The Great Grand Final Heist: How Balmain beat the Rabbitohs by laying down


  • Banned

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/the-great-grand-final-heist-how-balmain-beat-the-rabbitohs-by-laying-down/news-story/7a04dbbb982e4387f9e40561581a6f2b

    Ian Heads, The Daily Telegraph
    July 15, 2017 10:37am
    SOUTHS have always claimed they were cheated out of the game by Tigers’ tactic of laying down ‘injured’, which threw the Rabbitohs’ star players out of their rhythm and gave Balmain’s forwards a breather. In ’69, if a player went down hurt, play stopped and an ambulance man ran out on to the field.

    In his new book, The Great Grand Final Heist, Ian Heads reveals what really happened …

    The folklore that exists around the 1969 grand final has done more than anything else to keep the game alive in the consciousness of the rugby league community. It can be encapsulated in one question: Did Balmain take a dive to win?

    In fact, the ‘correct weight’ flag was raised long ago on the answer, although traditional pockets of silence and stonewalling exist to this day, appropriately in line with the fabled Balmain motto: ‘Smile and Stick.’

    The ‘flop down’ happened. Through the seamless application of a breathtaking, technically legal tactic, Tigers coach Leo Nosworthy and his players brought off what ranks among the most brilliant coaching coups in league history. The go-slow applied to throw the defending premiers and hot favourites, South Sydney, off their game, via players feigning injuries. It was entirely within the rules at that time. The understandable protests from John Sattler and his men were for nothing.


    Balmain team does lap of honour after defeating Souths in 1969 grand final. Picture: Ian Collis
    It is important to point out that the ‘slow it down’ strategy was only part of a Balmain tactical blueprint that worked surely as well as any big-game scheme ever has. Impeccable positional switches by the coach, defensive blueprints that were beautifully applied, and sustained and robust tackling, backed by lashings of spirit, added up to a package that, as Souths discovered, was simply irresistible. There was a hefty two-to-one penalty count in Balmain’s favour, but it was generally agreed that the Tigers’ victory was entirely deserved.

    In the years since, comments on the flop down have stretched all the way from outright denial (generally offered with tongue lightly positioned in cheek) to frank admissions that indeed it was part of the game plan, designed to both preserve (Balmain) and frustrate and thwart (Souths). Among the big crowd that watched the grand final at the SCG, there was some confusion. From his tight vantage point on the Hill, wedged among supporters of both clubs, Denis Hamill remembers that during the second half many of his fellow Tigers fans were concerned by the sight of their heroes going down injured, while the Rabbitohs faithful wondered if it was a sign their team was getting on top. ‘The Souths mob were pretty happy with the way their team was knocking Balmain around,’ he says. ‘We were worried, thinking, If this goes on, they’re going to get us soon.’ However, John Quayle, who would go on to play Test football and become a much-admired and standard-setting general manager of the NSW Rugby League, was wedged among the fans on the Paddington hill, and he recalls ‘everyone booing when the Balmain blokes were hitting the deck’.

    Later in 1969, Kevin Humphreys was quoted as saying, ‘No, no. They never laid down. We had certain tactics and we played them well. Yes, we slowed the match down, there’s no doubt in the world about that. If we were doing something illegal in slowing the game down, well it was up to the referee to control it. But the fact is we weren’t.’ Most insiders recognise that Leo Nosworthy was the brains behind the ploy, and some have even gone as far as admitting that the Tigers used the tactic on other occasions, during and after the ’69 season …


    South Sydney (Souths) internationals (L-R) Ron Coote, Eric Simms, Mike Cleary, John O’Neill & Bobby McCarthy. Picture: Warwick Lawson
    Austin Hoyle (Balmain selector): You’re against a team full of internationals … are you going to give them a free bloody rein to run all over the joint? You’d be mad if you did. And the more successful you become in winning the game via the tactics, you’re going to flop down, aren’t you? And that’s how it was. Nothing succeeds like success. Defence was paramount in Leo’s plan and they couldn’t do anything against us.

