1938 NSWRFL season

  (Redirected from NSWRFL season 1938)

The 1938 New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership was the thirty-first season of Sydney’s top-grade rugby league club competition, Australia’s first. The withdrawal of the University club at the end of the previous season saw eight teams from across the city contest the premiership, which lasted from April until September and culminated in Canterbury-Bankstown's victory over Eastern Suburbs in the final.[1]

1938 New South Wales Rugby Football League
PremiersCanterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown (1st title)
Minor premiersCanterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown (1st title)
Matches played59
Points scored1756
Top points scorer(s)Canterbury colours.svg Tom Kirk (94)
Top try-scorer(s)South Sydney colours.svg Don Manson (13)


With the exit of University after the previous season, 1938 saw the NSWRFL involve eight clubs for the first time since 1934.[2]

31st season
Ground: Leichhardt Oval
Coach: Bill Kelly
Captain: Frank Hyde
4th season
Ground: Belmore Oval
Coach: Jimmy Craig
Captain: Alan Brady
Eastern Suburbs
31st season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Coach:Arthur Halloway
Captain: Ray Stehr
31st season
Ground: Henson Park
Coach: Charles 'Boxer' Russell
Captain: Allan Ellis, Tom Nevin
North Sydney
31st season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Bob Williams
Captain: Roy Thompson
South Sydney
31st season
Ground: Sydney Cricket Ground
Coach: Charlie Lynch
Captain: Fred Felsch
St. George
18th season
Ground: Earl Park
Captain-coach: Norm Pope
Western Suburbs
31st season
Ground: Pratten Park
Coach: Cec Fifield
Captain: Jimmy Sharman


Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1   Canterbury-Bankstown 14 12 2 1 276 135 +141 26
2   South Sydney 14 9 1 4 254 245 +109 19
3   Balmain 14 7 1 6 238 176 +62 15
4   Eastern Suburbs 14 6 3 5 228 203 +25 15
5   North Sydney 14 6 0 8 163 220 -57 12
6   Newtown 14 5 1 8 174 228 -54 11
7   Western Suburbs 14 4 1 9 155 265 -110 9
8   St. George 14 3 1 10 159 275 -116 7


In the two semi finals, the top ranked team Canterbury beat their lower-ranked opponent Balmain with the fourth ranked team Eastern Suburbs defeating their higher-ranked opponent South Sydney. The two winners then played in the Final.

20 August 1938 - Sydney Cricket Ground
  Canterbury 31
3 September 1938 - Sydney Cricket Ground
  Balmain 24
  Canterbury 19
27 August 1938 - Sydney Cricket Ground
  Eastern Suburbs 6
  Eastern Suburbs 19
  South Sydney 10

2nd Semi FinalEdit

The qualifier between South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 August 1938:

The match which was hard, but not spectacular, was watched by 14,161 people. The form of Eastern Suburbs was not worthy of a team which has fought its way to the finals, and a considerable improvement will have to be shown if Eastern Suburbs is to have a reasonable chance of beating Canterbury-Bankstown [3] .

— SMH 22 Sept 2014

The two Sydney teams would not meet in another finals match until season 2014.

Premiership FinalEdit

Eastern Suburbs Position Canterbury-Bankstown
Jim Norton FB Tom Kirk
Percy Dermond WG Edgar Newham
Dick Dunn CE Alan Brady (c)
Stan Callaghan CE Jim Champion
Aiden Cairns WG Joe Gartner
Laurie Pickup FE Jim Duncombe
Fred Robinson HB Roy McCarter
Jack Arnold PR Eddie Burns
Noel Hollingdale HK Roy Kirkaldy
Ray Stehr (c) PR Henry Porter
Harry Pierce SR Jack McCormack
Sid Pearce SR Roy McCallum
Andy Norval LK Frank Sponberg
Arthur Halloway Coach Jimmy Craig

In only the fourth year after admission to the Sydney first grade competition Canterbury fielded a side which dominated the regular season and set themselves up for their first title assault against Eastern Suburbs, themselves looking to win a fourth successive premiership. A crowd of 20,287 was on hand at the Sydney Cricket Ground with the game officiated by Tom McMahon (the younger of the two pre-war referees of that name).

The first half was a dour struggle for supremacy. Canterbury-Bankstown appeared to have the upper hand but Easts’ Cairns scored first and it took two penalty goals by Canterbury’s fullback Tommy Kirk to give the Berries a four points to three lead at half-time.

The Roosters scored another try early in the second half when Dick Dunn dived over after the Easts backline had created an overlap. Again the conversion was missed.

Canterbury-Bankstown came back at Easts with great determination and nearly scored on several occasions. Eventually Berries’ reserve grader Jim Duncombe, who was in the team because of the illness of Aub Mitchell, was the first man to cross for the blue and whites. A scrum had gone down near Easts’ line, Canterbury’s Roy McCarter worked a blind side move and Duncombe went through an opening to score. Kirk kicked the goal, and Canterbury-Bankstown led by nine points to six.

The scores were close until about twenty minutes before the end, and then Canterbury made a final and determined rally. Easts' try line was attacked continuously. Joe Gartner, the Canterbury-Bankstown winger, went over for two excellent tries, beating the defence with side-stepping runs. Both were converted, the second by McCarter, the first by Kirk a fine effort from the sideline. Gartner's two tries put the issue beyond doubt, giving Canterbury a lead of 19 to 6.

Canterbury’s excellent teamwork was the greatest factor in its success and the determined work of its forwards. They were opposed to an almost all-international Roosters pack with the experience of Ray Stehr and dangerous trygetters in Norval, Pearce, and Pierce. Canterbury's State hooker Roy Kirkaldy secured a good share of ball and with his front-row partners in Henry Porter and Eddie Burns continually stopped the Roosters attack, tackling themselves to a standstill. Nine seasons later in the 1947 Grand Final this Canterbury front three would still be dominating their opposition.

The other Canterbury forwards in Sponberg, McCallum and McCormack also played tirelessly and deservedly chaired their captain Alan Brady from the field to enthusiastic cheers from the Canterbury fans celebrating their first premiership and to sporting congratulations from the Eastern Suburbs men.

This was the first of four Grand Finals in which the Bulldogs and Roosters would contest against each other, with subsequent Grand Finals between the two teams coming in 1974, 1980 and most recently, 2004. The Bulldogs have emerged victorious on all these occasions except 1974.

Canterbury-Bankstown 19 (Tries: Gartner 2, Duncombe. Goals: Kirk 4, McCarter )


Eastern Suburbs 6 (Tries: Cairns, Dunn )


  1. ^ Premiership Roll of Honour Archived 2007-04-28 at the Wayback Machine at rl1908.com
  2. ^ "History of the Premiership". centenaryofrugbyleague.com.au. Australian Rugby League. Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  3. ^ Reprinted Sydney Morning Herald 22 Sept 2014

External linksEdit