1963 NSWRFL season

The 1963 NSWRFL season was the 56th season of the New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership 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 replay of the previous two years' grand finals between St. George and Western Suburbs.

1963 New South Wales Rugby Football League
PremiersSt. George colours.svg St. George (10th title)
Minor premiersSt. George colours.svg St. George (9th title)
Matches played94
Points scored2278
Top points scorer(s)North Sydney colours.svg Fred Griffiths (136)
Top try-scorer(s)St. George colours.svg Reg Gasnier (24)


57th season
Ground: Leichhardt Oval
Coach: Harry Bath
Captain: Keith Barnes, Billy Bischoff, Jr.
29th season
Ground: Belmore Sports Ground
Coach: Clive Churchill
Captain: Ray Gartner
Eastern Suburbs
57th season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Coach: Dick Dunn
Captain: Terry Fearnley
17th season
Ground: Brookvale Oval
Captain-Coach: Tony Paskins
57th season
Ground: Henson Park
Coach: Allan Ellis
Captain: Tony Brown
North Sydney
57th season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Captain-Coach: Fred Griffiths
17th season
Ground: Cumberland Oval
Coach: Ken Kearney
Captain: Ron Lynch
South Sydney
57th season
Ground: Redfern Oval
Coach: Denis Donoghue
Captains: Darrel Chapman , Jim Lisle
St. George
43rd season
Ground: Jubilee Oval
Captain-coach: Norm Provan
Western Suburbs
57th season
Ground: Pratten Park
Coach: Jack Fitzgerald
Captain: Arthur Summons


Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1   St. George 18 15 1 2 434 95 +339 31
2   Western Suburbs Magpies 18 14 0 4 256 160 +96 28
3   Balmain Tigers 18 12 0 6 246 183 +63 24
4   Parramatta 18 11 0 7 186 165 +21 22
5   North Sydney Bears 18 10 0 8 272 236 +36 20
6   Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18 7 0 11 158 217 -59 14
7   Newtown 18 7 0 11 206 331 -125 14
8   Canterbury-Bankstown 18 6 1 11 170 277 -107 13
9   South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 4 0 14 170 298 -128 8
10   Eastern Suburbs 18 3 0 15 116 252 -136 6


Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
Semi Finals
  Balmain 7-9   Parramatta 3 August 1963 Sydney Cricket Ground Darcy Lawler 39,408
  St. George 8-10   Western Suburbs 10 August 1963 Sydney Cricket Ground Darcy Lawler 42,065
Preliminary Final
  St. George 12-7   Parramatta 17 August 1963 Sydney Cricket Ground Darcy Lawler 57,973
Grand Final
  Western Suburbs 3-8   St. George 24 August 1963 Sydney Cricket Ground Darcy Lawler 69,860

Grand FinalEdit

St. George Position Western Suburbs Magpies
Graeme Langlands FB Don Parish
Johnny King WG John Mowbray
Reg Gasnier CE Bob McGuinness
Billy Smith CE Gil MacDougall
Eddie Lumsden WG Peter Dimond
Bruce Pollard FE Arthur Summons (c)
George Evans HB Don Malone
Monty Porter PR Denis Meaney
Ian Walsh HK Noel Kelly
Kevin Ryan PR Jack Gibson
Elton Rasmussen SR Kel O'Shea
Norm Provan (Ca./Co.) SR John Hayes
Johnny Raper LK Kevin Smyth
Coach Jack Fitzgerald

The crowd of 69,806 who turned out for the grand final was a record.[1][2] From the opening whistle the 1963 decider was a gruelling affair. Heavy rain meant that the wet SCG pitch quickly became a quagmire and players unrecognisable. At one point, St George five-eighth, Bruce Pollard was blinded by the mud such that he couldn't pass or catch the ball so he swapped places with Johnny Raper and played out the second half at lock. Raper also set up the best movement of the match when he broke the line and found Reg Gasnier in support. Gasnier, with a Wests defender hanging off him, sent the ball to Norm Provan who in turn found Johnny King. However the Magpies defence held and no try was scored.

