1991 NSWRL season

The 1991 NSWRL season was the eighty-fourth season of professional rugby league football in Australia. This year the New South Wales Rugby League experimented with a draft system for the first time. Sixteen clubs competed for the J J Giltinan Shield and Winfield Cup premiership during the season, which culminated in a replay of the previous year's grand final between the Canberra Raiders and the Penrith Panthers.[1]

1991 New South Wales Rugby League
PremiersPenrith Panthers square flag icon with 2017 colours.svg Penrith (1st title)
Minor premiersPenrith Panthers square flag icon with 2017 colours.svg Penrith (1st title)
Matches played183
Points scored6376
Top points scorer(s)North Sydney colours.svg Daryl Halligan (196)
Player of the yearCanterbury colours.svg Ewan McGrady (Rothmans Medal)
Top try-scorer(s)Illawarra colours.svg Alan McIndoe (19)

Season summaryEdit

The 1991 New South Wales Rugby League season started with controversy. For the first time a draft system which had been developed was put into operation. The draft allowed teams to recruit players on a roster system based on where the club finished the previous year. It ran in reverse order with the wooden spooners getting first choice and the premiers last. The draft lasted just the one season before being defeated in the courts by players and coaches opposed to its limitations.[2] The controversy started after Terry Hill, who had agreed to join the Warren Ryan coached Western Suburbs, was drafted to play for Easts. Hill appealed his drafting, though his appeal was initially overturned and he eventually agreed to a three-year contract with the Roosters. However, by the end of 1991 the High Court had overturned the draft system and in 1992 Hill was given a release and he was able to move on to Wests.

In 22 rounds of regular season football which lasted from March till August, eventual premiers Penrith won 17 games, drew one and lost only four. The Panthers finished on 35 premiership points and took their first minor premiership ahead of Manly and Norths (both 29 points), Canberra on 28 with Wests sneaking in on 27 points after beating Canterbury 19–14 in a play off.

On 24 July it was revealed that the Canberra Raiders had substantially breached their $1.5 million salary cap for 1991.[3]

The record for attendance at a match at Campbelltown Stadium was set this season with a crowd figure of 21,527 for a game between Western Suburbs and St. George. Also this season the NSWRL took a match between St. George and Balmain to the Adelaide Oval and it was met with success as 28,884 spectators (the highest non-finals attendance of the season) turned out for the game on a cold and wet Friday night in June. The game was taken to Adelaide not only for the NSWRL to expand into traditional Australian Rules Football strongholds, but also as the Dragons long time major sponsor Penfolds is an Adelaide-based company.

The 1991 season's Rothmans Medal was awarded to Canterbury-Bankstown's Ewan McGrady, who was also named as Rugby League Week's player of the year. The Dally M Award was won by St. George's Michael Potter, the first fullback to do so.


The number of teams competing remained unchanged for the third consecutive year, with sixteen clubs contesting the premiership, including five inner Sydney-based foundation teams, another six from greater Sydney, two from greater New South Wales, two from Queensland, and one from the Australian Capital Territory.[4]

Balmain Tigers
84th season
Ground: Leichhardt Oval
Coach: Alan Jones
Captain: Ben Elias
Brisbane Broncos
4th season
Ground: Lang Park
Coach: Wayne Bennett
Captain: Gene Miles
Canberra Raiders
10th season
Ground: Bruce Stadium
Coach: Tim Sheens
Captain: Mal Meninga
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
57th season
Ground: Belmore Oval
Coach: Chris Anderson
Captain: Terry Lamb
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
25th season
Ground: Endeavour Park
Coach: Allan Fitzgibbon
Captain: Gavin Miller
Eastern Suburbs Roosters
84th season
Ground: Sydney Football Stadium
Coach: Mark Murray
Captain: Hugh McGahan
Gold Coast Seagulls
4th season
Ground: Seagulls Stadium
Coach: Malcolm Clift
Captain: Wally Lewis
Illawarra Steelers
10th season
Ground: Wollongong Stadium
Coach: Graham Murray
Captain: Chris Walsh & Dean Schifilliti

