Balmain Tigers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Balmain Tigers
Balmain Tigers Logo.jpg
Club information
Full nameBalmain & District Rugby League Football Club
Founded23 January 1908 (foundation club)
Exited1999 (started joint venture in 2000 with Western Suburbs Magpies to form Wests Tigers)
Former details
CompetitionNSWRL, ARL, NRL
199915th of 17
Premierships11 - 1915, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920, 1924, 1939, 1944, 1946, 1947, 1969
Runners-up9 - 1909, 1936, 1945, 1948, 1956, 1964, 1966, 1988, 1989
Minor premiership7 - 1915, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920, 1924, 1939,
Wooden spoons4 - 1911, 1974, 1981, 1994

The Balmain Tigers (also known as the Sydney Tigers from 1995–96) are a rugby league football club based in the inner-western Sydney suburb of Balmain. They were a founding member of the New South Wales Rugby League and one of the most successful in the history of the premiership, with eleven titles. In 1999 they formed a joint venture club with the neighbouring Western Suburbs Magpies club to form the Wests Tigers for competition in the National Rugby League (NRL), they no longer field any senior teams in the lower divisions. At the time of the joint venture only South Sydney Rabbitohs and the St George Dragons had won more titles than the Tigers.

The club's home grounds are at present Leichhardt Oval, in Lilyfield, and T.G Milner Sportsground, in Marsfield; the distinctive black and orange colours of their 1908 thin striped jerseys led their fans to quickly nickname them "The Tigers".


Foundation club[edit]

In 1908 Australia's first season of rugby league began in Sydney and the Balmain club were one of nine foundation clubs. One of the club's founders was future Premier of New South Wales, John Storey,[1] their home ground was Birchgrove Park. Balmain reached their first Grand Final in only the second year in the competition against the previous year's champions, South Sydney, but would protest as the match was scheduled as a warm up for a Kangaroos vs. Wallabies game at Souths' home ground.[2] Souths were officially awarded the Premiership when they kicked off to an empty half of the field.

After a string of poor years the Tigers managed a strong turn-around to become a dominant force in the Australian Rugby League with the club's first, second and third Premierships coming in successive years dominating the 1915, 1916 and 1917 seasons. Tigers dominance continued winning the 1919 and 1920 seasons comfortably; when they won the 1924 premiership this would be the last success for Balmain for over a decade to come.

Golden era[edit]

Balmain Premiers 1939 - Captain Sid Goodwin, Coach Bill Kelly

It would not be until 1939 the Tigers won back the Premiership smashing Souths 33-4; the weekend of the Final will also be remembered for the invasion of Poland by Germany which led to England and Australia going to War.

Post-World War II marked a golden era for Balmain with the Tigers reaching five consecutive Grand Finals winning three of them. In the 1944 Grand Final the Tigers beat the strong favourites Newtown 19-16. Balmain reached the Grand Final again in 1945 but fell at the last hurdle against Easts 22-18; the loss was not long remembered as the Tigers went on to take out the next two seasons, beating St George 14-12 in 1946, and Canterbury 13-9 in 1947. On the hunt for a third successive title, they lost to Wests in 1948.


The Tigers would appear in several Grand Final matches throughout the 1950s and 1960s but were just another victim to the mighty St. George Dragons eleven-year streak of Premiership wins in this period, losing in 1956, 1964 and 1966. When the Tigers did take out the competition in the 1969 NSWRFL season it was a classy 11-2 defeat of favourites Souths who boasted 11 internationals, this would signal the last time Balmain would ever win a Grand Final; the side was captained by Peter Provan, brother of Norm, and coached by Leo Nosworthy.

The 1970s were not a great era for the Tigers; the wooden spoon had not been in Balmain since 1911, but it returned for the second time in club history when the Tigers won only 4 games and had 2 draws in 1974 following a number of poor years. That period of time between 1911 and 1974 remains the longest wooden spoon drought for any team. In 1976 things looked more hopeful when Balmain began the year with an undefeated run through the pre-season "Wills Cup" competition; the side also won the 1976 Amco Cup knockout tournament in front of a then-record crowd of 21,600, beating North Sydney. The Tigers won eight straight games and led the competition, but a mid season slump left the Tigers in the same position as in 1975 and they failed to make the finals.


