With an historic 2014 NRL Grand Final between the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs just days away, we take a look at the first and only time in history that the two sides have previously played each other in a decider – the 1967 Grand Final.
The 1967 season was an historic year for Rugby League with the addition of two new clubs – Penrith and Cronulla – but by far the most significant change was the introduction of limited-tackle football, with four tackles the order of the day.
The rule amendment came hot on the heels of the legendary St George Dragons notching up their 11th straight Premiership – many believing that the limited tackle system was brought in solely to slay the dominance of the Dragons on the back of what was described as a masterful showing of ‘bash and barge football’ from the red v’s over the preceding 11 years.
In a memorable finals match against Canterbury (known as the Berries at the time), a George Taylforth goal brought down the curtain on the Dragons’ incredible run to the tune of 12-11 at the SCG.
Then-Saints Captain Ian Walsh dismissed the notion that the limited tackle rule un-did the Dragons when he was interviewed for the documentary ‘That’s Rugby League’.
“It didn’t beat St George,” said Walsh.
“We were Minor Premiers. Actually there was a few of us getting old, including myself and a few others who were past their best, and even if we had have beaten Canterbury, I don’t think we would have beaten Souths.”
Nonetheless, limited tackle football had arrived, and in the Grand Final day program of the year, then-President of the NSWRL, Bill Buckley, praised the rule – later changed to six tackles – that has become the basis of the modern game.
“The four-tackle rule has proved a winner,” wrote Buckley.
“It has meant more thought going into the game and the boring spectacle of one team retaining possession for long periods without doing anything objective with the ball has disappeared.”
But if the Dragons were the masters of unlimited tackle Rugby League, then the Rabbitohs proved to be the game’s first limited tackle champions until '71, winning four out of five Premierships beginning in ’67.
The 1967 Grand Final itself though will forever be remembered for the spectacular intercept try from the Rabbitohs’ 22 year old back rower Bob McCarthy just before half time – the Souths Junior streaking nearly the length of the field to plant the ball over the line to give the Rabbitohs a 10-8 half-time lead.
“I went over the half-way line and I started looking for my wingers,” recalled McCarthy.
“Michael Cleary’s back in the corner playing hop-scotch and Brian James – I don’t know where he was, but I decided to go the full distance.
“I got over the 25 metre line and my hamstring went on me, but I struggled to the try line and I have to say it was a great moment for South Sydney.”
The match wasn’t without controversy. After half-time, Souths had the opportunity to post a penalty-goal from half-way through one of the Club’s greatest ever long-distance kickers, Kevin Longbottom.
Longbottom struck it beautifully with the kick going the required distance, but the ball hit the corner of the upright and the crossbar before dropping straight down. Touch judges Bob Tinsley and John Martin differed in opinion on the success of the kick, with Tinsley raising his flag while Martin waved the goal away.
Despite Canterbury players admitting Longbottom had been successful, referee Col Pearce held an impromptu meeting near the goal-posts before finally ruling against the goal. Journalist Peter Muszkat, writing for the following morning’s Sunday Mirror, described it as a “perfectly legitimate goal.” Pearce however was in no doubt about his decision when speaking to the Mirror.
“After hearing both their explanations (the lines-men) I still could not make up my mind, so I decided I could not possibly rule in favour of the goal. That’s a policy I’ve always had,” said Pearce.
But the kick would have little bearing on the outcome of the Premiership, when Eric Simms landed a penalty goal with just minutes left on the clock to give the Rabbitohs a 12-10 victory – the Club’s first Premiership under new Captain John Sattler and Coach Clive Churchill.
To watch the highlights from the 1967 Grand Final, please press play on the video player.