|Full name||St. George Rugby League Football Club|
|Founded||13 October 1920|
|Premierships||15 (1941, 1949, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1977, 1979)|
|Runners-up||12 (1927, 1930, 1933, 1942, 1946, 1953, 1971, 1975, 1985, 1992, 1993, 1996)|
|Minor premiership||15 (1928, 1946, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1979, 1985)|
|Wooden spoons||3 (1922, 1926, 1938)|
|Most capped||256 - Norm Provan|
|Highest points scorer||1,554 - Graeme Langlands|
The St. George Dragons are an Australian rugby league football club from the St George district in Sydney, New South Wales who played in the top level New South Wales competition and Australian Rugby League competitions from the 1921 until the 1997 ARL season, as well as the unified 1998 National Rugby League season. In 1999, they formed a joint venture with the Illawarra Steelers, creating the St. George Illawarra Dragons team which continues to compete in the NRL today. As a stand-alone club, they field teams in the NSWRL underage men's and women's competitions, Harold Matthews Cup, S.G. Ball, and Tarsha Gale Cup.
Entering the New South Wales Rugby Football League in 1921, the St George club won 15 premierships,, including 11 in succession between 1956 and 1966, a record for sporting competitions at the time. The Dragons thus became second to only the South Sydney Rabbitohs in terms of total premierships won in the NSW Rugby Football League. Following the Super League war and formation of the NRL in 1998, the club still remain in a joint venture with the Illawarra Steelers known as the St. George Illawarra Dragons.
On Friday, 28 February 1908 at Rockdale Town Hall a meeting mainly instigated by St George rugby league pioneers, W. Munn and Joe McGraw, was attended by officials of the recently formed New South Wales Rugby Football League and rugby players from the local district. NSWRFL president Henry Hoyle gave a convincing address and a St. George club appeared likely to form, however, the club's application was later rejected due to an insufficient number of players. Undeterred, the St George Rugby League Football Club took form in 1910 when a team played in the NSWRL 3rd Grade Competition. The club's first game took place against Newtown at Sans Souci and St George were victorious 36–0.
With the demise of Annandale Rugby League Club, St George was successful in November 1920 in petitioning the NSWRL for promotion. In February 1921 at the Kogarah School of Arts, the St George District Rugby League Club came into being. The first President was Arthur Yager, with Joe McGraw chosen as Secretary, Arthur Moymow named Treasurer and Allan Clark as the first club delegate to the NSWRFL. Baden Wales was delegate to the Juniors.
The club's inaugural first grade appearance was on St George's Day, 23 April 1921 against Glebe at the Sydney Sports Ground. The first St George team to take the field was: Lyall Wall, Norm Shadlow, Reg Fusedale, Herb Gilbert (c), George Carstairs, Frank Gray, Tommy Burns, Tony Redmond, Clarrie Tye, Sid Field, Roy Bossi, Ernie Lapham and Jack Clark. Glebe won the encounter 4–3. St George won only two matches in their first season and finished equal second last in the premiership. Before the start of the 1921 season, trial matches were played at Sans Souci and training took place at the Drill Hall in the Sydney suburb of Arncliffe. During the 1921 season games were played at Hurstville Oval. In 1925 the club started using Earl Park at Arncliffe as its headquarters and home ground. The club played at Earl Park until the end of the 1939 season.
The new club struggled during the 1920s finishing last in 1926 and eight points behind the next placed team. The hiring of another 33-year-old veteran leader in Frank Burge saw a change in the club's fortunes. In 1927 under Burge, the "Dragon Slayers", as they were then known, qualified for their first final but were beaten by South Sydney. For each of the next three seasons the Dragons qualified for the semi-finals and in 1930 they beat Wests in the final, only to suffer a return loss when Wests exercised their prerogative of the time as minor premiers to request a Grand final challenge rematch.
