despite a respectable first few seasons, it was revealed in 1912 that Annandale still had no training ground. When the team first formed they trained on a block of land known as Johnstone’s estate. In the two years after, many buildings have been erected in this area making the land smaller and inadequate. Annandale secretary W. Lennon needed a large enough venue for the 74 players from all 3 grades to train on. He approached Petersham council for use of Petersham Oval, Leichhardt council to use Leichhardt Park, the trotting association for Epping grounds and to the city council to use Camperdown Park. Each request was denied. He also applied to the city council to have Federal Park upgraded for training purposes, as it did not contain dressing sheds, no water, no lights which was also denied. Despite these difficulties, the team did not give up and made the most of what they had. The club slid backwards, winning just 2 games.

In 1913 the Annandale club elected James Giltinan as their president. Giltinan was the man who helped finance and organise Rugby League’s birth just 6 years earlier. It was also in this year that Annandale decided to withdraw from the second grade competition. The club managed just 3 wins through the year, finishing equal last with Wests.

The 1914 season was the first of a number of disastrous seasons for the club as they struggled to compete with all clubs. They had just 1 win, 1 draw and 11 losses as they approached their final game against competition leaders Souths. Newtown were second on the ladder and needed to win their game against Norths, and for Souths to lose to Annandale for them to become premiers. The Newtown players invited Annandale to train with them at the Metters ground, Newtown’s home ground, as well as offering a one pound reward if they could beat Souths.

Newtown went on to Norths 20-12. Souths however were caught by surprise at the enthusiasm of the Annandale side and at halftime, their game was locked at 3 all. But 3 second half tries to nil in Souths favour saw them win 14-5 and claim the premiership.

If the geographical disadvantage inflicted upon Annandale wasn’t enough, the First World War saw a number of players in the area enlist in the war effort. They won 3 of 14 games in 1915 and 4 of 14 games in 1916.

Their first game of 1917 against neighbouring rivals Glebe saw about the greatest controversy in the games existence at that time. Dan Davies played for Glebe in their 26-5 win, however Annandale protested as they knew that Davies was living in Annandale, not Glebe, therefore he should have played for Annandale. Glebe had their 2 competition points deducted for the win and Davies was banned for life. Davies returned and played in Newcastle. The NSWRL decided to ban almost every player, administrator and club in the Newcastle competition. The decision was eventually overturned in 1921.

Over the next 4 seasons, Annandale won just 2 of their 55 games, each season they played a rougher and more unattractive style of play. This saw crowd figures for Annandale games drop and potential local players lose interest in the game, resulting in Annandale relying at times on borrowed players from outside their region. In 1918 and 1920 they failed to win a single game.

On October 13, 1920 the NSWRL Committee decided at a meeting to axe Annandale due to their poor record, poor style of play and inability to field a team of local players. Four of the other eight clubs that voted to axe Annandale were Balmain, Glebe, Newtown and Wests, all of whom would benefit from their demise. Shortly after the decision was passed, delegates of all 4 clubs set about splitting up the Annandale region so that they would all get a share.

A motion to rescind the decision was put forward but was emphatically voted against, and with that, the existence of Annandale whimpered into non-existence.

Annandale 1910-1920
Played 163, Won 26, Drew 6, Lost 131, For 1118, Against 2756

*******This article appeared in Rugby League Review magazine*********

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hypocrisy (2015)

The NRL for a number of years now, has been working tirelessly to try and improve the image of the game to make it more appealing to women, and subsequently, families.

So much so that they now have on their calendar every year, an entire round dedicated to the women involved in the game, a women's round.

Only one round out of 26.

This Friday, the Australian Jillaroos will play against the New Zealand Ferns in the curtain raiser to the test between Australia and New Zealand.

Yet despite there now being 5 separate Fox Sports channels as well as Channel 9's main and GEM channels, it seems there is no way it is at all possible to show this game.

Tomorrow night, Fox Sports 1 (which tends to host nearly all the Rugby League content out of their 5 channels) will instead show between 6pm and the replay of the Test match:
*The second repeat of NRL 360 and the irrelevant Matthew Johns show in the space of 6 hours,
*90 minutes of two ageing boxers talking about themselves and their upcoming payday, err fight,
*An hour long package of the greatest UFC fights.

Channel 9 will show
*The alleged journalism of A Current Affair prior to the Test
*Over an hour of boxing hosted by the NRL Footy Show

GEM will show
*a 3 hour long Clint Eastwood movie
*the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde movie

A lot of this could be forgiven to an extent. But one thing in my mind can't.