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
45th season
Ground: Brookvale Oval
Coach: Graham Lowe
Captain: Michael O'Connor
Newcastle Knights
4th season
Ground: Marathon Stadium
Coach: Allan McMahonDavid Waite
Captain: Sam Stewart
North Sydney Bears
84th season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Steve Martin
Captain: Tony Rea
Parramatta Eels
45th season
Ground: Parramatta Stadium
Coach: Mick Cronin
Captain: Brett Kenny
Penrith Panthers
25th season
Ground: Penrith Stadium
Coach: Phil Gould
Captain: Greg Alexander
South Sydney Rabbitohs
84th season
Ground: Sydney Football Stadium
Coach: Frank Curry
Captain: Michael Andrews
St. George Dragons
71st season
Ground: Kogarah Oval
Coach: Brian Smith
Captain: Michael Beattie
Western Suburbs Magpies
84th season
Ground: Campbelltown Sports Ground
Coach: Warren Ryan
Captain: Paul Langmack


1991 again saw the NSWRL use Tina Turner's 1989 version of "The Best" in their advertising. The league's ad agency Hertz Walpole had sufficient extra footage from her 1990 visit to Sydney to add fresh images of Tina to other recent shots of the 1990 finals series and 1991 pre-season training images.

The finished 1991 ad in its full length version shows Tina performing the song in the glamorous surroundings of Boomerang, a palatial harbour-side Sydney mansion. She climbs the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a spectacular final helicopter pull-back shot shows her belting out the anthem from the apex of the bridge. In those days before public access via the commercial BridgeClimb operation this image was as fantastic notionally as it was visually.


Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1   Penrith Panthers (P) 22 17 1 4 483 250 +233 35
2   Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 22 14 1 7 391 299 +92 29
3   North Sydney Bears 22 14 1 7 345 303 +42 29
4   Canberra Raiders 22 14 0 8 452 327 +125 28
5   Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 22 13 1 8 424 374 +50 27
6   Western Suburbs Magpies 22 13 1 8 359 311 +48 27
7   Brisbane Broncos 22 13 0 9 470 326 +144 26
8   Illawarra Steelers 22 12 1 9 451 291 +160 25
9   St. George Dragons 22 11 3 8 388 320 +68 25
10   Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 22 8 3 11 384 441 -57 19
11   Eastern Suburbs Roosters 22 9 1 12 337 487 -150 19
12   Balmain Tigers 22 8 1 13 351 412 -61 17
13   Newcastle Knights 22 6 3 13 308 424 -116 15
14   South Sydney Rabbitohs 22 7 0 15 370 513 -143 14
15   Parramatta Eels 22 6 0 16 351 534 -183 12
16   Gold Coast Seagulls 22 2 1 19 240 492 -252 5


Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
  Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 14–19   Western Suburbs Magpies 27 August 1991 Parramatta Stadium Bill Harrigan 17,022
Preliminary Semi Finals
  Canberra Raiders 22–8   Western Suburbs Magpies 31 August 1991 Sydney Football Stadium Eddie Ward 24,792
  Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 16–28   North Sydney Bears 1 September 1991 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 32,878
Semi Finals
  Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 26–34   Canberra Raiders 7 September 1991 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 34,707
  Penrith Panthers 16–14   North Sydney Bears 8 September 1991 Sydney Football Stadium Eddie Ward 38,635
Preliminary Final
  North Sydney Bears 14–30   Canberra Raiders 15 September 1991 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 39,665
Grand Final
  Penrith Panthers 19-12   Canberra Raiders 22 September 1991 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 41,815


  Qualifying/Elimination Final Major/Minor Semi Final Preliminary Final Grand Final
1   Penrith 16  
      North Sydney 14           Penrith 19
2   Manly 16       North Sydney 14     Canberra 12
3   North Sydney 28         Canberra 30  
  Manly 26
4   Canberra 22     Canberra 34  
5   Western Suburbs 8

Grand FinalEdit

On the sunny afternoon of Sunday, 22 September the Sydney Football Stadium was packed to capacity with a crowd of 41,815 for the rematch of the previous season's grand final, and Canberra's third in a row.[5][6][7] The day also featured a tribute to the original 'Gladiators', Norm Provan and Arthur Summons on the Winfield Cup trophy's 10th anniversary (in the 50th Grand Final played) as well as a rendition of the national anthem by Anthony Warlow. The game was broadcast live on television throughout Australia by Channel Ten with match commentary by Graeme Hughes, Bill Anderson and Wayne Pearce.