Harry Kadwell, the former South Sydney player and international half-back took over from Burge as captain-coach in 1931 and had four seasons with the club before his retirement. His leadership partner was the uncompromising hooker "Snowy" Justice who had been a Kangaroo tourist alongside Kadwell in 1929–30 and who took over as captain when Kadwell's 1932 season was ended with a broken leg. Justice would play eleven seasons with the club, followed by a long post-playing career with as Football Club secretary and League's Club secretary-manager through till the early 1970s.
In 1933 St George sneaked into the semi-finals in fourth place and won their way into the final against minor premiers Newtown. They lost 18–5. That same year they won the first night competition conducted by the NSWRL, a six-club competition played on three Saturday nights at the Sydney Showground.
In 1935 St George defeated Canterbury-Bankstown 91–6, the biggest win in their history and still the biggest winning margin ever in the history of the League, also every player scored during this match. In 1937 for the fourth time in the club's short history, the Dragon Slayers finished as competition runners-up. Their inaugural premiership had still not been achieved when at the end of the decade, following the 1939 season, the club moved its home ground back to Hurstville Oval. Former Lord Mayor of Sydney, Jack Mostyn became President of the club in 1937 and retained the role for the next eight years. In 1938, Clarrie Fahy became St. George's third ever secretary after the retirement of Reg Fusedale. Fahy remained as Club Secretary until 1944.
The long wait finally ended in 1941 when St George defeated Eastern Suburbs 31–14 at the Sydney Cricket Ground to take their inaugural First Grade premiership. They were captain-coached by Neville Smith. Brothers Jack and Herb Gilbert, Jr., the sons of the club's first captain-coach Herb Gilbert both played in the match. The following year,1942 all three grades reached the Grand final with the 3rd-grade side victorious. The first-grade side had routed Canterbury-Bankstown, the minor premiers, in a semi-final and then beat Easts in the final but as had happened in 1930, Canterbury exercised their right as minor premiers to issue a challenge and beat Saints in a Grand final. For season 1945, St. George obtained the services of a south sea islander called Walter Mussing. A prolific try scorer, Mussing was the top try scorer for the club in 1945 and was a crowd favourite for three seasons.
St George captained by Herb Narvo and starring the backline brothers Jack and Ray Lindwall were runners up again in 1946 losing to Balmain 12–13. Ray Lindwall missed four conversion attempts that day.
During the famous tour by the 1946 Great Britain team, Frank Whitcombe's performances on tour attracted the attention of St. George. Club official Jack Mogridge offered Whitcombe a two-year contract at £600 per season as player-coach plus costs of transport and a lucrative job, (based on increases in average earnings, this would be approximately £59,340 in 2016). Whitcombe signed the two-year contract with St George, however on his return to Bradford the family decided to stay in Yorkshire.
In the 1949 NSWRFL season they were premiers for the second time, beating South Sydney 19–12 in a spirited win. They were captained by the Test five-eighth Johnny Hawke with Frank Facer as Vice Captain and contained a champion backline including Noel Pidding, Doug McRitchie, Matt McCoy and Ron Roberts.
The St George Football Club came of age in the 1950s. A move from Hurstville Oval to Kogarah Oval saw St George take on Souths before a crowd of 12,500 fans in their inaugural match at the ground. Due to its close proximity to Kogarah Oval, the Carlton Hotel became the local watering hole for the players after training.
In 1953 the first St George Leagues Club was built on the corner of Princes Highway & Rocky Point Road. The building later became a High School, although the building was demolished in July 2015. This club was to become the site of many victory celebrations over the next 10 years. In 1956 St George began their reign as Premiers beating Balmain 18–12 in the decider. In the following year, they won in First grade, 3rd Grade and the Presidents Cup while being runners-up in Reserve grade. Their dominance had commenced and would last until 1966, covering an unprecedented 11 victories. In the early years players such as Kearney, Wilson, Clay, Provan, Lumsden and Bath forged the club's success. In 1959 they went through the season undefeated amassing 550 points (205 scored by Harry Bath) compared to their rivals total tally against them of just 90 points. That year the brilliant young lock Johnny Raper made his grand final debut at centre replacing the injured Reg Gasnier.
