The opening round of the 1908 season saw four games played, comprising of all eight foundation clubs: Balmain, Eastern Suburbs, Glebe, Newcastle, Newtown, North Sydney, South Sydney and Western Suburbs.
The NSWRL premiership’s first round of games was billed against some stiff competition. The Easter Show at the Royal Agricultural Society Showgrounds was expected to draw in the vicinity of 80,000 people, while the horse races at Randwick attracted another 30,000.
That first weekend saw the fledgling code play a pair of double headers at suburban venues, with their marquee venue being used for the Easter Show. Both venues drew attendances of approximately 3,000 – a relatively pleasing turnout for the League.
2pm: Eastern Suburbs 32 def Newtown 16 at Wentworth ParkEasts 32 (Stuntz 4, Brown, D’Alpuget, Miller, Smith tries; Jones 2, Rosenfeld goals; Miller field goal) Newtown 16 (Scott 2, Manton, Williams tries; Scott 2 goals)
Easts: W.Fry; J.Stuntz, W.Smith, D.Brown, D.Frawley; A.Rosenfeld, L.D’Alpuget; R.Mable, L.Jones, L.O’Malley, H.Brackenreg, S.Pearce, H.Flegg. H.Miller (sub)
Newtown: E.Hurford; E.Burdett, J.Scott, F.Cheadle, L.Fairburn; C.Manton, E.MacFarlane; C.Powell, J.Williams, T.McIntosh, E.Courtney, W.Noble, H.Hamill. K.Henger (sub)
The first match at Wentworth Park saw an open and fast exhibition of the new rules. End-to-end action from the kick-off resulted in a try to Jack Scott, who put in an elusive run through the scattered defenders to score under the posts. He converted to give Newtown a 5-0 lead. The Tricolours went right on the attack and shortly after, Smith scored a try after supporting a fine run by Mable.
D’Alpuget converted to level the scores.
D’Alpuget, almost immediately after play resumed, scored out wide. After some enterprising play from both sides, the Easterners put on a great passing display between Frawley, Flegg, Rosenfeld and Stuntz, with the latter scoring easily. Easts now lead 11-5. Newtown then went on the attack and after sustained pressure, finally broke through for a try out wide to Williams, which was converted by Scott. Eastern Suburbs lead 11-10 at halftime.
The second half started with Easts on the attack. D’Alpuget fielded a kick and put Stuntz in space, who put in a great run to score under the posts. Jones converted and Easts lead 16-10. Brown then made a break and scored but missed the conversion from almost right in front. Easts up 19-10. More great passing by the Easterners’ backs put Stuntz in for another try. Brown again missed from almost right in front. Easts now out to 22-10. A tired Newtown side were rejuvenated when Scott snuck through for a solid try which could not be converted.
Stuntz was gifted yet another try when smart passing presented with an open line. Jones converted and Easts were now out to a 27-13 lead. A neat short pass from Fry put Miller in space who scored. Stuntz missed the conversion. Shortly after Miller calmly potted a field goal to give Easts a 32-13 lead.
Manton scored arguably the try of the day after a great solo effort saw him evade six defenders to run away and score under the posts. Cheadle’s conversion attempt was woeful and missed. Just before fulltime a fight broke out between two players and while they were being separated, three onlookers jumped the fence and ran to the aid of the Newtown players.
2pm: South Sydney 11 def North Sydney 7 at Birchgrove OvalSouths 11 (Anderson, A.Butler, Green tries; H.Butler goal) Norths 7 (Lutge try; Glanville 2 goals)
Souths: A.Conlin; F.Jarman, F.Storie, E.Fry, T.Anderson; A.Butler, J.Leveson; H.Butler, J.Davis, J.Cochrane, R.Green, J.Rosewell, A.Hennessy.
Norths: W.Whitfield; A,Broomham, J.Mathieson, J.Devereux, W.McCarthy; S.Deane, M.Lyons; J.Coste, E.Boland, H.Glanville, J.Kendall, F.Notting, D.Lutge.
