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The greatest grand finalists of the 1960s

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Roar Guru
23rd October, 2021
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This is the second article in a series where I’ll name the best players to play in a grand final in each decade.

Today I’m focusing on the 1960s. You can read my article on the 1950s here.

The criteria I have used are:

  • the player must have actually played in at least one grand final in the decade in question;
  • a player is considered for selection in only one decade even if he played in grand finals in more than one decade; and
  • the player’s form in the decade is taken into account.

Twelve teams played in the competition in the 1960s, with both Penrith and Cronulla-Sutherland joining the competition in 1967. Of those 12 teams, only seven played in a grand final at some point, with St George being the decade’s most dominant team, completing their 11-year run.

In the 1960s:

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  • St George won seven premierships;
  • Souths won two premierships and were runners-up twice;
  • Balmain won one premiership and were runners-up twice;
  • Western Suburbs were runners-up three times; and
  • Eastern Suburbs, Manly and Canterbury were each runners-up once.

Parramatta, Penrith, North Sydney, Cronulla and Newtown all failed to reach a grand final.

There were some wonderful players running around in the 1960s, and here’s my pick of the best of the best who made it to the biggest game of the year. All references to grand finals played relate only to this decade.

Fullback: Les Johns (Canterbury Bankstown)
Johns was a mercurial player and a New South Wales and Australian representative who played in one losing grand final. Other contenders for the No. 1 jersey were Keith Barnes from Balmain and Don Parish from Western Suburbs.

Wings: Johnny King (St George) and Peter Dimond (Western Suburbs)
Johnny King played in seven winning grand finals and scored a try in each except his last, in 1966. Peter Dimond was a brutal winger who played in three losing grand finals. Souths speedster Michael Cleary was unlucky to miss out.

Centres: Reg Gasnier (St George) and Graeme Langlands (St George)
Both rugby league Immortals, Gasnier played in six winning grand finals while Langlands played in four.

Reg Gasnier (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Five-eighth: Bob Fulton (Manly-Warringah)
A rugby league Immortal, Fulton captained Manly in their grand final loss to South Sydney in 1968.

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Halfback: Arthur Summons (Western Suburbs)
A Western Suburbs legend, Summons played in three losing grand finals. He edges out Bobby Bugden and George Evans from St George and Balmain’s Dave Bolton.

Lock forward: Johnny Raper (St George)
A rugby league Immortal, Johnny Raper played in six winning grand finals.

Second row: Ron Coote (South Sydney) and Bob McCarthy (South Sydney)
Ron Coote played in four grand finals, winning two of them, while McCarthy terrorised the opposition defence in three grand finals, winning one. Elton Rasmussen from St George was also in contention.

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Front row: Kevin Ryan (St George and Canterbury-Bankstown) and Arthur Beetson (Balmain)
Kevin Ryan was one of the toughest individuals to ever lace on a boot, and he played in seven winning grand finals for St George and one losing grand final for Canterbury-Bankstown.

Hooker: Ian Walsh (St George)
Ian Walsh played in four winning grand finals, including one as captain-coach.

Reserves
Elwyn Walters (South Sydney) was a hooker who played in three grand finals, winning two. Noel Kelly (Western Suburbs) was a renowned hard man and Australian representative who played in three losing grand finals. Kel O’Shea (Western Suburbs) champion forward who played in two losing grand finals. Bob Boland (Balmain) was a versatile forward who played in two losing grand finals.

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