Penrith Panthers Position Canberra Raiders
1 Greg Barwick FB 1 Gary Belcher
2 Graham Mackay WG 2 Paul Martin
3 Brad Fittler CE 3 Mal Meninga (c)
4 Col Bentley CE 4 Mark Bell
5 Paul Smith WG 5 Matthew Wood
6 Steve Carter 5/8th 6 Laurie Daley
7 Greg Alexander (c) HB 7 Ricky Stuart
8 Paul Clarke PR 8 Brent Todd
9 Royce Simmons HK 9 Steve Walters
10 Paul Dunn PR 10 Glenn Lazarus
11 Mark Geyer SR 11 David Barnhill
12 Barry Walker SR 12 Gary Coyne
13 Col van der Voort LF 13 Bradley Clyde
15 Brad Izzard Int. 16 Scott Gale
16 John Cartwright Int. 40 Darren Fritz
Int. 19 Michael Twigg
Phil Gould Coach Tim Sheens

1st half

Referee Bill Harrigan blew time on and the Panthers kicked off. Around seven minutes later when Penrith had made their way into good field position, their hooker Royce Simmons received the ball about ten metres from the try-line and ran it, stepping and spinning his way past several defenders to score a great individual try,[8] his first of the season.[9] Panthers captain Greg Alexander kicked the conversion for his side to lead 6–0. Shortly after that Canberra's half-back Ricky Stuart got the ball a few metres into Penrith's half and kicked over to the open left corner of the field where his winger, Matthew Wood was racing through to grab the bouncing ball and dive over in the corner to score. Meninga's conversion attempt missed so the Panthers held their lead at 6–4. The scores were levelled a few minutes later though when Alexander appeared to be trying to put his knees into Meninga as he tackled him, drawing a penalty, which the Raiders captain successfully kicked to make it 6-6. Meninga later opted to take the kick when awarded another penalty inside Penrith's half, but missed. Soon after that Canberra had the ball on the right wing around half way and swung it through the hands out to the left where their lock forward Bradley Clyde made a break and passed it on to Wood to again cross in the corner for his second try.[10] Meninga's kick was wide again so the Raiders were leading 6-10.

The contest continued to be played from end to end of the field. In the final minutes of the first half, during one of Canberra's attacking raids they got another penalty and Matthew Wood took the kick, getting another two points for his side to lead 6-12 going into the break. The Raiders lead could have easily been 18-6 had Penrith winger Graham Mackay not pulled off a great try-saving tackle only metres from the line on his opposite number Paul Martin close to half-time. The half-time score replicated the position of the two teams at the same point in the previous year's decider.[11]

2nd half

Early in the second half Canberra were penalised for stripping in their own half of the field and Alexander took the kick at goal but missed. Then as the Raiders were trying to work the ball away from their goal-line, they knocked on, with Panthers' winger Paul Smith getting the ball and diving over in the corner. However referee Bill Harrigan called the play back after touch judge Martin Weekes reported that Canberra's Mark Bell had been taken out with a swinging arm. Penrith forward Mark Geyer's reaction to the ruling prompted Harrigan to send him to the sin bin for ten minutes.[12] Later the Panthers appeared certain to score from close range through Brad Izzard but the Raiders' lone defender Laurie Daley stripped the ball in a one-on-one tackle.[13]

Penrith's unsuccessful scoring opportunities continued until finally, after working the ball up to the opposition's half, they kept it alive on the third tackle till Brad Izzard broke free from over twenty metres out and ran to the try-line to touch down behind the uprights. The scores were brought level at 12 all when Alexander kicked the extra two points. With just under seven minutes of the match remaining, and again having worked the ball into Canberra's half of the field, the Panthers on the fifth tackle passed it to Greg Alexander just past the forty-metre line to kick a field goal, getting his side a one-point lead at 13–12.[14] Penrith continued to enjoy the majority of possession and field position,[15] and when the Raiders attempted a short line drop-out Geyer got the bouncing ball in open space, passing it to 33-year-old Royce Simmons who scored in the corner, getting Penrith their first premiership in the last match of his career.[16] Alexander kicked the conversion from the sideline so the final score was 19–12.[17]

Penrith Panthers 19
Tries: Simmons 2, Izzard
Goals: Alexander 3/3
Field Goal: Alexander

Canberra Raiders 12
Tries: Wood 2
Goals: Meninga 1/2, Wood 1/1

Clive Churchill Medal winner: Bradley Clyde (Canberra)[18]