By the early 1960s St George players were afforded movie star status in Sydney and names such as Reg Gasnier and Johnny Raper were highly familiar as were later those of Graeme Langlands, Billy Smith and Johnny King.
1963 was a particularly notable year for the club. A new Leagues Club was opened on the Princes Highway at Carlton, and would become the hub of social life in the district and dubbed "the Taj Mahal". On the afternoon of 24 August 1963 Saints won the Grand Final in all three grades (First Grade 8–3 v Wests; Reserves 3-2 v Souths; 3rd Grade 12–2 v Canterbury) – this feat has not been achieved since. That same day saw the creation of an iconic image when Sydney Morning Herald photographer John O'Gready captured a photo which would become titled "The Gladiators" and which showed the essence of good sportsmanship as the Saints' captain Norm Provan and West's captain Arthur Summons embraced post-match in exhausted camaraderie while barely recognisable, covered head-to-toe in mud. Reserve try scorer was R O'Loughlin.
In 1965 another record was set when a crowd of 78,056 football supporters packed the SCG to see the Dragons triumph over Souths, and the tally reached ten consecutive premierships in Norm Provan's farewell match. Provan wrote the introduction to the Haddan book "The Finals – 100 Years" and reflected upon the dressing room mood before the match:
|“||It's 1965, St George and Souths in the grand final at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It's five minutes before we walk out. The boys are sitting around, very quiet now, just thinking about their own games. I have finished my last 10-minute talk to the team, just a summary of our general plan – no shouting or yelling or 'geeing' up. These players just don't need that. I have this terrible sick feeling in my gut. We have to lose a grand final sooner or later. The law of averages demands it. This one would make it 10. A nice round figure and I can retire happy. The linesman comes to the door, looks at me and nods. I nod back. We all stand up. The sick feeling is gone. 'Let's give it another go!'.||”|
|— Haddan, Introduction px, ""|
On 18 September 1966, under new captain Ian Walsh, St George won their world-record 11th straight premiership, defeating Balmain 23–4. The end of the reign came in a year which marked the retirement of one of their greatest stars in Reg Gasnier but which also marked the first season played under the limited tackle rule, replacing the previous era (since the code's 1908 inception) of unlimited tackles. Fitting perhaps in that the club's stronghold had been built on the back of a 1950s style of punishing forward dominance. The end came at the hands of Canterbury-Bankstown who beat St George in the 1967 preliminary final. That year's title, however, would go to the tough South Sydney campaigners many of whom had been on the losing end of the 1965 Grand final against the Dragons but who learnt from their experience and who would go on themselves to their enjoy own brief golden period making five successive grand finals from 1967–1971, winning four.
While shaded by the specactular success of the previous decade, the Dragons remained competitive throughout most of the 1970s winning premierships in 1977 and 1979, being runner-up Grand Finalists in 1971 and 1975 and finishing the regular season in 3rd place or better in all years excepting 1974 and 1978. In the late 60s and into the early 70s St George got their best value out of Billy Smith and Graeme Langlands after all the other stars of the long reign had gone. It was largely due to their combined class and the apparent on-field intuitive understanding of each other's kicking and positional game that the club showed consistency of form through to the mid-1970s.
During 1970, St George became the first club in any code of Football to provide three Kangaroo Captains in the same season in Graeme Langlands, Billy Smith and rugby-union convert Phil Hawthorne. Other stars in the early 1970s were Barry Beath, Ken Maddison, Rod Reddy, Steve Edge and Ted Goodwin.
