Who could forget that brilliant turn of speed Bob McCarthy showed when he was in the clear! Have you ever seen a man of his size move so quickly?! That moment goes up against one of the best solo tries the Club has ever seen, courtesy of the great George Piggins! Only one can move onto the next round and go one step closer to being crowned the Rabbitohs Top Moment - but it's up to you to decide!
McCarthy Intercept Try Grand Final, 1967 vs Canterbury
Top Moments - Bob McCarthy's Intercept Try
The 1967 season was a 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 Rabbitohs emerged from the disappointments of 1966 to brilliantly win the 1967 premiership. St. George won the minor premiership in 1967, one point ahead of Souths, with Canterbury and Easts taking third and fourth places respectively. In the minor (elimination) semi-final Canterbury ended the Roosters’ campaign with a 13-2 win, and Souths defeated Saints 13-8 in the major semi-final to qualify for the grand final.
The preliminary final was a tough encounter and the Dragons hit the lead against the Berries in the 55th minute when Dennis Preston kicked a penalty goal to make it 12-11. But it wasn’t to be as George Taylforth kicked a penalty goal for Canterbury to end the Dragons’ campaign and their rein as premiers after winning eleven previous grand finals.
The 1967 grand final was the first major football match televised live across Australia (in black and white). A spectacular intercept try by Souths second-rower Bob McCarthy and a superb pressure goal by centre Eric Simms with four minutes to go clinched the 1967 Rugby League premiership title for South Sydney in a heart-stopping grand final against Canterbury. Souths scraped home 12-10 before a roaring crowd of 56,373 in one of the most memorable grand finals ever played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Souths, thanks to a fantastic try by McCarthy, clung to a precarious 10-8 lead at halftime, then had the advantage of the breeze at their backs for the second half. Rabbitohs legend Bob McCarthy is best known for revolutionising the second-row position and his intercept try will long live in the memories of the thousands who love the game. He swooped on a pass from Canterbury hooker Colin Brown, only 20 yards from Souths’ line.
Gathering the ball on his fingertips, McCarthy shot into the clear with the tryline at least 80 yards away. Johnny Greaves and several other Canterbury defenders gave chase, but the burly South Sydney forward was more than a match for them in speed. The defence made very little impression on McCarthy and it was obvious from 25 yards from the line that he was going to make it. An unbelievable try … and no doubt that no other forward in Sydney could have scored it at the time.
Souths’ victory in the breathtaking final minutes averted one of the biggest controversies of the year. When the score was level 10-all after 17 minutes of the second half, Souths’ fullback Kevin Longbottom appeared to land a perfectly legitimate goal from 55 yards. It was a magnificent kick, but naturally the ball was dropping fast when approaching the posts. It seemed to strike the left hand upright just above the crossbar and then bounce across the face of the posts.
One touch judge, Bob Tinsley, signalled a fair goal, but the other linesman, John Martin, waved it down. Referee Col Pearce, standing back near halfway, could not see whether the ball had crossed the bar. Before making a decision, he called over both touch judges and, after conferring for nearly half a minute, signalled no goal. The crowd screamed its disapproval.
Pearce explained later that he had to depend entirely on the touch judges to guide him in his decision. “After hearing both their explanations 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,” Pearce said.
Touch judge John Martin, who disallowed the goal, maintained that the ball had bounced across the posts but under the cross bar after striking the right upright. Canterbury players who stood near the posts sportingly conceded that Longbottom had kicked a fair goal. George Taylforth and Johnny Greaves both said they thought the ball had bounced over the crossbar. Bob Hagan was more definite. “It was a goal, beyond any doubt,” he said.
Only minutes after this setback, referee Pearce was on the spot again when a great field goal shot by Simms headed straight toward the posts. This time, Pearce was right on the spot and ruled that the ball had passed directly over one of the uprights.
It was a hairline decision, and obviously Simms’ team mates thought it was a fair goal as they threw their arms up elatedly. But the two disputed kicks eventually had no bearing on the result and referee Pearce must be congratulated on his handling of such a rousing game.
Canterbury players and officials made no excuses for their defeat and warmly congratulated the winners. Captain-coach Kevin Ryan, trying hard to conceal his disappointment, said: “I was proud of every one of our players. They gave it everything and it was no disgrace to lose to such a great team.”
