The Roar
The Roar


The way Australian rugby was back in 1971

Roar Guru
1st April, 2010
5554 Reads

With all the concern being expressed at the moment for the Parramatta District club, and the struggle of some Australian franchises in super rugby, I thought I would rewind the clock back to 1971 and share with fellow Roarers how the rugby landscape looked back then.

Internationally, 1971 was not a good year for the Wallabies. Our national team was at a low ebb.

Individually we had some excellent players, but overall our technical deficiencies in the forwards would become more critical in the next few years.

There was the protest tour by the South African Springboks. There were public images of barbed wire, smoke bombs and mass protests, which would be even more violent in New Zealand in 1981.

The three tests were all lost 11-19, 6-14 and 6-18.

The Wallabies tried their hearts out, but were simply not good enough.

Later the Wallabies toured France, splitting the series one win apiece, winning the 1st test 13-11 but losing the 2nd test 9-18. Bob Templeton was coach in France after fellow Queenslander Des Connor stepped down after the Boks series.

On their Australian tour, the Boks played 13 matches: 1-WA, 2-SA, 3-Victoria, 4-Sydney, 5-New South Wales, 6-NSW Country, 7-1st Test, 8-ACT, 9-Queensland, 10-Junior Wallabies, 11-2nd Test, 12-Qld Country, 13-3rd Test.

At state level, Queensland pulled off a shock 15-11 win against the British and Irish Lions, but NSW went down to the Lions 12-14. Queensland’s best player, centre and captain Barry Honan, suffered a serious knee injury which saw him ineligible for Wallaby selection.


NSW won the interstate series easily 35-6 and 38-19.

Mid-season saw the introduction of the 4 point try, which was in widespread use in the northern hemisphere 1971/72 and in the southern hemisphere by 1972.

Here’s the big news: in 1971 the Sydney Shute Shield District Club competition was expanded to 14 teams with the introduction of Port Hacking and Warringah. It says something for the depth and spread of rugby in 1971 that Sydney could facilitate a 14 team grade comp.

Defending premiers, then like now, was Sydney University, but they just missed the final 4.

Randwick won the premiership, with champion halfback Ken Catchpole making a successful comeback from injury. Catchpole had suffered serious leg injuries in 1968 when All Blacks legend Colin Mead basically split his legs pulling one out of a ruck, and the other being trapped.

Randwick beat Manly 21-3 in the grand final, with Easts finishing 3rd and Gordon 4th. Easts and Gordon shared the Club Championship (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade).

The 14 Sydney Shute Shield clubs in order of first grade finish were – Randwick, Manly, Eastern Suburbs, Gordon, Sydney University, Drummoyne, Northern Suburbs, Parramatta, Western Suburbs, St.George, Port Hacking, Eastwood, NSW University, Warringah.

There was also a 10 team second division comp, first grade being won by Hawkesbury AC over minor premiers Mosman. Canterbury and Dundas Valley were the other semi-finalists.


Other matches in NSW included Sydney North Harbour against Sydney South Harbour, and Combined Sydney against NSW Country.

Up in Brisbane, Brothers won the Hospitals Cup grand final from minor premiers Easts, with GPS and Qld University filling in the other semi-final positions. The remaining clubs in the 7 team comp were: Teachers, Souths and Wests. Clearly Qld have come a long way on the club front!

In 1971 there was also what might be known as the first attempt at a national competition: the Wallaby Trophy. Queensland won the first division by beating Sydney, NSW Country and Victoria.

The second division was won by WA from SA and Tasmania.

Back in 1971, the ARU selected its 5 players of the year: Frik du Preez(Boks), Jan Ellis(Boks), Hannais Marais(Boks), Greg Davis(Wallabies) and Peter Sullivan(Wallabies). Marais and Davis were the respective Springboks and Wallabies captains.

The ARU also announced its best XV for 1971: 15-Arthur McGill(vc-NSW), 14-John Cole(NSW), 13-David L’Estrange(Qld), 12-Geoff Shaw (NSW), 11-Jeff McLean(Qld), 10-Russell Fairfax(NSW), 9-John Hipwell(NSW), 8-Bob McLean(NSW), 7-Greg Davis(c-NSW), 6-Peter Sullivan(NSW), 5-Owen Butler(ACT), 4-Stu Gregory(Qld), 3-Roy Prosser(NSW), 2-Peter Johnson(NSW), 1-David Dunworth(Qld).

Finally in 1971, although an Australian schoolboys team had been selected to tour South Africa in 1969, this was the first year NSW played Qld at this level. The NSW team was skippered by 1969 tourist and centre Malcolm Jack from Balgowlah High School. I’m pleased to say the team contained two players from my alma mater – Waverley College – in slippery halfback Kevin Kelly and goalkicking prop Mick Jarvis.

Sydney High School won the GPS competition, while Waverley won the CAS comp.