In 1971 St George made it through to the Grand final against an experienced Souths side with a battle-hardened pack. Saints were the underdogs but looked well-positioned when the half-time score was 1–0. Souths then raced ahead in the second half to 11–0 lead. The Dragons fought back with tries to Barry Beath and Ted Walton, while Langlands converted both including a magnificent sideline kick giving the Saints fans great hope of an upset. However a match-winning try from Souths' Bob McCarthy showed the experience of the Rabbitohs and South Sydney took their fourth title in a five-year period.
A year of injuries in 1974 saw St George win only ten of the season's twenty-two matches and miss the semi finals for the first time in 23 years. In 1975 Langlands wore white boots, novel at the time, in the Grand final against Easts. Langlands had problems with a groin injury and, partially because he battled-on relying strongly on painkillers, St George was defeated 38–0. This was a record loss in a Grand Final until 2008 when Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles defeated Melbourne Storm 40–0 however that was accumulated on the four point try system. The 1975 score on that basis would be 46-0.
In the latter half of the decade Steve Edge, Rocket Reddy, Steve Morris, Mark Shulman, Robert Stone, Bruce Starkey, John Jansen and Craig Young provided the playing leadership at the club. In 1977, enjoying a resurgence under new coach Harry Bath, St George met Parramatta in a thrilling Grand Final, which went into 20 minutes of extra time. Reddy ever the enforcer in his career, had played a brutal defensive first half resulting in post-match comments that Parramatta's Ray Price finished the game looking like he'd been used as a punching bag. Reddy's questionable tactics, targeting Price and Higgs in the 2nd half saw a number of penalties with successful goal results go Parramatta's way. A try with ten minutes to run saw the Eels tie up the match and in spite of missed goal attempts by both kickers and some desperate field-goal shots from the Dragons, the match finished at 9–9 with tension high amongst players, officials and supporters. It was the first time Australian rugby league had experienced a drawn Grand final and a rematch was scheduled for the next week. In the rematch St George proved too strong, defeating Parramatta 22–0. It was a fitting farewell for the stalwart Dragons second rower Barry Beath, the last Dragon to retire who'd been involved as a player in the eleven-year run. Beath is credited with the unusual statistic of winning a premiership in his first season (1966) and his last (1977), but none in ten seasons between.
Administratively, 1977 was the Saints' best-ever year financially. The crowd average was over 19,000 enabling funds for Kogarah Oval to be updated. The following year Frank Facer, the football club Secretary who had masterminded the successes of the 1950s and 1960s died of cancer. It was Facer who brought Harry Bath back to the club in 1977. Bath had coached Balmain and Newtown and had success as the national coach and Facer's masterstroke in bringing Bath back into the Dragons' fold paid off, enabling the old campaigner "Fearless Frank" to see one last premiership victory before his death.
In the 1979 season, still under Bath, Saints got back into the swing of things and won the Grand Final against Canterbury 17–13. By now Edge and Young were experienced leaders and Reddy, as he'd done in the 1st 1977 Grand final, came into his own in the 1979 decider punishing the opposition forwards with his ruthless defence. As it turned out this would be the last premiership St George would win in first grade before the merger in 1999.
Harry Bath coached the 1980 and 1981 seasons, then from 1982 to 1987 the Dragons were coached by the articulate and tactically brilliant Roy Masters. Though he had not himself played the game at the top level he had a keen interest in team psychology and had achieved excellent results at Wests from 1978–81 and helped that struggling club to produce consistent on-field results. Under Masters, in 1985 St George were minor-premiers, runaway club champions and made it to the Grand final in all three Grades. After winning both the lower grades, the Dragons first grade team were beaten by Canterbury 7–6. At the end of this year, plans to build a new stand were deferred. A decision to move from Kogarah to the SCG had supporters and even some officials disheartened.
In 1986, with the SCG as their new home ground, St George missed the semi finals in all three grades for the first time in 50 years. A decision was made at the end of 1987 to move St George from the SCG to the Belmore Sports Ground in 1988 with the hope of returning to Jubilee Oval Kogarah at a later stage.
