50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1967 THIRD GRADE GRAND FINAL

50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1967 THIRD GRADE GRAND FINAL – GORDON v RANDWICK

 1967 3rd Grade Premiership Side 

However, virtually forgotten among all the euphoria of the first-grade celebrations was the fact that one of the club’s greatest lower grade teams won the 3rd grade premiership. The first team to achieve this coveted premiership status, since the 2nds in 1961. The 3rd grade team of 1967, coached by Barry Fawcett and managed by Geoff Conley, was an outstanding unit, and their record speaks for itself, and bears comparison with many other successful lower grade teams. The season started off quite slowly with a draw against University at Chatswood, followed by a good solid win against Norths at North Sydney Oval, despite scrummaging difficulties. The 3rd match was against Randwick at Chatswood, and this day will always be remembered as the day the young 1st xv thrilled the huge crowd to defeat the Wallaby back line might of Randwick 29 – 11. It was the day spectators were treated to mighty field goal Rod Batterham dropped from the sideline about 30 yards out with his left foot – a magnificent piece of individual brilliance, and an effort that sealed the game in favour of the home team.

On that day, the 3rd grade team had a very hard working, low scoring draw with the existing 3rd grade premiers, and the atmosphere after the game was one of optimism in that the team could win the competition to make up for the unlucky loss in 1966.

The team won the next 4 matches against Parramatta at Cumberland Oval, Easts at Chatswood (11-9 with a converted try after the full-time bell), Wests at Concord, and Drummoyne at Chatswood. With these results the optimism continued to grow. Then, came the trip to play Manly at Manly Oval. The 1st grade game drew a huge crowd of about 13,000 people  to the ground to watch the spectacle of 2 top sides sides, (Gordon undefeated at that stage and Manly with 1 loss) both playing inspiring attacking football. This infectious atmosphere meant that there was a huge crowd in attendance to watch the 3rds that day, with the Manly 3rd grade team also being undefeated at that stage. The result was a victory to the Manly side in a hard-fought match, but it is conceded that the beach side team were the superior team on the day, showing good strength and power through their big pack of forwards, dominating possession.

While this loss was a disappointment to the team, it proved to be somewhat of a milestone, providing a greater determination, as the team then went on to win all its remaining matches in the season, quite convincingly, including the return match against Manly at home – that was 17 matches straight, and included wins against Easts in the semi-finals and a win against Randwick in a replay of the 1966 grand final. From memory, the score in the grand final was 16 – 6, 3 tries 2 goals and a penalty compared to 2 penalty goals.

The team that played in the grand final was: –

Full Back – Bob Lee

Wing – John Hungerford

Outside Centre – Dave Stuart

Inside centre – Billy Drury

Wing –  Allan Anderson

Five eight –Stuart Ross

Half back – Mike Ferris

Breakaway – Bob Twible (c)

Lock –  Rod Pearse

Breakaway – Dick Cranna

2nd Row – Rod James

2nd Row – Peter Dickson

Prop – Graham Smith

Hooker – Gordon Keen

Prop – Tony Trollope

How to describe the team, its ability and strengths, is an experience.

Firstly, it was a team made up of experience, with plenty of youth, usually the ideal combination in team sports There were several players who had quite a deal of 1st grade experience including Dave Stuart at OC, Bobby Lee at FB, Mick Ferris at ½, while in the forwards the 2nd row comprised 2 big ex 1st graders in Rod James and Peter Dickson. Captain Bob Twible went on to play many matches with the 1st grade team, most noticeably filling in at Hooker, while Bruce Taafe was touring South Africa with the Wallabies. And, of course, there was Billy Drury, who inspired the team with his control and organisation of the back line, and indeed they did provide some wonderful highlights.

There were also some young players in the team either playing their first or second year in grade football – Rod Pearse at lock, Gordon Keen at Hooker, Tony Trollope at Tight head prop and John Hungerford on the wing, while Dick Cranna provided speed and energy at Breakaway.

A very important member of the team was prop Graham Smith, who solved early season scrummaging problems by shifting to loose head, and ensuring a good supply of ball from this set piece. The wingers Allan Anderson and Bob Hudson scored many tries. Stuart Ross at 5/8 was an excellent distributor of the ball, enabling the outer backs to perform their dazzling moves. And his vast experience showed.

The team owed a lot of its success to its management by Gordon stalwarts, Barry Fawcett and Geoff Conley. Barry’s coaching style was one of meticulous planning and preparation,

but without the dramatics and rebel rousing that a lot of coaches get up to. When we weren’t playing up to scratch he would certainly indicate what was going wrong, but at the same time reveal how to fix the problem. More often than not his words were of quiet encouragement. Additionally, he made the whole episode one to fully enjoy and experience, and not just a chore. Geoff was the quiet man of the team, doing his job in a quiet conscientious manner, and often you didn’t know he was around, but he was always there when needed, and always providing encouragement.

Some highlights of the year included: –

  • The return match against Manly at Chatswood, won by the local team in a reasonably comfortable fashion. The big turnaround from the 1st round was the improved performance of the forward pack in taking the game right up to the big Manly forwards, and enabling the Gordon backs to have a reasonable amount of possession. In particular, the forwards started to dominate the scrums, pushing the Manly pack back over their try line in onr scrum.. In fact, the Manly loose head prop on that day, Bernie Bergelin (who later went on to captain Manly 1sts for many seasons), virtually conceded the game to the Gordon team after this scrummaging episode. This incident typified the performance of the Gordon forward pack on that day against a very large pack.
  • The grand final, where the team scored 3 unanswered tries, and were clearly the dominant team on the day. It was most pleasing to defeat a Randwick team and avenge the 1966 grand final loss.
  • The free-flowing backline movements. One match stands out in memory and that was against Eastwood at TG Milner Field in mid-season. Billy Drury and Dave Stuart worked their centre switch dummy move to enable Bill to put the fullback for the day (Dennis Keyes) into the open spaces about half way and Dennis just cruised through the open gap to run 50 metres to score under the post. The move worked as smoothly as planned, with not a hand being laid on Dennis.”
 

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