The Roar
The Roar


Daddy of grand finals

Roar Guru
20th August, 2007
2265 Reads

Sheek writes: In Australia, we are approaching what is known as “finals month” – September.It is in September when traditionally the AFL & NRL competitions reach their climax, & a new champion is crowned for posterity.

Rugby used to be part of this extravaganza show, when the Sydney & Brisbane district comps held a higher profile. The ARU hopes that the ARC will eventually fill the void, but this remains to be seen.

There are no longer grand final replays. In the old VFL, the fore-runner of the AFL, there were only two drawn grand finals that were replayed, in 1948 & 1977.

By an extraordinary co-incidence, the then NSWRL (pre NRL) grand final of 1977 was also drawn, then replayed a week later. Then incredibly, the same thing happened the following year 1978.

The entire Sydney RL finals series of 1978 probably remains the most dramatic in its history. Working under the “final 5” system, the finalists after home & away matches, in order, were Wests, Cronulla, Manly, Parramatta & Canterbury.

Minor premiers Wests failed to make the grand final, while eventual premiers Manly had to play an exhaustive 6 games (two draws requiring replays) in 4 weeks. It was an epic passage.

After losing their opening finals match to Cronulla, they found themselves in the “last chance saloon”, each successive game a knock-out. In turn, they then drew & beat Parramatta, beat Wests, drew & beat Cronulla.

But I have the daddy of grand finals for you. And considering the display of talent on show, makes you appreciate why rugby fans aged 40 & over yearn for the “old days” when Sydney & Brisbane district club rugby ruled the roost.

Gentlemen, I give you the 1979 Brisbane 1st grade district club final. Make that finals, two, with double extra-times!


How’s the maths? First grand final – 80 minutes. Extra-time, another 20 minutes. Still locked up 24-24. Come back next week, guys.

Second grand final – 80 minutes. Scores locked 13-13. Extra-time, last seconds of last minute, so subtract say 10 secs from 20 minutes. Okay, close enough to 20 minutes. 80 + 20 + 80 + 20 = 200 minutes (minus about 10 secs).

Winning penalty seals premiership 16-13. Who were the combatant gladiators, you ask? Queensland University (premiers) & Brothers (runners-up). And how’s this, the previous year 1978, Brothers beat Qld Uni on the bell in the grand final!

But that’s just part of the story. In 1979, Brisbane, & not Sydney, was the centre of the Australian rugby universe. The talent on display was mind-blowing.

The following list is incomplete, but it gives you an idea of the quality of the two teams, & subsequent standard of play. Remember, we’re talking club rugby, not state or provincial rugby.

Queensland University, 1979:

8-Mark Loane, skipper & current Wallaby. Took over captaincy from
Tony Shaw. A Wallaby legend.
2-Bill Ross, current Wallaby.
3-Andy McIntyre, future Wallaby.
4-Duncan Hall, future Wallaby. Backrow brother Lindsay also played
this game.
10-Graham Noon, schoolboys captain 1973.
11-Paddy Batch, current Wallaby.
12-Geoff Shaw, former Wallaby & captain. Played one-off Bledisloe cup
test in 1979.
13-Peter Cooke, kicked winning penalty. Don’t know if he was related
to Bruce Cooke, who played his only test that year.
15-Steve Rowley, both QLD & NSW state rep.

Brothers, 1979:


6-Tony Shaw, skipper & current Wallaby. Lost captaincy following double test loss to Ireland, which Australia expected to win. Wallaby legend.
10-Paul McLean, current Wallaby (at fullback). One of the famous
Mclean dynasty, & a Wallaby legend.
1-Tony D’Arcy, future wallaby.
2-Mark McBain, future Wallaby.
3-Chris Handy, current Wallaby.
4-Shane Nightingale, Wallaby tourist 1982. Backrow brother Mark also
played this game.
11-Brendan Moon, current Wallaby & Wallaby legend.
15-Mark Potts, schoolboys captain 1975.

By my reckoning, that’s 13 Wallabies current, future & past. It’s posible I’ve missed one or two notable others. My source is several old Australian Rugby News magazines from 1979. Perhaps there are Roar readers who were there?

Footnote: Down in Sydney, Randwick thrashed favourites Parramatta 34-3. Yes, apparently Parramatta were grand final favourites!

A trio of young brothers called Ella ran amok, & the flyhalf Mark Ella, outplayed his opposite, fellow schoolboy from 1977 & current Wallaby flyhalf Tony Melrose.

Ahhh, those were the days……….!