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The 1951 New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership was the forty-fourth season of Sydney’s top-level rugby league competition, Australia’s first. Ten teams from across the city competed for the newly created J. J. Giltinan Shield during the season which culminated in a grand final between South Sydney and Manly-Warringah.

1951 New South Wales Rugby Football League
PremiersSouth Sydney colours.svg South Sydney (13th title)
Minor premiersSouth Sydney colours.svg South Sydney (12th title)
Matches played94
Points scored3400
Top points scorer(s)Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Ron Rowles (220)
Top try-scorer(s)South Sydney colours.svg Johnny Graves (28)

Season summaryEdit

South Sydney ascended to the minor premiership with relative ease in 1951, losing only one match during the season to finish the regular season ahead by a record eleven-point margin.



Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1   South Sydney 18 16 1 1 428 237 +191 33
2   Manly-Warringah 18 11 0 7 424 262 +162 22
3   St. George 18 10 1 7 374 251 +123 21
4   Western Suburbs 18 10 0 8 360 333 +27 20
5   Eastern Suburbs 18 9 0 9 304 340 -36 18
6   Parramatta 18 9 0 9 309 410 -101 18
7   Canterbury-Bankstown 18 7 0 11 266 362 -96 14
8   Newtown 18 6 0 12 261 341 -80 12
9   Balmain 18 6 0 12 283 365 -82 12
10   North Sydney 18 5 0 13 220 328 -108 10


Odds-on favourites to retain the premiership, Souths reserved their worst performance of the year for the semi-final against St George being trounced 35-8. This loss meant that a grand final would be necessary to determine the season's premiers.[1] The next week, the Dragons were beaten by a gutsy Manly side in a preliminary final, 18–8. The infant Manly club thus qualified for its first grand final only five seasons after having entered the League in 1947.

Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
Semi Finals
  South Sydney 8-35   St. George 1 September 1951 Sydney Cricket Ground Aub Oxford 39,735
  Manly-Warringah 37-9   Western Suburbs 8 September 1951 Sydney Cricket Ground George Bishop 29,444
Preliminary Final
  Manly-Warringah 18-8   St. George 15 September 1951 Sydney Cricket Ground George Bishop 41,845
  South Sydney 42-14   Manly-Warringah 23 September 1951 Sydney Sports Ground Jack O'Brien 28,505

Grand FinalEdit

South Sydney Position Manly-Warringah
Clive Churchill FB Ron Beaumont
John Graves WG Jack Lumsden
Kevin Woolfe CE Warren Simmons
Milton Atkinson CE Gordon Willoughby
Harry Wells WG Ron Rowles
Norm Spillane FE Jim Sullivan
Ray Mason HB Ken Arthurson
Denis Donoghue PR Roy Bull
Ernie Hammerton HK Kevin Schubert (c)
Bryan Orrock PR Fred Brown
Bernie Purcell SR Jack Hubbard
Jack Rayner (Ca./Co.) SR Sandy Herbert
Les Cowie LK George Hunter
Coach Wally O'Connell

Manly were without former Test star and captain-coach Wally O'Connell who had a fractured bone in his wrist.[2] The Seagulls were instead captained by hooker Kevin Schubert. Gordon Willoughby played out the match with his leg heavily strapped rather than leave his side further depleted but Manly’s hopes of upsetting the defending premiers were shattered in a spectacular display of attacking rugby league by Souths.

Manly's Ron Rowles and Gordon Willoughby trying to stop Souths Winger Johnny Graves from scoring the first of his four tries.

The smallest crowd for a final since 1944 was on hand at the Sports Ground to witness a one-sided game which Souths won 42–14. A highlight of the record win was Test winger John Graves’ four tries in the match – the only time this has been achieved in grand final history.

Souths scored first through Bernie Purcell and led 15–4 at the break. They then piled on twenty-seven points in the second-half. Tries to Clive Churchill, Ray Mason, Jack Rayner and Chick Cowie added to Graves' record haul. The Rabbitohs pack, led by front rower [Denis Donoghue], dominated Manly’s forwards with Ernie Hammerton giving his team a feast of possession. Bernie Purcell landed seven goals from nine attempts and was also dynamic in attack, being chosen by The Sunday Herald judge, Frank McMillan as the man-of-the-match, for which he received a £10 reward.[3]

Other records set that day include the most points ever scored in a grand final (66 total); the most tries scored by one team in a grand final (8), a mark later matched by Eastern Suburbs in 1975 Grand Final and the most goals scored in grand final (9).

Manly 1951 Grand Finalists. Back Row - Sandy Herbert, Gordon Willoughby, Roy Bull, Jack Hubbard, Fred Brown, Warren Simmons. Front Row - Ron Beaumont, Ken Arthurson, Jim Sullivan, Kevin Schubert (c), George Hunter, Ron Rowles, Jack Lumsden. Ball Boy W. Sullivan

South Sydney Rabbitohs 42
Tries: Graves (4), Churchill, Mason, Rayner, Cowie
Goals: Purcell (7), Hammerton, Donoghue.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 14
Tries: Lumsden (2)
Goals: Rowles (4)


  1. ^ Goodman, Tom (1951-09-01). "Grand Final for Sunday". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. p. 9. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
  2. ^ "O'Connell to miss Grand Final, but Churchill can play". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1951-09-18. p. 10. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  3. ^ "South's record margin League finale". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1951-09-24. p. 6. Retrieved 2009-11-20.

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