Post match

Although MMI's unofficial man-of-the-match award went to Royce Simmons, the Governor of New South Wales Peter Sinclair awarded the Clive Churchill Medal to the losing side's Bradley Clyde,[19] the second time that he won the prestigious award, having previously won the Clive Churchill medal in 1989.[20] The Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke then presented Penrith captain Greg Alexander with the Winfield Cup trophy as well as the J. J. Giltinan Shield. It was the Penrith Panthers' first premiership[21] and their young coach, Phil Gould has rated his team's second half in this game as an example of a perfect half of football.[22] After failing to follow their first half game plan and squandering an early lead, in the second half the Panthers played to a formula of taking the ball up for full sets of six tackles, with Alexander then expertly kicking for the corners and the whole side pinning Canberra down at their own end with committed defence.

World Club ChallengeEdit

Having won the premiership, the Panthers travelled to England to face the British Champions, Wigan Warriors in the 1991 World Club Challenge on 9 October at Anfield, Liverpool. Penrith were defeated 4 to 21 in front of 20,152 spectators.

Player statisticsEdit

The following statistics are as of the conclusion of Round 22.


The regular season attendances for the 1991 season aggregated to a total of 2,413,218 at an average of 13,188 per game.

The highest ten regular season match attendances:[23]

Crowd Venue Home Team Opponent Round
28,884 Adelaide Oval   St. George Dragons   Balmain Tigers Round 14
27,904 Marathon Stadium   Newcastle Knights   Balmain Tigers Round 3
26,165 Lang Park   Brisbane Broncos   Penrith Panthers Round 13
25,126 Lang Park   Brisbane Broncos   Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Round 1
24,460 Bruce Stadium   Canberra Raiders   St. George Dragons Round 22
23,849 Lang Park   Brisbane Broncos   Gold Coast Seagulls Round 6
23,801 Lang Park   Brisbane Broncos   Canberra Raiders Round 3
23,518 Marathon Stadium   Newcastle Knights   Eastern Suburbs Roosters Round 5
22,682 Marathon Stadium   Newcastle Knights   Brisbane Broncos Round 15
22,032 North Sydney Oval   North Sydney Bears   Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Round 19


  1. ^ "NRL Finals in the 1990s". sportal.com.au. Archived from the original on 6 December 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  2. ^ Healey, Deborah (2005). Sport and the law. UNSW Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-86840-643-5.
  3. ^ AAP (22 April 2010). "Melbourne Storm salary cap quotes". The Roar. Australia: The Roar Sports Opinion. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
  4. ^ John MacDonald, Roy Masters and Daniel Williams (15 September 1991). "How your team went in season '91". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Digital. p. 2. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
  5. ^ 1991 Grand Final at rugbyleagueproject.org
  6. ^ History at penrithpanthers.com.au Archived 22 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Raiders Timeline 1 at raiders.com.au Archived 22 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Stephens, Tony (22 September 1991). "Roycie, the good guy who finished first". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  9. ^ Roy Masters (22 September 1991). "Panthers power to historic win". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  10. ^ MacDonald, John (22 September 1991). "How Royce rolled the Raiders". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  11. ^ Sutton, Christopher (29 September 2009). "My grand final: Greg Alexander relives Penrith v Canberra, 1991". Fox Sports. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  12. ^ Danny, Weidler (22 September 1991). "Harrigan also had a match - with Geyer". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  13. ^ Williams, Daniel (22 September 1991). "Why losing and being beaten are not the same". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  14. ^ Heads, Ian (22 September 1991). "Stuart could only watch Brandy's premier moment". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  15. ^ Warren Ryan (22 September 1991). "A hunger that was fed". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  16. ^ Tom Keneally (22 September 1991). "Panthers ask 'why not?' and erase chequered past". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  17. ^ 1991 Grand Final Archived 4 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine at stats.rleague.com
  18. ^ D'Souza, Miguel. "Grand Final History". wwos.ninemsn.com.au. Australian Associated Press. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  19. ^ "Vice Regal". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 September 1991. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  20. ^ Burgess, Michael (25 November 2008). "Long history of League controversies". tvnz.co.nz. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  21. ^ Penrith City Sporting Heritage - Rugby League at penrithcity.nsw.gov.au Archived 28 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Chesterton Good As Gould p192
  23. ^ 1991 NSWRL season - Venues

External linksEdit