Ted Glossop coached for a single season in 1988, tasting success when the Dragons won the mid-week 1988 Panasonic Cup competition. In front of 22,000 spectators at Parramatta Stadium, with millions more watching the game on television, the Dragons defeated the Balmain Tigers 16–8 with prizemoney totalling $150,000. Tries were scored by Ricky Walford, Steve Robinson and an unforgettable intercept try by Bert Gordon that "brought the house down". Later, lock forward Peter Gill was awarded the Panasonic Cup Player of the Series for 1988.
In 1989, former premiership winning captain Craig Young had two seasons at the helm (1989 & 1990) but left under unhappy circumstances. In 1989, Saints appointed former player Geoff Carr as secretary of club and also returned home to upgraded facilities at Kogarah Jubilee Oval but the season would end and along with it the first decade since the 1930s in which the club failed to win a premiership.
The '90s saw St George on a roller-coaster ride. Between 1991 and 1995, St George played one home game per year at the Adelaide Oval in South Australia in a deal with longtime major sponsor, the Adelaide based Penfolds Winery. The first game in the "City of Churches" in 1991 saw the Dragons defeat Balmain 16-2 in front of 28,884 fans which was in fact the NSWRL's highest non-finals attendance for the season. Saints would go on to host Brisbane (1992, L 18-20), Canberra (1993, L 2-30), Wests (1994, W 32-16), and finally Newcastle (1995, L 13-24). In total the Dragons attracted 89,883 fans to their five home games in Adelaide. St. George would play one more game in Adelaide when they played the short-lived Adelaide Rams at the famous oval in 1998, losing a close encounter 20-22 in front of 8,506 fans.
Saints made the Grand Final in 1992, 1993 and 1996, but were unable to win the premiership. In 1992 and 1993, coached by the former Illawarra Steelers coach Brian Smith, the Dragons met the Brisbane Broncos in successive deciders. On the first occasion St George were captained by centre Michael Beattie, but Brisbane was too classy, running away with the game in the 2nd half to win 28–8, including a 95-metre try to Broncos centre Steve Renouf in which he just outpaced Ricky Walford to score.
Twelve months later in 1993, there were high expectations for the Dragons having comfortably accounted for Canberra 31–10 and Canterbury 27–12 in the semi-finals, and with the Broncos having scraped into the finals in fifth place. The sides for the grand final replay were largely unchanged between the two years. Only one Bronco (Peter Ryan), and four of the Dragons (Jason Stevens, Nathan Brown, Gorden Tallis and Phil Blake) had not played in the 1992 Grand Final. Prop forward Steven's game turned sour in only the second tackle of the game when he suffered a thumb injury that required him leaving the field and being taken to hospital for surgery. Brisbane withstood an early Dragons barrage which brought much hope but no points. Then two tries to Brisbane sent them to the break with a 10–2. Saints winger Ian "Chook" Herron kept the Dragons in touch with three penalty goals to make it 10–6, but the title stayed north of the border when Broncos winger Willie Carne scored two minutes from full-time.
In 1995, after exploring the possibility of a merger with the Roosters in an attempt to match the turnover of the all-conquering Brisbane Broncos, chief executive Geoff Carr was sacked by his board.
St George played in their last Grand Final as a single club when they faced off against Manly-Warringah in the 1996 decider, with the Sea Eagles winning 20-8 in front of 40,985 fans at the Sydney Football Stadium. The David Waite coached Dragons had finished the season in 7th position and won their way through to the Grand Final with wins over Canberra (16-14), Sydney City (36-16), and North Sydney (29-12) in the Semi-finals. St George's last Grand Final captain was Queensland State of Origin and Australian test centre Mark Coyne.
