1926 NSWRFL season

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1926 New South Wales Rugby Football League
PremiersSouth Sydney colours.svg South Sydney (6th title)
Minor premiersSouth Sydney colours.svg South Sydney (6th title)
Matches played75
Points scored2009
Top points scorer(s)North Sydney colours.svg Jack Courtney (104)
Top try-scorer(s)South Sydney colours.svg Benny Wearing (14)

The 1926 New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership was the nineteenth season of Sydney’s top-level rugby league club competition, Australia’s first. Nine teams from across the city contested during the season, which culminated in South Sydney’s victory over Sydney University in the premiership final.[1]

Season summary[edit]

Rugby league had been going through a period of declining popularity. The “first past the post” method had resulted in a number of seasons where the premiership was decided before the end of scheduled matches, killing interest during the closing rounds. Falling crowd numbers led to the NSWRFL making a substantial loss in 1925, forcing changes to be made. For the 1926 season a finals series was introduced to maintain interest in the competition.[2] The Premiership would therefore be determined amongst the leading four teams.

The rules concerning the play-the-ball were also changed. Only two players could play at the ball, with one player from each side being allowed to stand immediately behind, and all other players having to stay behind that second man until the ball was heeled. Previously any number of players could play at the ball, and by 1925 play-the-balls had become a real mess.

The rules were changed so that when a ball was forced in goal by the defending side play restarted with a line drop-out rather than a scrum.

These changes combined with the use of multiple reserve balls turned rugby league into a faster and much more attractive spectacle, and the fans returned.


Balmain home jersey 1908.svg
19th season
Ground: Birchgrove Oval
Coach: Alf Fraser
Captain: Reg Latta
Eastern Suburbs
19th season
Ground: RAS Showground
Captains:Arthur Oxford, Les Steel
19th season
Ground: Wentworth Park
Captain: Frank Burge, Tom McGrath
Newtown Jets home jersey 1908.svg

19th season
Ground: Marrickville Oval
Coach: Albert "Ricketty" Johnston
Captain: Charles Kell
North Sydney Bears home jersey 1908.svg
North Sydney

19th season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Captain: Leo O'Connor
St. George
6th season
Ground: Earl Park
Captain-Coach: Arnold Traynor
South Sydney
19th season
Ground: Sydney Cricket Ground
Coach: Howard Hallett
Captain: Alf Blair
University home jersey 1925.svg
7th season
Coach: Bill Kelly
Captain: A.S. Lane
Western Suburbs
19th season
Ground: Pratten Park
Captain: Gordon Stettler


The geographical locations of the teams that contested the 1926 premiership across Sydney.
Team Pld W D L B PF PA PD Pts
1 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 16 14 0 2 2 318 146 +172 32
2 Glebe colours.svg Glebe 16 9 1 6 2 188 168 +20 23
3 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 16 9 1 6 2 207 192 +15 23
4 University colours.svg University 16 9 0 7 2 198 217 -19 22
5 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 16 8 0 8 2 252 227 +25 20
6 Newtown colours.svg Newtown 16 7 0 9 2 189 223 -34 18
7 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 16 7 0 9 2 227 271 -44 18
8 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 16 6 0 10 2 187 184 +3 16
9 St. George colours.svg St. George 16 2 0 14 2 169 307 -138 8


At one stage in the second half of the season, University had been sitting just one win behind reigning premiers South Sydney. But five successive losses at the back end of the season saw them fall to fourth on the ladder. This though was enough to secure their only ever finals berth in their eighteen-year history. South Sydney for the second season straight showed consistent good form, and in the end comfortably won the minor premiership.

In the semi-finals, both University and South Sydney comfortably defeated their opponents to progress to the final.

4 September 1926 - Sydney Cricket Ground
Glebe colours.svg Glebe 3
18 September 1926 - Agricultural Showground
University colours.svg University 29
South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 11
11 September 1926 - Sydney Cricket Ground
University colours.svg University 5
South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 21
Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 5


South Sydney Position University
Alan Righton FB Hubert Finn
Alby Carr WG Ted Barry
Vic Lawrence CE Frank O'Rourke
Harry Finch CE Paddy McCormack
Reg Williams WG Martin Cunningham
Alf Blair (c) FE A.S. Lane (c)
Frank Brogan HB Ed Wynter
Arch Thompson PR Edward Ryan
Harry Cavanough HK Frank Benning
George Treweek PR Jim Ward
Edward Root SR Sammy Ogg
Alf O'Connor SR Bill Flanagan
David Watson LK Jim McIntyre
Howard Hallett Coach Bill Kelly

The 1926 season was the most successful of the eighteen seasons between the wars in which University competed in the top Sydney grade. This may have had to do with their coach Bill Kelly or their new trainer, the former Kangaroo Sid Pearce. Or perhaps they benefitted from that season’s play-the-ball rule change which initially resulted in a cleaner and faster game that suited the lighter and quicker Students. Whatever the reason they won their first seven games.

However the loss of their centre Frank O'Rourke to a broken hand, saw them slip in the final rounds to finish fourth. The play-off system and South Sydney’s “right-of-challenge” as minor-premiers required University to beat the powerful Glebe side and then South Sydney twice to take the title.

In the semi-final against Glebe, University regained their early season form and trounced Glebe by 29–3.

O'Rourke returned for the Final and lined up with state representatives Hubert “Butt” Finn, Jim McIntyre and Alby Lane in front of 20,000 at the Royal Agricultural Society Grounds.

In the opening twenty minutes University had three opportunities to score but poor finishing let them down. After withstanding the Students’ attack Souths responded with eleven points of their own by the half-time break. Early in the second half University’s centre McCormack hit back with an intercept try to pull the deficit back to 11–5 however the Rabbitohs defence held for the remainder of the game and they claimed the premiership.

Refereee Webby Neill himself a former premiership winning Rabbitoh, sent off Souths’ Edward Root during the match.

South Sydney 11 (Tries: Brogan, Finch, Watson. Goal: Blair)

University 5 (Tries: Paddy McCormack. Goal: Jim McIntyre)


  1. ^ Premiership Roll of Honour at rl1908.com Archived October 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Middleton, David (30 September 2013). "Ten of the most dominant seasons in rugby league history from historian David Middleton". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 February 2014.

External links[edit]