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The 1986 New South Wales Rugby League premiership was the seventy-ninth season of professional rugby league football in Australia. Thirteen clubs competed for the J J Giltinan Shield and Winfield Cup during the season, which culminated in a grand final between the Parramatta Eels and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs which featured the introduction of the Clive Churchill Medal. This season, NSWRL teams also competed for the 1986 National Panasonic Cup.

1986 New South Wales Rugby League
PremiersParramatta colours.svg Parramatta (4th title)
Minor premiersParramatta colours.svg Parramatta (3rd title)
Matches played163
Points scored5212
Top points scorer(s)Canterbury colours.svg Terry Lamb (210)
Player of the yearManly Sea Eagles colours.svg Mal Cochrane (Rothmans Medal)
Top try-scorer(s)Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Phil Blake (13)
Balmain colours.svg Garry Schofield (13)

Season summaryEdit

This season saw the opening of the new, 30,000 capacity Parramatta Stadium as the home ground for the Parramatta Eels[1] and on 29 June the final game was played at the old Sydney Sports Ground: Eastern Suburbs Roosters v North Sydney Bears.[2]

In total twenty-six regular season rounds were played from March till September, resulting in a top five of Parramatta, South Sydney, Canterbury-Bankstown (the defending premiers), Manly-Warringah and Balmain who battled it out in the finals (after Balmain had defeated North Sydney in a playoff for 5th spot). Parramatta completed a perfect season, winning the pre-season competition, the midweek Panasonic Cup, finishing the regular season as minor premiers, winning the Grand Final and farewelling their international long time stars Mick Cronin and Ray Price as victorious champions.

The 1986 season's Rothmans Medallist was Manly-Warringah hooker, Mal Cochrane. Parramatta's halfback, Peter Sterling won the Dally M Award as well as Rugby League Week's player of the year award. The Coca-Cola Rugby League Coach-of-the-Year award was given to George Piggins who took South Sydney to the finals in his first year as coach.[3]

The new management and marketing direction that had been undertaken by the NSWRL in the 1980s meant that at the end of this season the League was able to announce a profit of $3.7 million and an increase in attendance of 22%.[4]

23 of the 28 players selected to go on the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France at the end of the season were from the NSWRL. Like the Kangaroos of 1982 who went through their tour undefeated to earn the nickname "The Invincibles", the 1986 Kangaroos would also go through undefeated, earning the nickname "The Unbeatables"


The lineup of clubs remained unchanged from the previous year, with thirteen contesting the premiership, including five Sydney-based foundation teams, another six from Sydney, one from greater New South Wales and one from the Australian Capital Territory.

Balmain Tigers
79th season
Ground: Leichhardt Oval
Coach: Frank Stanton
Captain: Wayne Pearce
Canberra Raiders
5th season
Ground: Seiffert Oval
Coach: Don Furner
Captain: Dean Lance
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
52nd season
Ground: Belmore Oval
Coach: Warren Ryan
Captain: Steve Mortimer
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
20th season
Ground: Ronson Field
Coach: Jack Gibson
Captain: David Hatch
Eastern Suburbs Roosters
79th season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Coach: Arthur Beetson
Captain: Hugh McGahan
Illawarra Steelers
5th season
Ground: Wollongong Showground
Coach: Brian Smith
Captain: Brian Hetherington
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

40th season
Ground: Brookvale Oval
Coach: Bob Fulton
Captain: Paul Vautin
North Sydney Bears
79th season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Brian Norton
Captain: Mark Graham
Parramatta Eels
40th season
Ground: Parramatta Stadium
Coach: John Monie
Captain: Ray Price
Penrith Panthers
20th season
Ground: Penrith Stadium
Coach: Tim Sheens
Captain: Royce Simmons
South Sydney Rabbitohs
79th season
Ground: Redfern Oval
Coach: George Piggins
Captain: Mario Fenech
St. George Dragons
66th season
Ground: Sydney Cricket Ground
Coach: Roy Masters
Captain: Craig Young
Western Suburbs Magpies
79th season
Ground: Lidcombe Oval
Coach: Steve Ghosn
Captain: Ian Schubert


1986 saw the NSWRL's agency, John Singleton Advertising produce an ad themed around the Gladiators photo and the then premiership trophy. The finished 60 second ad. is presented in an A/V style with moving footage and stills from the 1963 Grand Final showing the Provan and Summons embrace and stills shots of other 1970s champions including Bob Fulton, Arthur Beetson and John Sattler interspersed with 1985 season images.

The theme is of past heroes "who played it tough but played it fair" and the ad. closes with the question as to who this year will claim the "Greatest Prize of All" - being the Winfield Cup Trophy, featuring the "Gladiators" statue.


Team Pld W D L B PF PA PD Pts
1   Parramatta Eels (P) 24 16 1 7 2 446 280 +166 37
2   South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 15 2 7 2 353 318 +35 36
3   Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 24 15 1 8 2 428 264 +164 35
4   Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 24 14 1 9 2 476 379 +97 33
5   Balmain 24 13 0 11 2 403 387 +16 30
6   North Sydney Bears 24 13 0 11 2 362 416 -54 30
7   St. George Dragons 24 12 1 11 2 360 402 -42 29
8   Penrith Panthers 24 11 1 12 2 446 394 +52 27
9   Eastern Suburbs Roosters 24 10 0 14 2 334 364 -30 24
10   Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24 9 1 14 2 310 464 -154 23
11   Canberra Raiders 24 8 1 15 2 391 413 -22 21
12   Western Suburbs Magpies 24 8 1 15 2 372 538 -166 21
13   Illawarra Steelers 24 7 0 17 2 310 372 -62 18


Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
  Balmain Tigers 14-7   North Sydney Bears 2 September 1986 Sydney Cricket Ground Mick Stone 10,788
Qualifying Finals
  Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 22-29   Balmain Tigers 6 September 1986 Sydney Cricket Ground Kevin Roberts 17,597
  South Sydney Rabbitohs 2-16   Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 7 September 1986 Sydney Cricket Ground Mick Stone 24,573
Semi Finals
  South Sydney Rabbitohs 11-36   Balmain Tigers 13 September 1986 Sydney Cricket Ground Kevin Roberts 27,035
  Parramatta Eels 28-6   Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 14 September 1986 Sydney Cricket Ground Mick Stone 32,499
Preliminary Final
  Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 28-16   Balmain Tigers 21 September 1986 Sydney Cricket Ground Mick Stone 32,341
Grand Final
  Parramatta Eels 4-2   Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 28 September 1986 Sydney Cricket Ground Mick Stone 45,843

Grand FinalEdit

Parramatta Eels Position Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Paul Taylor FB Phil Sigsworth
Mick Delroy WG Andrew Farrar
Mick Cronin CE Michael Hagan
Steve Ella CE Chris Mortimer
Eric Grothe Sr. WG Steve O'Brien
Brett Kenny FE Terry Lamb
Peter Sterling HB Steve Mortimer (c)
Geoff Bugden PR Peter Tunks
Michael Moseley HK Mark Bugden
Terry Leabeater PR Peter Kelly
Mark Laurie SR Paul Dunn
John Muggleton SR Steve Folkes
Ray Price (c) LK Paul Langmack
Peter Wynn Bench Geoff Robinson
Tony Chalmers Bench David Boyd
John Monie Coach Warren Ryan

Eels coach John Monie had stepped into the large shoes left by Jack Gibson in 1984 and was under pressure to ensure Parramatta did not fall short for a third year. Eels legends Ray Price and Mick Cronin were in their farewell seasons and the Eels fans at least wanted to see them go out on a winning note. Everything had augured well right through the season with a Parramatta victory in the pre-season competition, the midweek National Panasonic cup and the minor premiership.

The Bulldogs on the other hand were building a dynasty under the Warren Ryan-coached style of uncompromising defence that had changed the game. In prop Peter Kelly, hooker Mark Bugden and three-quarter Andrew Farrar, Ryan possessed a number of defensive hitmen capable of carrying out his game plan.

Parramatta's Mick Cronin required a police escort to the match after being stuck in a traffic jam.[5]

The Grand Final was fifteen minutes old when Eels winger Mick Delroy was knocked out by a high shot from Farrar while Price suffered a constant barrage from Kelly throughout the first half. Referee Mick Stone at least initially appeared reluctant to send anyone off and Farrar and Kelly benefitted.

Stone also disallowed two near tries in the first half to Eels five-eighth Brett Kenny who was ultimately frustrated in his attempt to replicate the two tries per Grand Final statistic that he'd maintained in each of the 1981, 1982 and 1983 deciders.

It wasn't until Kelly was sin-binned for 10 minutes for a high tackle on Price that the Eels started to find gaps in the Bulldogs line. Two minutes before half time and still with 12 men Canterbury looked in trouble when Eric Grothe Sr. set off down the sideline with a clear path. A desperate Steve Mortimer cover-defending run brought Grothe down metres from the tryline. A minute later Cronin opened the scoring for the Eels with a successful penalty goal.

Twelve minutes into the second half, Canterbury five-eighth Terry Lamb levelled the score with a penalty goal after Peter Sterling was penalised for a late tackle on Steve Mortimer.

With eighteen minutes remaining, Canterbury replacement forward David Boyd was penalised for a high tackle on Price who had by now suffered an hour of ferocious Bulldog attention. Price appeared concussed and the Parramatta trainers unsuccessfully tried to convince him to leave the field. Cronin kicked the resultant penalty and the Eels again took a 2-point lead.

After Canterbury fullback Phil Sigsworth was sent off for a high shot on Kenny, the 12 remaining Bulldogs lifted a level and continued with attacking surges. Farrar was stopped by the Eels defence centimetres from the line, Lamb missed an opportunity to level with another penalty attempt and then right on the bell Parramatta forward Michael Moseley, in a career highlight moment, cut down Bugden as the Bulldogs hooker appeared certain to score.

Parramatta had taken on Canterbury at their own game - defence-focused trench warfare and managed to keep the game tryless and win the battle of attrition. In the process they halted Canterbury's hopes of three successive titles in the first try-less and the lowest ever scoring Grand Final.

Parramatta 4
Goals: Cronin 2

Canterbury-Bankstown 2
Goals: Lamb 1

Clive Churchill Medal: Peter Sterling (Parramatta)[6]


  1. ^ MacDonald, John (1986-10-09). "The season of change, upsets and challenges". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. p. 36. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  2. ^ "Sydney Football Stadium Magic Moments". Sydney Cricket & Sports Ground Trust. Archived from the original on 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  3. ^ Tait, Paul (1986-09-24). "Award to Piggins". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. p. 52. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
  4. ^ Clemes, Michael D. (2002). New Zealand Case Studies in Strategic Marketing. Thomson Learning Nelson. p. 185. ISBN 9780864694195.
  5. ^ "Fans turn Parra blue and gold". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia: Fairfax Digital. 2009-10-02. Archived from the original on 2009-10-29. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  6. ^ D'Souza, Miguel. "Grand Final History". AAP. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2013.

External linksEdit