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1961 NSWRFL season

1961 New South Wales Rugby Football League
PremiersSt. George colours.svg St. George (8th title)
Minor premiersWestern Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs (4th title)
Matches played94
Points scored2830
Top points scorer(s)Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Bob Landers (164)
Top try-scorer(s)St. George colours.svg Johnny King (20)

The 1961 New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership was the 54th season of the rugby league competition based in Sydney. Ten teams from across the city competed for the J J Giltinan Shield and WD & HO Wills Cup during the season, which culminated in a grand final between St. George and Western Suburbs.

Season summary

Ten Sydney-based clubs participated in the competition with each team meeting all others twice in eighteen regular premiership rounds to reach a top four who battled out four finals.

In round 1, Sydney's Nine Network made the first live telecast of an Australian rugby league match between the Balmain Tigers and the North Sydney Bears from North Sydney Oval on 15 April 1961.[1] The second half of the match was beamed live with former international Ray Stehr the first commentator. There were only two cameras to capture the action, one positioned on each 25-yard line and cameramen frantically switched lenses depending on where play was located.[2]

The St. George Dragons won their eighth premiership, defeating the Western Suburbs Magpies in the Grand Final. The Magpies again won the NSWRFL Club Championship this season.

Also this season the Jersey Flegg Championship was introduced.

The 1961 season also saw the retirement from the League of future Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame inductee, Keith Holman.


Balmain home jersey 1940.svg
54th season
Ground: Leichhardt Oval
Coach: Harry Bath
Captain: Keith Barnes
Canterbury home jersey 1935.svg
27th season
Ground: Belmore Sports Ground
Coach: Eddie Burns
Captain: Ray Gartner
Eastern Suburbs
54th season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Coach: Dick Dunn
Captain: Terry Fearnley
15th season
Ground: Brookvale Oval
Coach: Ken Arthurson
Captain: Rex Mossop
Newtown Jets home jersey 1908.svg
54th season
Ground: Henson Park
Coach: Charles Cahill
Captain: Tony Brown
North Sydney Bears home jersey 1951.svg
North Sydney
54th season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Robert Sullivan
Captain: Brian Carlson
15th season
Ground: Cumberland Oval
Captain-Coach: Ron Boden
South Sydney
54th season
Ground: Redfern Oval
Coach: Denis Donoghue
Captain: Darrel Chapman
St. George
41st season
Ground: Jubilee Oval
Coach: Ken Kearney
Captains: Brian Clay / Billy Wilson
Western Suburbs
54th season
Ground: Pratten Park
Coach: Jack Fitzgerald
Captain: Neville Charlton


Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs Magpies 18 15 0 3 390 181 +209 30
2 St. George colours.svg St. George 18 15 0 3 367 167 +200 30
3 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18 10 0 8 294 209 +85 20
4 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 18 10 0 8 281 292 -11 20
5 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 18 9 1 8 290 211 +79 19
6 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney Bears 18 9 0 9 273 298 -25 18
7 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 7 0 11 237 325 -88 14
8 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown 18 6 1 11 197 284 -87 13
9 Newtown colours.svg Newtown 18 5 0 13 236 436 -200 10
10 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta 18 3 0 15 203 365 -162 6


Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
Semi Finals
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 5-10 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 27 August 1961 Sydney Sports Ground Darcy Lawler 20,842
Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 4-9 St. George colours.svg St. George 2 September 1961 Sydney Cricket Ground Darcy Lawler 47,964
Preliminary Final
Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 7-5 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 9 September 1961 Sydney Cricket Ground Darcy Lawler 40,726
Grand Final
St. George colours.svg St. George 22-0 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 16 September 1961 Sydney Cricket Ground Darcy Lawler 61,196

Grand Final

St George Position Western Suburbs Magpies
Brian Graham FB Don Parish
Johnny King WG Dave Barsley
Dave Brown CE Bill Brown
Reg Gasnier CE Billy Martin
Eddie Lumsden WG Peter Dimond
Brian Clay FE Keith Holman
Bob Bugden HB Arthur Summons
Kevin Brown PR Neville Charlton (c)
Peter Armstrong HK Noel Kelly
Billy Wilson (c) PR Mark Patch
Kevin Ryan SR Bill Carson
Norm Provan SR John Hayes
Johnny Raper LK Kel O'Shea
Ken Kearney Coach Jack Fitzgerald

Wests beat St George for the minor premiership on for-and-against and they were both ten points clear of their nearest rivals. If the Dragons run was to be stopped, this was the chance in legendary half Keith Holman's last match.

With misty rain on the day of the decider, Wests were knuckling down for another tight forward struggle as had been the case the major semi final also played in the wet. However, Saints stunned the Magpies as they ignored the conditions and threw the ball around.

The Dragons backline ran riot. Eddie Lumsden had a tremendous match, scoring three tries while Johnny King also scored another. Brian Clay, the best player on the field, cut loose against the veteran Holman who was playing in the unaccustomed five-eighth role. In every attacking raid there was an abundance of St George players backing up as the Wests' defence became more and more compressed.

St George scored three tries in a window of fifteen minutes to lead 15-0 at the 26-minute mark. The first was scored after nine minutes when Norm Provan from dummy-half passed to Johnny Raper who sent Clay away to the corner. Close to the sideline and fifteen metres before the try line, Clay called Lumsden inside him and snapped a reverse flick pass into the winger's hands enabling him to score untouched.

At the 21-minute mark from a St George scrum win Raper took the ball and ran toward King, he drew three defenders then lofted the ball to King who scored in the corner. Five minutes later a classic backline got the ball through the hands to Dave Brown who drew Barnsley in leaving Lumsden unmarked for his second try.

They took a 17-nil lead to the half-time break and the match appeared theirs. Fifteen minutes into the second half Lumsden scored again. St George then proceeded to lock up the game and Wests could not overcome the tough Dragons defence.

St George won their sixth Grand Final in a row, stunning Western Suburbs by 22-0. This victory enabled them to beat the previous record of Grand Final wins in a row, held by the South Sydney Rabbitohs. It was Bob Bugden's last match for the Dragons. He had featured in all six wins.

St. George 22 (Tries: Lumsden 3, King. Goals: Graham 5.)

Western Suburbs 0


  1. ^ Sean Fagan. "History of Rugby League". Archived from the original on 2012-06-23. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  2. ^ Big League, July 13, 2006 p.7

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