North Sydney put pressure on the Souths side very early on and after South Sydney were penalised deep in their own half, Glanville kicked a penalty goal to give the Northerners a 2-0 lead. South then received a penalty from a scrum infringement just inside their own half. Harry Butler kicked a splendid goal to level the scores. After fast play from both sides, Souths finally got an opportunity to pressure the Norths defence which eventually resulted in a try out wide to Anderson. The try was not converted and a spirited first half, South Sydney lead 5-2.
North Sydney started the second half as they did the first. Notting secured a loose ball and made a great run before being tackled. Lutge then scooped up the ball from dummy half and crashed over for a try which wasn’t converted. South Sydney again pressured the Norths line repeatedly before a good passing play resulted in a neat try to Green. Souths now lead 8-5. A penalty against South Sydney allowed Glanville to kick a penalty goal to bring Norths within a point. Right on full time Butler received the ball from a scrum and scored the match winning try.
3.15pm: Glebe 8 def Newcastle 5 at Wentworth ParkGlebe 8 (Davis, Venness tries; Moir goal) Newcastle 5 (Bailey try; Bailey goal)
Glebe: W.Pendergast; L.Edwards, J.Ryan, E.Ogaard, A.Wright; C.Davis, A.Halloway; T.McCabe, A.Venness, P.Moir, J.Pearce, J.Moroney, A.Burdon.
Newcastle: J.Smith; W.Bailey, E.McGuinness, A.Coleman, E.Patfield; G.Hardy, R.Lawson; A.Richards, P.Kay, A.Nicholson, C.Croft, S.Carpenter, J.Bartley. E.Smith (sub)
This game started off at a fast pace but it wasn’t long before some great work by Newcastle trio Lawson, Croft and Bailey produced the opening try of the game to Bailey in the corner. McGuinness just missed the conversion from out wide and Newcastle lead 3-0.
After 4 poor attempts to get on the board with a penalty goal, Glebe eventually scored through Davis as he barged over to score. Ogaard missed the conversion. Kay broke his finger and was replaced by Smith early in the half. Ogaard picked up a loose pass and set down the wing before drawing the defence and passing in-field to Venness who scored. Moir converted and Glebe went to the break leading 8-3.
Newcastle played the second half with just 12 men, however both sides were weary after the pace they played at in the first half. A Bailey penalty goal was the only score in the second half as the game become inundated with infringements.
3.15pm: Balmain 24 def Western Suburbs 0 at Birchgrove OvalBalmain 24 (Graves 2, Latta 2, Fitzpatrick, Wilcox tries; Latta 2, Fitzpatrick goals) Wests 0
Balmain: J.Regent; G.Wilcox, G.Fitzpatrick, A.Walker, A.Latta; T.O’Donnell, A.Bryant; W.Fisher, A.Dobbs, E.McFadden, R.Graves, A.Ward, J.Apoloney.
Wests: G.Duffin; C.Blake, A.Brown, B.Duggan, P.Franks; L.Gormley, R.Gormley; E.Mead, W.Elliott, T.Phelan, T.Mount, J.Stack, J.Abercrombie.
The game was a lively one early on, with plenty of end to end action. Plenty of great runs and passing plays entertained the appreciative crowd thoroughly. Alf Latta opened the scoring after some good passing saw him in space. He managed to step and brush off several tackles in a clever dodging run to score. Balmain returned to the Westerners half and pressured them again which eventually lead to a good forwards try by Graves who crashed through. Balmain lead 6-0. Play continued at a good pace with Balmain in the advantage mostly, before half time sounded.
Balmain came out full of energy in the second half against a Wests side who looked tired. Latta put on another elusive run after a scrum to dodge and weave his way through the defence to score his second great try. Balmain continued pressing the Westerners line which resulted in Graves securing his second try. This was converted by Latta and Balmain lead 14-0.
Very little time had passed before Wilcox crossed for a try which Latta converted and Balmain led 19-0. With full time approaching, Fitzpatrick received a good pass and overpowered his opposite number to score a solid try, which he converted, topping off a stunning second half performance by the Watersiders.
****This article appeared on Commentary Box Sports website on April 20, 2017****