1928 NSWRFL season

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1928 New South Wales Rugby Football League
Teams 9
Premiers South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney (8th title)
Minor premiers St. George colours.svg St. George (1st title)
Matches played 59
Points scored 1597
Top points scorer(s) South Sydney colours.svg Benny Wearing (94)
Top try-scorer(s) Western Suburbs colours.svg Tony Redmond (9)

The 1928 New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership was the twenty-first season of Sydney’s top-level rugby league club competition, Australia’s first. During the season, which lasted from April until September, nine teams from across the city contested the premiership, culminating in a final between Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney.

Season summary[edit]

  • No minor premiership was awarded, and hence no “right of challenge” arose from the finals. Only fourteen rounds of premiership matches were played, as against eighteen in 1926 and 1927.
  • A dispute between the NSWRL and the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust over a number of issues lead to the League moving their match of the day to the neighbouring Sydney Sports Ground. This dispute wasn’t patched up until 1935.
  • The first ever night rugby league match was played at the Sydney Showground, The match involved South Sydney and Eastern Sububs and was played on 22 December. Souths won 10–6, the match was played 9-a-side and took place without the approval of the NSWRL.
  • Western Suburbs became the first Sydney club to use an animal for its nickname and logo. Wests, previously known as “The Fruitpickers” became “The Magpies”.


Balmain home jersey 1908.svg
21st season
Ground: Birchgrove Oval
Coach: Alf Fraser
Captain: Ray Elliott
Eastern Suburbs
21st season
Ground: RAS Showground
Captain: Arthur Toby
21st season
Ground: Wentworth Park
Captain-coach: Jack Toohey
Newtown Jets home jersey 1908.svg
21st season
Ground: Marrickville Oval
Captain(s): Charles Kell, Keith Ellis
North Sydney Bears home jersey 1908.svg
North Sydney
21st season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Tom McMahon
Captain: Jimmy Johnson
South Sydney
21st season
Ground: Sydney Sports Ground
Coach: Charlie Lynch
Captain: Pat Maher[1]
St. George
8th season
Ground: Earl Park
Coach: Frank Burge
Captain: Arthur Justice
University home jersey 1925.svg
9th season
Coach: Bill Kelly
Captain: A.S. Lane
Western Suburbs
21st season
Ground: Pratten Park
Coach: Chris McKivat
Captain: Frank McMillan

Earl Park riot[edit]

The season of 1928 was infamous for the Earl Park riot; in a St George home game 21-3 victory over Balmain, Tony Russell of Balmain became involved in a running feud with George Carstairs, the St George captain.

Referee Brannaghan began to lose control of the match when he sent off St George forward Harry Flower early in the second half but allowed Balmain players to stay on the field, after a later incident between Russell and Carstairs resulted in the latter being knocked unconscious and Brannaghan merely cautioning Russell, the crowd's aggravation grew and the situation escalated.

The Earl Park crowd took matters into their own hands by storming the field in an attempt to injure Russell. Police arrived and intervened using handcuffs, batons and fists but not before Russell was badly beaten by the crowd, he suffered leg and head injuries and was put into the same ambulance as George Carstairs where it was reported that Russell attempted to assault Carstairs and ambulance officers had to intervene to restrain him.

A week later, a NSWRL investigation blamed crowd violence and not the players or officials for the disturbance.


The geographical locations of the teams that contested the 1928 premiership across Sydney.
Team Pld W D L B PF PA PD Pts
1 St. George colours.svg St. George 13 12 0 1 1 200 98 +102 26
2 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 12 11 0 1 2 192 116 +76 26
3 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 13 8 0 5 1 216 152 +64 18
4 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 12 6 0 6 2 157 149 +8 16
5 University colours.svg University 13 6 0 7 1 184 176 +8 14
6 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 12 4 0 8 2 174 206 -32 12
7 Glebe colours.svg Glebe 12 4 0 8 2 94 149 -55 12
8 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 13 4 0 9 1 180 236 -56 10
9 Newtown colours.svg Newtown 12 1 0 11 2 112 227 -115 6


Heading into the finals, top placed St. George and Eastern Suburbs were in top form, with St. George losing their only match in round 3 and Eastern Suburbs losing to St. George in round 7 of the 14-week competition, with Saints and Easts finishing on 26 points each, no playoff for the minor premiership was staged to award a right of challenge in the finals,[2] thus negating the good work done by both sides during the premiership rounds and ultimately providing an easier route than otherwise for Souths to take the title away from both minor premiers.

In the semi-finals, Eastern Suburbs beat fourth-placed North Sydney to make the final, whilst South Sydney beat St. George, whom they had lost to 9–8 just three weeks earlier.

Semi-finals Final
7 September 1928 - Wentworth Oval
  Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 26  
  North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 13  
22 September 1928 - Agricultural
      South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 26
    Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 5
7 September 1928 - Earl Park
  St. George colours.svg St. George 5
  South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 13  


South Sydney Position Eastern Suburbs
Alan Righton FB Arthur Toby
Benny Wearing WG Les Steel
Jack Why CE Larry Hedger
Harry Finch CE Nelson Hardy
Reg Williams WG Vic Webber
Harry Kadwell FE Gordon Fletcher
Jim Breen (c) HB Joe Busch
Harry Cavanough PR Arthur Oxford
Alf Binder HK Dick Brown
David Watson PR Harry Kavanagh
Edward Root SR Tom Fitzpatrick
George Treweek SR Sam Bryant
Oscar Quinlivan LK George Harris
Charlie Lynch Coach

A crowd of 25,000 were at the Royal Agricultural Society Grounds to watch the final between South Sydney and Easts, refereed by Lal Deane. George Treweek scored Souths' first try, crashing over under the posts after Easts' fullback Toby fumbled the high kick. Wearing converted. Then Jack Why, Root and Brien combined to put Williams over and Souths took an 8-0 lead, before the half-ended Wearing kicked a penalty goal from halfway and Quinlivan crossed for another Souths try and a 13-0 lead at the break.

The second stanza started no better for Easts when Hardy took the ball close with the line wide open only to see his pass dropped. Harry Kadwell struck back for Souths who went to a 16–0 lead before the floodgates opened – Cavanough scored from the next kick-off and then Kadwell crossed again. Easts’ only try of the match was by Steel under the posts and was the last of the match with the bell sounding shortly after, thus the Rabbitohs took their fourth successive title and become the first club to achieve this feat.

South Sydney 26 (Tries: Kadwell (2), Treweek, Williams, Quinlivan, Cavanough. Goals: Wearing 2, Quinlivan 2)


Eastern Suburbs 5 (Tries: Steel. Goal: Oxford)


  1. ^ Alan Whiticker. "Pat Maher". rugbyleagueproject.org. Shawn Dollin, Andrew Ferguson and Bill Bates. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Finding The Premier Club at rl1908.com

External links[edit]