The Dragons' first points of the Grand Final came in the 37th minute when Wayne Bartrim kicked a penalty awarded after Manly forward Owen Cunningham was penalised for stripping the ball. From the ensuing kick-off just before half-time came the game's controversial moment and a hotly disputed try. Manly fullback Matthew Ridge made a spectacular short kick-off and regathered, catching the Dragons unaware. St George hooker Nathan Brown appeared to tackle Ridge, albeit one-handedly and by the collar. Ridge got up and ran when Brown and the rest of the Dragons were expecting him to stop and play the ball. Referee David Manson ruled that Brown had not completed the tackle. This caught the Dragons napping and Ridge was eventually tackled just a few metres from the line. Manly back-rower Steve Menzies then broke his way through Saints' defence to score next to the posts, giving Ridge an easy conversion kick. The controversial ruling by referee Manson gave Manly a 14–2 half time lead.
At the conclusion of the 1998 season, the formation of the competition's first joint venture team occurred when St George joint ventured with the Illawarra Steelers to form the St George Illawarra Dragons.
The joint venture first fielded a side in the NRL competition in 1999 and reached the Grand final that year. They would later win its first premiership as a joint venture in 2010, and in 2018 a women's side operating under the same club name was formed ahead of the inaugural NRL Women's Premiership commencing the same year.
St George fielded a NSW Cup team from 1921-2000, before forming a St George Illawarra side which lasted from 2001 to 2007. The Dragons still field stand alone sides in the SG Ball and Harold Matthews competitions, last winning an SG Ball title in 1992 and have yet to taste premiership success in the under 16s Harold Mathews Cup. In 2018, the Dragons entered the Tarsha Gale Cup, a women's Under 18s 9-a-side competition, for the first time.
|No.||Name||Years||G||W||L||D||%||Premierships||Runners-up||Minor Premierships||Wooden spoons|
|2||Frank Burge||1927–1930, 1937||76||51||20||5||67%||—||1927, 1930||1928||—|
|5||Arthur Justice||1936, 1947||32||14||18||0||44%||—||—||—||—|
|9||Neville Smith||1939–1941, 1943||62||36||22||4||58%||1941||—||—||—|
|18||Norm Tipping||1953, 1956||40||27||12||1||68%||1956||—||1956||—|
|19||Ken Kearney||1954–1955, 1957–1961||141||113||26||2||80%||1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961||—||1957, 1958, 1959, 1960||—|
|20||Norm Provan||1962–1965, 1968||105||80||20||5||76%||1962, 1963, 1964, 1965||—||1962, 1963, 1964, 1965||—|
|21||Ian Walsh||1966–1967||45||31||12||2||69%||1966||—||1966, 1967||—|
|26||Harry Bath||1977–1981||118||71||42||5||60%||1977, 1979||—||1979||—|
|30||Brian Smith||1991–1995||118||69||46||3||59%||—||1992, 1993||—||—|
The Dragons began their home-ground stadium at Hurstville Oval in 1921 until 1924. In 1925, they went to Earl Park, Arncliffe, where they remained until 1939. They returned to Hurstville in 1940, where they remained until 1949.
In 1950, the team moved to Kogarah Oval. They stayed at the venue until 1985. From 1986 until 1988 while the ground was being renovated, the Dragons moved to Sydney Cricket Ground (1986–1987) and to Belmore Oval (1988). In 1989, the team returned to Kogarah Oval where they remained until the merger with the Illawarra Steelers at the end of the 1998 season.
The Dragons home game crowd record was in 1975, where a crowd of 23,582 attended the game against South Sydney at Kogarah Oval.
Presently, the St George Dragons play the bulk of home games in the SG Ball and Harold Matthews competitions at WIN Jubilee Oval, and in recent years have also hosted games at Hurstville Oval.
The St. George District JRL covers an area of southern Sydney from Cooks River and the M5 Motorway in the north, Botany Bay to the east, Salt Pan Creek to the west, and the Georges River to the south.
Current St George junior clubs are:
Notable NRL players who were St George juniors: