Fifty Years Ago - Round 19, 1971 and Interstate Match III

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George's weekly column looking back at the 1971 season is in - this week it's a look back at the third and final interstate contest as well as Round 19 of the NSWRFL season.

Sunday Herald Headline: "Interstate match a flop".  

‘One can only wonder what would have happened had Bob McCarthy, John O'Neil, Elwyn Walters, Ron Coote and John McDonald been on the field for NSW'. So said Alan Clarkson from the Herald after NSW (17) defeated QLD (15) at the SCG.   

NSW scored 5 tries to QLD's 3 and although the Maroons played well, they did not have the standard of player needed to overcome the advantages that NSW had.  The NSWRL competition is able to scoop up players from anywhere, pay them a lot more money and once they are playing in Sydney claim them for their own.   Of-course, it doesn't matter whether these players are selected to play for NSW or not - because they play in the Sydney competition, they cannot represent QLD.  

It's a system that ensures a lopsided competition and a disinterested public.  Just 6,487 fans bothered to turn up to the only game of Rugby League played in Sydney, that Saturday afternoon.  On Sunday over 58,000 fans paid to watch 6 club matches at suburban grounds around Sydney.  (See below).  Ten more years of this farce would play out before "State of Origin" rebalanced access to the best players in each state.  

Penrith (12) defeated Souths (5) in an upset that has put South's position in the top 4, in peril.  Fans need to go back to 1964 to find a season where South Sydney lost 3 or more matches in a row.  Souths have now lost to Canterbury, Manly and Penrith allowing their neighbours St George to creep up to 27 points with three matches left before the finals.  Souths will play Norths (12th), Newtown (eq.9th) and Easts (eq.9th) and should be safe, but, their run of injuries has many of their best players watching from the stands.  

Over at Cumberland Oval more than 21,000 fans turned up for the semi-final preview match between the Eels and Saints.  St George (12) defeated Parramatta (11) in a match described as superb, by the Herald's Alan Clarkson.  Playing without star fullback Graeme Langlands and two hard working forwards, St George showed the grit and determination, that will be needed in the end of year matches. Parramatta, on the other hand, are clinging to 4th place and showed the nerves of a an inexperienced team.  In yesterday's match, with 5 minutes left and just one point behind, the Eels were awarded a penalty but (probably because) it was a difficult angle captain Ron Lynch chose NOT to kick for goal. Then, as proof that even experienced representative players can make poor choices, Eels 5/8th Graham Lye kicked the ball on the 3rd tackle allowing St George to regain possession and hold on to their lead till the final bell.  Importantly Parramatta were now just 2 points ahead of Penrith, in the race for 4th spot in the finals.  Ironically the 9th placed Roosters might decide the finalists, as they play BOTH Parramatta and Penrith in the last three matches.  

Runaway competition leaders Manly (22) defeated Cronulla (7) in payback for their earlier season loss to the Sharks.  After winning their first 7 matches and scoring 41 tries, Manly lost to the Sharks (0-7) at Endeavour field.  This time 16,115 fans went to Brookvale and cheered as their team got their revenge. The Sea Eagles scored 4 tries to 1 against a Shark team with no aspirations for end of year play.  Manly will likely win their last three matches (Penrith, Wests and Newtown) to finish, as they started with 7 wins in a row!! 

Only the die-hard fans turned up at the three other matches in Round 19. 

The biggest crowd of the three (5,567) saw Canterbury (15) defeat Eastern Suburbs (11) to keep their slim semi-finals hopes alive.  After just 15 minutes the Roosters surged to a 7- 0 lead and many at the Sports ground thought that their team was on the road to victory.  But, typical of their season, the home team made errors and conceded possession allowing the Berries to fight back and lead 12 - 7 by half time.  Two Roosters penalty goals moved the score to 12 - 11 keeping fans on the edge of their seats, until a late try to Canterbury half Les Hutchings sealed the win for the visitors.  

3,411 fans turned up at Lidcombe Oval to see Balmain (21) defeat Western Suburbs (17).  Neither team could make the finals but those fans who did attend were treated to a quality match that both teams had opportunities to win. The Magpies led 14 - 13 at half time but the Tigers took their chances in the second half and the final score was indicative of each teams' season - Balmain, good enough to defeat those behind them on the ladder and Wests always struggling for wins, regardless of their opposition. 

At Henson Park just 2,132 paying customers saw Newtown (14) defeat Norths (10). The win was just their 2nd in 8 matches and left coach Harry Bath baffled.  Newtown had won 5 and drew 1 match in the first half of the season, highlighted by a 23 - 12 win over Manly, at Brookvale.  They then lost 5 matches in a row, conceding 109 points and their season was gone.