Souths On Tour – N.Z. & Brisbane 1968
By Mark Emery for Bunnies TV.
1968. A year where the Beatles released the ‘White’ album. The Monkees came to Australia. Lionel Rose became a boxing champion. The Vietnam War was in full swing.
A year in which South Sydney, after a stuttering start, won the first and Reserve Grade premierships and the Club Championship. We all know that.
But that was not the end of the season.
A Great Idea
Somebody had a great idea. I wonder how South Sydney would stack up against the champion clubs in New Zealand and Brisbane? We could start a tradition of find the Australasian Club Champions every year after the respective Grand Finals.
Off To New Zealand
The first leg of this adventure was a trip to New Zealand. The team and officials left on Air New Zealand. They stayed initially at the New Criterion Hotel in Auckland. The team visited the famous Carlaw Park to get a feel of the ground on which they were to play. They met a Mr. Stonex an official of the N.Z Rugby League. At the end of the tour he was to heap praise on the way Souths played the game and the excitement they generated.
The praise continued. He made mention of the brilliance of Bobby McCarthy who scored seven tries in three games. Eric Simms was one of the best goalkickers he has ever seen. Once, Sattler threw him the ball and he drop-kicked a field goal from halfway. Ivan Jones, Bobby Honan, Bobby Moses and John ‘Lurch’ O’Neill were mentioned. The Brannigan brothers earned the nicknames of ‘Patsy’ and ‘Kraut’. High praise all around.
The First Game
Saturday was a late breakfast of steaks for the players then out to the ground in front of 11,500 people. Souths ran onto the field to the sound of ‘Glory, Glory to South Sydney’. Mt. Abert challenged Souths in the first 15 minutes or so but with the class of ‘super’, AKA Bobby McCarthy and Ivan Jones. In the second half, Souths ran away with the match 27-13. A reporter for the local paper said, ‘How do you stop these fellows, it is the passes, they keep it up all the time?’ How indeed.
After a relaxing time at the mineral pools and a trip on a hydro-foil, it was off to Ponsonby. Ponsonby was regarded by many as being an even better team than Mt. Albert. Local papers were confidently predicting Souths winning streak was coming to an end. Half an hour before the game the ground was deserted. No worries the locals said. You just have to wait till knock off time. Sure enough the ground filled with thousands of spectators. The predictions of the local papers proved to be wrong. Even when Souths fielded a ‘B’ team they still won the game 31-3. ‘The Sydney players are particularly outstanding in their application of the basics of the game’ was typical of the comments the next day.
Auckland Māori Team
A ‘relaxing’ bathe in a 41 degree pool was followed by an invigorating plunge in the sea immediately afterwards. The hosts informed the squad about how a local pool was made by a Māori legend. They got the impression the Indigenous people are fiercely proud of their traditions.
And so, it was off to play the final game. Fittingly, against a representative side made of the best Māori players New Zealand had to offer. Certainly, a worthy opponent in any language. And so it turned out. The Māori team then scored the most points of any of the teams against Souths. But Souths were up to the challenge and won 33-14, with the star again being Macca. Mind you on one occasion Lummy ran 90 yards. One wag said that he does not run that far in training!
After a very successful tour it was time to return home. A letter sent to the N.S.W. Rugby League which, in part, said, ‘The players gave the best exhibition of Rugby League that I have seen since returning to New Zealand. The captaincy of John Sattler in control of the players on the field was excellent, and I doubt it whether it could be bettered by anyone.
You can be proud of their efforts in New Zealand both on and off the field.’
The Brothers Challenge
Returning home Souths received a challenge from the Brisbane premiers The Brothers Club for the Australasian Rugby League Club Championship.
Not wanting to back away from a challenge Souths travelled to Lang Park on a VERY hot day on the 20th October 1968. In front of 20000 spectators Souths thrashed the Brisbane premiers 55-15.
The challenge did not occur again. It appeared that the difference between the standard of football in the Sydney competition and in Brisbane was unquestionably too great. Alan Clarkson, writer for the Sydney Morning Herald, was especially scathing, ‘picnic’ games should not be served up to the paying public.
I don’t know, maybe it was just that when South Sydney are in the mood, nothing will stop them. I hope Souths are in a similar mood this year.
Souths On Tour – N.Z. & Brisbane 1968.