The 1954 NSWRFL season was the forty-seventh season of the New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership competition, based in Sydney. Ten rugby league football teams from across the city competed for the J. J. Giltinan Shield during the season, which culminated in the first pre-mandated Grand Final, which was played between South Sydney and Newtown.

1954 New South Wales Rugby Football League
PremiersSouth Sydney colours.svg South Sydney (15th title)
Minor premiersNewtown colours.svg Newtown (5th title)
Matches played94
Points scored3613
Top points scorer(s)Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Ron Rowles (221)
Top try-scorer(s)Newtown colours.svg Ray Preston (34)

Season summaryEdit

During the pre-season, Queensland and Australian international representative forward, Harold "Mick" Crocker signed a then record one-year deal for an Australian to move south and play for Sydney club Parramatta.[1] 1954 marked the first season when a Grand Final was scheduled to determine the premiership winner. Prior to that the season victors were either the minor premiers or decided by a final that followed two semi-finals. A Grand Final was only played if the minor-premier was defeated in a semi-final or final and exercised their right to challenge via a Grand Final. Since 1954 a Grand Final has been played every year to determine the premiership winner.

This season, in a New South Wales versus England match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, referee Aub Oxford watched in disbelief the players fighting around him like street-brawlers before turning his back and walking from the field. Oxford never refereed again and the match remains the only top-level game ever abandoned in rugby league history.


47th season
Ground: Leichhardt Oval
Coach: Norm Robinson
Captain: Jack Fifield
20th season
Ground: Belmore Sports Ground
Coach: Jack Hampstead
Captain: Leo Trevena
Eastern Suburbs
47th season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Captain-Coach: Ferris Ashton
8th season
Ground: Brookvale Oval
Coach: Ray Norman
Captain: Roy Bull
47th season
Ground: Henson Park
Coach : Col Geelan
Captain: Col Geelan, Jim Evans
North Sydney
47th season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Rex Harrison
Captain: Bob Sullivan
8th Season
Ground: Cumberland Oval
Captain-Coach: Charlie Gill
South Sydney
47th season
Ground: Redfern Oval
Captain-coach: Jack Rayner
St. George
34th season
Ground: Jubilee Oval
Captain-Coach: Ken Kearney
Western Suburbs
47th season
Ground: Pratten Park
Captain-Coach: Keith Holman


Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1   Newtown 18 15 2 1 439 215 +224 32
2   South Sydney 18 14 1 3 473 255 +218 29
3   St. George 18 11 1 6 345 292 +53 23
4   North Sydney 18 10 2 6 415 320 +95 22
5   Manly 18 10 1 7 391 343 +48 21
6   Balmain 18 9 1 8 346 345 +1 19
7   Western Suburbs 18 6 1 11 287 374 -87 13
8   Canterbury 18 4 0 14 233 465 -232 8
9   Eastern Suburbs 18 3 1 14 257 493 -236 7
10   Parramatta 18 3 0 15 282 366 -84 6

Records set in 1954Edit

In 1954 South Sydney’s Les Brennan set the standing record for the highest number of tries in a debut season with 29. Newtown winger Ray Preston’s 34 tries remains second only to Dave Brown’s 38 in 1935 in the tally of tries scored in a season.[2] Preston and Kevin Considine combined for fifty-six tries during the season – easily a record for a pair of club wingers.[3]

In the last round on 21 August, Western Suburbs set a record for the highest losing score when they lost to Balmain 32–37. This was to be one of only two cases before the introduction of the 10-metre ruck rule in 1993 that a team scored over thirty points and lost the match.[4]


Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
Semi Finals
  St. George 15-14   North Sydney 28 August 1954 Sydney Cricket Ground Jack O'Brien 32,397
  Newtown 14-24   South Sydney 4 September 1954 Sydney Cricket Ground Darcy Lawler 38,520
Preliminary Final
  Newtown 27-13   St. George 11 September 1954 Sydney Cricket Ground Darcy Lawler 32,303
Grand Final
  South Sydney 23-15   Newtown 18 September 1954 Sydney Cricket Ground Jack O'Brien 45,759

Grand FinalEdit

South Sydney Position Newtown
Clive Churchill FB Gordon Clifford
Ian Moir WG Kevin Considine
Martin Gallagher CE Dick Poole
Greg Hawick CE Brian Clay
Les Brennan WG Ray Preston
John Dougherty FE Ray Kelly
Ray Mason HB Bobby Whitton
Denis Donoghue PR Jim Evans (c)
Ernie Hammerton HK Frank Johnson
Jim Richards PR Don Stait
Bernie Purcell SR Frank Narvo
Jack Rayner (Ca./Co.) SR Henry Holloway
Les Cowie LK Peter Ryan
Coach Col Geelan

In spite of Newtown finishing as minor premiers they hadn’t beaten South Sydney in either regular season encounter. Souths had also won their semi-final meeting 24-14. In this, the NSWRFL’s first Grand Final scheduled to determine the premiership winner, Souths were the victors. Legendary fullback Clive Churchill was outstanding setting up three of his side's five tries. The Bluebags stayed in the contest through the kicking boot of their Test fullback Gordon “Punchy” Clifford.

South Sydney 23 ( Tries: Cowie 2, Moir, Hawick, Dougherty. Goals: Purcell 4.)

Newtown 15 ( Tries: Narvo. Goals: Clifford 6.)


Following the grand final, nine players from the NSWRFL were selected in a squad of eighteen to represent Australia in the 1954 Rugby League World Cup in France.


  1. ^ ‘Crocker will play here’ 20 January 1954 The Sydney Morning Herald
  2. ^ Rugby League Tables – Most Individual Tries in a Season; AFL Tables
  3. ^ Whitticker, Alan and Hudson, Glen; The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players (1999), p. 432 ISBN 1875169768
  4. ^ Rugby League Tables – Highest Losing Scores; AFL Tables

External linksEdit