A 75 minute slot after the Test match dedicated to an NRL program and that program isn't even doing anything remotely attached to Rugby League, it's boxing!

Why not have a replay of the Women's Rugby League Test match played then? It's got a hell of a lot more Rugby League content than the NRL Footy Show does even on it's best nights, but even moreso on Friday when it will be showing boxing, not Rugby League.

If the NRL is truly passionate about properly recognising the involvement of women in Rugby League, the most basic of first steps would be to ensure that the National Women's side is shown some level of interest.

As it stands, the Jillaroo's can't even get a link to their website (which I might add is hosted by Fox Sports Pulse, not even an official Rugby League body can be bothered to look after this task) from the NRL website.

If the National women's side can't get airtime over the NRL Footy Show boxing night and cannot even have the NRL give them web space, just how appreciated can the rest of the women involved in the game truly feel?

I believe if the game wants to recognise a group of people, then either do it properly and thoroughly, or don't do it at all. At present it looks half-arsed and somewhat patronising.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Finals Need An Overhaul (2015)

The current finals system is quite simply designed to keep as many fans still invested in consuming right up until the last few days of the year. It makes good marketing sense, clearly.

But is it at the expense of the competition?

In the early days of the game, there was no set system for finals. Different variations of finals were used to determine the premiers. Sometimes, finals weren't even played.

It wasn't until 1938 that a dedicated finals system became mandatory, the mechanics of the system was altered a few times.

From 1938 til 1972 the top 4 teams made it to the finals. In 1973, an extra team was added to the finals system. The top 5 remained in place until 1994.

With the competition having expanded from 12 clubs in 1967 to 20 in 1995 due to expansion in 1982 (2 extra teams), 1988 (3 extra teams) and 1995 (4 extra teams).

In 1995, the game moved to a top 8 system, which remained in place the following season. When the game split in 1997, the ARL had a top 7 in a 12 team competition while the Superleague had a top 5 in a 10 team competition.

When the NRL took over it employed a top 10 system in 1998, before permanently moving to a top 8 system in 1999.

From 1908 til 1972 (4 team finals period) there were just 16 times where a team made the finals having won less than 55% of their regular season matches (over 64 seasons)

Comparatively, the NRL has had 44 occurrences where a team has made the finals with a regular season success rate under 55% (over 17 years)

Furthermore, never has a team won a Premiership with a win % in the regular season less than 57%

In fact, the teams who have won a title with a pre-finals win% of less than 60% are:

St George (1941) - Won 8 of their 14 games to finish 4th
Wests Tigers (2005) - Won 14 of their 24 games to finish 4th
Brisbane (2006) - Won 14 of their 24 games to finish 4th
Melbourne (2009) - Won 14 of their 24 games to finish 4th

There have also been 13 occasions where a team has participated in a finals campaign having won less than 50% of their regular season games. What is concerning is that this occurred 6 times prior to 1998 and 7 times during the NRL era.

Given that no team has ever won a title from 7th or lower on the ladder, it would appear that to ensure a better finals campaign, the NRL should reduce the number of finalists from 8 to 6 at the very least.

A simple finals system could look like this:

Week 1
Game A - 3 vs 4
Game B - 5 vs 6 - loser eliminated

Week 2
Game C - 1 v 2
Game D - Loser A v Winner B - loser eliminated

Week 3
Game E - Loser C v Winner D - loser eliminated

Week 4 - Grand Final
Game F - Winner C v Winner E

If the NRL wants to keep teams and fans interested, then a simple idea could be to bring back the City Cup competition.

From 1921 til 1923, the City Cup had a very intelligent and unique format. All of the return games played by clubs would also count as the City Cup fixtures, adding extra meaning to those games for the clubs who were out of the Premiership contention. Under the NRL draw, there are some teams who only play each other once in a year, so under those circumstances, that one result would be the City Cup game as well.

At season's end, a City Cup final series of just 4 sides could be played. It would essentially give the NRL two Grand Finals every year. It would mean an entire competition could be played but only 3 extra games are played to determine the winner.

Week 1
A - 1 v 4
B - 2 v 3
Week 2
C - Winner A v Winner B

These two ideas could see a stronger competition and a more closely fought premiership race that rewards the very best teams without giving out token finals appearances to a few sides.