Ross Kidd, Canterbury’s tenacious little halfback, burst into tears as he trooped disconsolately from the field. He blamed himself for his team’s defeat, as the winning goal by Eric Simms came from a penalty awarded against Kidd for ‘feeding’ the second row. Realising that Kidd was going through mental torture as he walked from the field, granite-tough Canterbury captain-coach Kevin Ryan walked over and threw a consoling arm around his shoulder.
McCarthy held the record for the most first-grade matches played for the Club with 211 games to his name, which was broken in Round 5, 2014 by John Sutton. Featuring in the South Sydney Dream Team in 2004 in the second row, McCarthy was made a Life Member of the Club in 1973, and was also named in the South Sydney Juniors Team of the Century in 2008.
Since 2003, the Bob McCarthy Clubman of the Year award has been handed out at the Club’s end of year awards.
George Piggins Try, 1976 vs Western Suburbs
Top Moments - Piggins' Solo Try v Wests
Club sponsorship arrived in 1976 with Easts signing the first contract with their sponsor City Ford and Souths were second with VIP Insurance Group. But the Rabbitohs were first to appear in a premiership match wearing a sponsors jersey when they opened the season on Saturday, March 20, against St. George, and all other games were played on Sunday.
Souths finished poorly in 1975 and to help them get back up the ladder they signed a new coach in former St. George-winger Johnny King and new players like Kangaroo-winger Terry Fahey, rugby union centre John Berne, Englishman John Burke, Bill Annabel and David Grant. After losing their first two games they hit a purple patch with wins over Norths (19-14), Easts (16-15), Penrith (26-15) and Newtown (28-10).
Their next match in Round 7 was against Wests at Lidcombe Oval, which has since been named ‘The Battle of Lidcombe’. Many described this game as the best game of League seen at a suburban ground. Souths somehow led 3-2 at half-time after playing 35 minutes of the half deep in their own territory, with Bernie Lowther scoring a try from their only break they made.
Early in the second half both sides dished out some bruising defence until the 48th minute, when the ball floated into George Piggins’ hands just inside the Magpies’ half. He started charging upfield and beat player after player in a determined run to the tryline, scoring one of the best solo tries ever seen. Replayed on Chanel 7 later that Sunday night, commentator Rex Mossop bellowed: “George only knows one way and that’s hard. By heavens, he’s barrelled his way over, right through the meat of the Western Suburbs pack.” Mossop later noted that this was the best solo try he had ever seen. Greg Purcell’s conversion put Souths in front 8-2, and it appeared the Rabbitohs had overcome the best Wests could offer. But in a seven-minute period Wests were in front 12-8, thanks to grafting tries by Geoff Foster and Graham O’Grady.
The match up to this stage had been a bruising, tense, and exciting spectacle, but there were more thrills to come. As Souths tried to weave their way out of trouble, the minutes ticked away and for a time they made no impression on the Magpies. But George Piggins refused to give up and in another determined run he made a 40 metre break, brushing aside would-be tacklers that put Souths on the attack again. Two rucks later, Souths’ big winger Terry Fahey crashed over and scored under the posts, which Purcell converted. Souths were now in front 13-12 and with only four minutes remaining, seemingly out of danger.
From the kickoff Wests’ winger Russell Mullins deflected the ball to a teammate and Wests were on the attack again. When Tom Raudonikis moved play to John Donnelly the scene was set and Geoff Foster flying onto the ball crashed over for the winning try which Ron Giteau converted to give the Magpies a 17-13 victory. Pandemonium broke loose when referee Gary Cook whistled fulltime and thousands in the record crowd of 17,425 rushed onto the ground.
Souths’ supporters afterwards made strong claims that Wests’ winger Russell Mullins had been metres offside when he grabbed the ball from the kickoff in the buildup to Foster’s match-winning try and television replays later indicated there was a few inches in it.
Piggins finished his playing career against Parramatta in 1978 (Round 21), and if there is one image that best defies his overall career, it may not be one of him doing the lap of honour with Souths after the 1971 grand final or standing on the steps of the Town Hall addressing a crowd of 80,000 rugby league fans as Souths fought to be readmitted into the NRL. It would be his solo try he scored in this match in the 48th minute. It was the same type of determination George showed as a Coach of the club he loved in the 1980s, club Chairman in the 1990s and in getting Souths readmitted into the NRL in 2001.
George Piggins … once a Souths man, always a Souths man.