On This Day: The Miracle Of '55's Dramatic Finish
On this day, 1955: After their incredible nine game end of season run and having come from behind in both their semi-finals it looked unlikely that South's fairytale would end happily on Grand Final day... But a single point sealed the fairytale finish.
They were without stars Clive Churchill and Greg Hawick. Newtown were the minor premiers and had eleven of their 1954 Grand Final side back for the 1955 decider, all fit, experienced and keen to avenge their 1954 loss.
The 1955 Grand Final was very closely fought out. Souths trailed 8-4 at half-time and the Bluebags looked home with an 11-7 lead with ten minutes remaining. In the final moments captain-coach Jack Rayner managed to win a strike in the play-the-ball and toed it through. Newtown lock Peter Ryan fumbled and again Rayner got the boot to it. Souths halfback Col Donohoe won the race and grounded the ball next to the posts, enabling an easy conversion by Bernie Purcell for the Rabbitohs to take a one-point lead.
A last gasp long-range penalty goal attempt from Bluebags fullback Gordon Clifford was unsuccessful and Souths won by a single point. Despite being the best performed side for two successive seasons Newtown had nothing in the trophy cabinet to show for it. Souths had timed an extraordinary premiership run to absolute perfection.
Jack Rayner's fifth grand final win that day stands along with Ken Kearney's five wins by 1960 as the most number of grand final successes by an individual as captain. As captain-coach for all of those wins Rayner was thus also the first man to coach a side to five grand final victories.
The miracle of '55 was complete.