Saints conceded their first grand final try since 1958 when Wests centre Gil McDougall scored. As the match developed, it was clear that Wests had a game plan which involved a focus of intimidation on Gasnier. McDougall and other Magpies punched, stiff armed and kneed Gasnier at every opportunity. He was consequently subdued throughout the game.

The game was ultimately the Dragons' most controversial win in their 11-year run since the story has passed into Australian rugby league folklore that St George benefitted from dubious decisions made by referee Darcy Lawler.[3]

Lawler, the game's No.1 referee was known to enjoy a bet. A number of Wests players and sports journalists have claimed that the '63 Grand Final was a rout and point to some questionable decisions with Wests captain Arthur Summons claiming that before the game one of his team mates (later revealed to be Jack Gibson) entered the change room and told others that if they had backed themselves to win they had better lay off their bets because "The ref has backed St George". Just before half time, Wests had a try disallowed. At 8-3 McDougall had a chance to even the score when he won a race to the ball in goal, but Lawler ruled that he did not ground it. Later with 15 minutes to go and the score favouring Saints 5-3, Johnny King scored a controversial match winning try. Both decisions fuelled the debate about Lawler's impartiality on the day. Lawler, who awarded St George the penalties 18-7, retired after the match.[3][2][4]

"The Gladiators", John O'Gready's famous photograph of the two opposing captains, Norm Provan and Arthur Summons, taken after the match.

Newcomer Graeme Langlands passed to King who raced down his muddy wing after fending off his opposite John Mowbray. King appeared to be claimed by the cover defence of Don Parish but both players tumbled and in the slimy conditions King was not clearly held. He got up and was bowled over again but still not held and with no marker he ran towards the corner past a relaxed defence who believed he had been tackled. If ever there was an example of playing to the whistle, this was it. Johnny King scored one of the most debated tries in Australian Grand Final history. King claims that he was told by the referee to 'play on' while Wests legend, Noel Kelly claims that King was tackled and that Wests 'were robbed'. Behind the try line as the conversion was being lined up Chow Hayes yelled at Lawler "you're a cheat". Lawler said "Say that again and I will send you off". Jack Gibson said "send him off and I will rearrange your face on Monday". Lawler blushed and throughout the conversion Hayes continued to chant "you're a cheat".

But for the record books, St George won their eighth consecutive Grand Final, defeating a gallant Wests team, 8-3 and destroying Wests' hopes for the third year running. It was the final time that Western Suburbs would appear in a Grand Final. Also, St George won the premiership that year in all three grades.

The match is also celebrated in Australian rugby league history as a result of John O'Gready's enduring photo of rival captains Provan and Summons in a congratulatory mud-caked embrace at game's end. The award winning photo became known as "the Gladiators" and since it was first published has been appreciated by rugby league fans as capturing an essence of the game wherein a little man can fairly compete against the bigger man, and where sporting respect and camaraderie follow epic struggle. Since 1982 a bronze replica of the Provan and Summons embrace has adorned the various incarnations of the Australian rugby league premiership trophy.[5]

St. George 8 (Tries: Evans, King. Goals: Gasnier 1.)

Western Suburbs 3 ( Tries: McDougall.)


  1. ^ Clemes, Michael D. (2002). New Zealand Case Studies in Strategic Marketing. Thomson Learning Nelson. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-86469-419-5.
  2. ^ a b "NSWRFL 1963 - Grand Final". Rugby League Project. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Coady, Ben (2009-09-28). "Grand final dramas". WA Today. Australia: Fairfax Digital. Archived from the original on 2018-10-04. Retrieved 2014-10-15.
  4. ^ "Darcy Lawler (referee)". Rugby League Project. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  5. ^ Clarkson, Alan (1986-09-26). "The best Grand Finals I've seen". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. p. 77. Retrieved 2010-09-14.

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