    Hal Browne (injured Balmain centre): At training on the Tuesday night, Nosa said, ‘This is what we’re going to do — every time they get a roll-on, one of you go down hurt. I don’t care who it is, just go down hurt on the ground. We’ve got to play them at our pace, not at their pace.’ So we did it and it worked.

    Ron Coote (Souths lock): The one thing they did that did us in that day was the way in which they slowed the game … taking a dive the way they did … it seemed like it was every couple of minutes that someone sat down injured, and it threw us off our game altogether. It was almost like cheating I suppose, but it was quite legal in those days. The refs stopped play every time someone was hurt. Lurch got so frustrated with their tactics he started trying to haul Balmain blokes to their feet as they went down. But it worked.

    Peter Boulton (Balmain hooker): We all knew Souths would be hard to stop if they got going. So defence was the key to everything. The lying down thing was part of that. It was Nosa’s idea, and it was fine in those days as far as the rules were concerned. We had a bit of a practice in the last competition match — at halftime, Nosa said we should give it a go, lying down injured to stop the game and see what effect it would have. He was thinking about it for some time.

    Part of it was because of Artie Beetson and the fact that he was often out of nick. But the grand final tactic was all about Souths. We didn’t want them to get going. It worked. They got terribly frustrated when they didn’t get enough momentum to find the holes they normally did.


    Keith Barnes, who retired at the end of the 1968 season after 14 years with Balmain, having never won a premiership, with Peter Provan after the game.
    Mike Cleary (Souths winger): We were absolute specials to win. Nobody expected they would beat us, and certainly we didn’t. We were very confident in the room beforehand although I don’t think overconfidence was a problem. The thing that did us in was the way they went about it. Every time we got the ball they just stopped the game. Somebody would lie down injured and we couldn’t get any momentum.

    It was so different to the way we went about things. John Sattler was always telling us not to let anybody see we were hurt, especially when we really were hurt. ‘Get up or I’ll hit you,’ he would tell us. We had never struck anything like what Balmain did that day, and it floored us. It was perfectly legal of course … I think they changed the rule after that so that play did not necessarily stop when someone went down.

    Bob Smithies (Balmain fullback): I don’t believe the stoppages made the difference everybody thought. There would have been more of them if Artie Beetson had been playing! He was always telling us to lay down because he needed a rest. The thing that won it for us was that we were young and very fit and we never let up defensively. Souths knew they were up against it in the grand final. Halfway through the second half, I heard John O’Neill say to John Sattler, ‘We’re gone. These bastards have got us.’

    Bob Honan (Souths centre): We wanted to play our normal game — getting some space in the backs and using the wingers — but they just wouldn’t let us. They came up fast and cut us off and if we did manage to get into their 25 and things looked promising, one of them would sit down and stop the game. Under the rules then we just had to wear it.

    Bob McCarthy (Souths second-rower): The tactic went the whole match and it seemed that every time we got the ball there was someone down crook. The first few times it happened, we didn’t worry too much. But as it went on the stop-start knocked us out of any rhythm.

    They were almost lying there shielding the sun from their eyes. Davey Bolton and some of their blokes were getting suntans! At one stage, they had about three or four down and Satts was shouting to Keith Page, ‘Make them get up, there’s nothing wrong with them.’

    And he said, ‘John, I can’t do anything about it.’


    Players celebrate as the referee blows full-time after Balmain defeated Souths in 1969 Grand Final.
    Garry Leo (Balmain prop): Whenever someone went down injured in those days the play was stopped and the ambulanceman ran on.

    It was in the rules, so if you wanted to slow the game, getting injured was a good way to do it. It wasn’t just for the grand final though … we adopted those tactics in most games when we felt the opposition was getting a roll on …

    Nosa said to us before the grand final that if we let Souths get a run-on with the ball they’d be hard to stop. Slowing them down with stoppages would make it harder for them … it would upset what they wanted to do. He was right.

    The Souths players ended up getting very frustrated, especially late in the game when they knew they were in trouble. They started arguing among themselves and arguing with the referee when they could see what we were doing. They were huge favourites.

    But when they were down 9—0 in the second half, they started to panic a bit.

    Feigning injury didn’t always go to plan though. I remember one game against Canterbury in the early ’70s when they started to get a bit of momentum and I said to Terry Cross, one of the young blokes in the team, that we needed a rest.

    ‘Sit down, you’re injured,’ I told him.

    ‘But I’m OK,’ he said. ‘I’m not injured.’

    ‘We need a spell, you’re injured,’ I repeated.

    ‘But there’s nothing wrong with me,’ he protested.

    Eventually, he sat down and while he was being treated I turned to talk to some of my teammates. Peter Boulton caught my attention.

    ‘Hey Garry, look!’ Peter said.

    I turned to see how Terry was going. They were carrying him off on a stretcher. Good acting!


    The Great Grand Final Heist is available from July 25…
    Allan Fitzgibbon (Balmain centre): They were a great side [and] if we played the way they wanted us to play, we were going to get killed. So whatever tactics we had to employ to keep us in the contest, well, that’s what we did.

    Terry Parker (Balmain centre): It was Nosa’s tactic, a brilliant one. We talked about it at some length the Tuesday before the grand final. What it did was provide a point of difference between Souths, a superstar team, and our young team backed up by the older hands, Bolton, Provan and Killeen. We had a ploy to win. Whenever they looked dangerous, one of us would hit the deck. The idea was to stop them getting their momentum. And it worked.

    We agreed we’d try it out in the second half of a game earlier in the season but by halftime I was genuinely carrying a shoulder injury and I needed treatment. One of the trainers gave me a rub with what was oil of wintergreen, which burns like blazes, peeling off the skin.

    The halftime talk was over before I noticed anything was wrong and by that time we were on our way back to play. My shoulder really started to burn and I was in agony. Finally, just as we were about to kick off, I couldn’t stand it any longer and I dropped to the ground. One of the players, I think it was Peter Provan, hissed in my ear ‘Not yet, you idiot! We don’t fall down until the game starts.’

    In the grand final, they were screaming at Page. Bobby McCarthy was going off, ‘Get ’em up! Get ’em up!’ Keith Page had a look and didn’t know which one to get up because there were five of us down at one stage and there weren’t enough St John ambos to go around.

    Ken Arthurson, who was secretary at Manly in 1969, reckons ‘Blind Freddy’ could have seen what Balmain were doing, how they went about preventing Souths from getting on a roll. Joe Walsh, the Tigers second-rower, argues that the matter has become a ‘fixation’ to some people. ‘Whenever I see any of the Souths blokes,’ Walsh says, ‘the conversation comes around to how we “laid down”. Last time it happened, I said to Cootie, “How come you laid down after Arthur pushed you in the semi-final?”

    Leo Nosworthy, meanwhile, plays an unflinching straight bat when popped the question regarding the accusations aimed at his team: ‘No, we didn’t lay down, but we did set out to slow the game down and throw Souths out of their rhythm.’

    The Great Grand Final Heist: A Mysterious Tale of Tigers, Rabbitohs and an Unlikely Coaching Hero, by Ian Heads, is published by Stoke Hill Press, $29.95, available from July 25.


  • Banned

    We should shout all that winning GF team members a copy.



  • Hahaha… Honest Kevin Humpty



  • Brilliant tactics - a well deserved win for the Tigers.

    It also paid Souffs back for their cheating in 1909.

    Don’t know the story? - be enlightened by a short version below.

    In 1909 semi-finals were played amongst the four highest placed teams. Top two finishers South Sydney and Balmain were able to win their respective semi-finals.
    However, after the New South Wales Rugby League had planned a match between the Australian rugby union and rugby league teams that would upstage the premiership final, both South Sydney and Balmain unofficially agreed to not play out a final.
    But unknown to Balmain, South Sydney turned up ready to play. The final was deemed to be a forfeit as a result, with South Sydney claiming their second premiership in as many years. Requests from Balmain for the match to be played at a later date were refused by the League.
    Conflict over whether there was an agreement between the two clubs not to play a final caused a deep seated resentment towards Souths by Balmain which lasted many years.

    Any win over these mongrels is a good win and any team that beats these mongrels is my second favorite team that week.

    “Pride of the League” indeed - you need honour to have pride - “Scurge of the Earth”, more like it!!!



  • A memorable win against all odds, 1988 & 1989 losses still burn though!!



  • Theres an old saying…don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.I was only young at the time but I remember the day well.during the year Balmain won their first clash with souths .souths the second and in the major semi Balmain lost against the rabbits on the siren when eric simms kicked a goal from half-way.the tigers played most of the game with 12 men after beetson got sent off.souths had a great team but so did the tigers.we had Killeen,bolton,spencer,provan,outen and many others.souths won the minor premiship by only 2 points from us and we had a great year.i have been told by many rabbitoh supporters that during the week their coach clive Churchill had many arguments with the players for not training hard and taking the tigers too easy.the tigers did slow the play down but it was nothing in the rules to stop it.if anybody wants to watch it then game is on youtube.you will see the tigers completely outplayed them but no credit was given.ian heads wants to write a story and try to sell books then good luck to him but please tell the truth.



  • @:

    Brilliant tactics - a well deserved win for the Tigers.

    It also paid Souffs back for their cheating in 1909.

    Don’t know the story? - be enlightened by a short version below.

    In 1909 semi-finals were played amongst the four highest placed teams. Top two finishers South Sydney and Balmain were able to win their respective semi-finals.
    However, after the New South Wales Rugby League had planned a match between the Australian rugby union and rugby league teams that would upstage the premiership final, both South Sydney and Balmain unofficially agreed to not play out a final.
    But unknown to Balmain, South Sydney turned up ready to play. The final was deemed to be a forfeit as a result, with South Sydney claiming their second premiership in as many years. Requests from Balmain for the match to be played at a later date were refused by the League.
    Conflict over whether there was an agreement between the two clubs not to play a final caused a deep seated resentment towards Souths by Balmain which lasted many years.

    Any win over these mongrels is a good win and any team that beats these mongrels is my second favorite team that week.

    “Pride of the League” indeed - you need honour to have pride - “Scurge of the Earth”, more like it!!!

    Biggest con job in history… Unfortunately Balmain have a history of being conned eh Benny?


  • Banned

    Pretty gutless way to win a premiership. Within the rules but not within the spirit with similarities to Trevor Chappells under arm bowl.
    Shameful to be honest.


  • ForumSupporter

    Bit like Wrestling in the ruck…



  • GUTLESS MY ARSE…Balmain won fair and square.Heads is an old souths man who has never got over it.both Balmain and Wests have been maligned over the years,when wests were strong during the 70s it was always Raudonikis and Donnelly were thugs and cheats and Balmain copped the same.Even when Wests Tigers winning in 2005 what did some press call it THE STEVEN BRADBURY grand final.nothing has changed.dont believe half the stuff written in this book and I will definitely not be buying it.



  • @:

    Pretty gutless way to win a premiership. Within the rules but not within the spirit with similarities to Trevor Chappells under arm bowl.
    Shameful to be honest.

    Yes, nobody has ever won a premiership playing outside the spirit of the game before or after.

    The shame was all on Souffs - they were not good enough!!



  • if my memory serves me right…weren’t the Canberra Raiders 100k over the salary cap in 1989.Even to this day this is rarely mentioned.Was this in the spirit of the game ???



  • Souths didn’t score a try. They were arrogant and most of them still won’t acknowledge the better team won. To call it shameful is frankly shameful in itself - those blokes deserved to win.


  • Banned

    @:

    if my memory serves me right…weren’t the Canberra Raiders 100k over the salary cap in 1989.Even to this day this is rarely mentioned.Was this in the spirit of the game ???

    Nope and before someone else mentions it neither was Lamb taking out Hanley.


  • Banned

    @:

    Souths didn’t score a try. They were arrogant and most of them still won’t acknowledge the better team won. To call it shameful is frankly shameful in itself - those blokes deserved to win.

    Whatever makes you feel better. Personally, winning like that would embarrass me but que sera…


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