The Tigers consistently made the finals series in the 1980s reaching the play-offs in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989.

On 4 August 1985 a crowd of 21,707 set a new ground record for Leichhardt Oval.[3]

In 1986, one of Balmain's players, Great Britain captain Garry Schofield topped the try-scorers list for the season; the 1988 Great Britain Lions tour captain Ellery Hanley was signed by the Balmain Tigers to play the remaining rounds of the 1988 NSWRFL season for them once his representative commitments were fulfilled.[4] The Tigers reached the 1988 Grand Final, the first time since the 1969 success, winning a lot of fans along the way with a number of ‘backs to the wall’ performances winning four consecutive sudden death matches in just 3 weeks; the top five teams out of the premiership table went on to the final series, and this was the first time since 1979 that a team in fifth position had progressed to the Grand Final. In 1988 the Tigers were deemed certain to miss the finals with 8 games left in the regular season; the Tigers remarkably only lost a single game from that point onwards reaching the Grand Final against Canterbury, only to be denied the trophy in a controversial 24-12 loss. Canterbury player, Terry Lamb, is still remembered by fans for knocking out the legendary Ellery Hanley with a high shot in back play midway through the first half; the Tigers were leading the game at the time.

The side would again make the Grand Final in 1989 but this time as favourites; the ’89 Final is regarded by many as one of the best ever in the history of Rugby League. In a controversial affair the side lost in extra time against the Canberra Raiders after being ahead 12-2 at half time.

After the heartbreak of the 1989 Grand Final, the Tigers never regained their dominating form (although they did make the finals again in 1990) and went through a rebuilding phase following the retirement of star players Wayne Pearce, Garry Jack, Steve Roach and David Brooks who had all played over 100 games for the club over a period of 10 years or more; the stars were missed as Balmain finished second-last in 1993 and got the wooden spoon in 1994.

The departure of coach Warren Ryan at the end of 1990 was a key turning point for the club. Balmain hired the famous former Wallabies coach-come-radio announcer Alan Jones as coach in 1991; as Paul Sironen admitted years later in his autobiography, the 'running rugby' style of Jones was too simplistic for the structured defensive patterns which had developed in rugby league during the 1980s. Jones also began a controversial clear-out of some of the other Tigers stars who had not retired, notably the Kiwi international Gary Freeman, and often replaced them with inexperienced juniors who were not yet really ready for first grade football. By the time Jones was sacked as coach at the end of 1993, incoming coach Wayne Pearce inherited a massive problem which was only getting worse.

In drastic action Balmain released 31 players at the end of 1994 and moved to Parramatta Stadium as the 'Sydney Tigers'; the Tigers stayed at Parramatta Stadium for 2 seasons before heading back to Leichhardt Oval. The Tigers only averaged 6,565 people attending home games at Parramatta Stadium in what was regarded as a failed experiment.

At the end of the 1996 ARL season the League's chief executive John Quayle resigned and was replaced by Balmain president (and former hooker) Neil Whittaker.[5]

Joint Venture[edit]

Although things picked up for the club in following years, the Australian Rugby League/Super League war would spell trouble for the club. 1999 was a tumultuous year for the Balmain Tigers. The season began with a dark cloud hanging over the 17 clubs; the Super League/ARL compromise had left 1999 as the last season before the 14 team NRL competition began and with it came the much talked about criteria. On-field Balmain was struggling with a savage injury toll that forced the Tigers to use over 40 players throughout the season.

In July the option of forming a joint venture with fellow foundation club, the Western Suburbs Magpies was put to the Football Club members; the members ultimately voted in favour of a joint venture. As it turned out Balmain was in the top 14 clubs under the criteria (ahead of current NRL teams Penrith and South Sydney) but would have continued to struggle to be financially competitive with bigger clubs; the decision to enter a joint venture saw a crowd of 15,240 turn out in atrocious conditions to watch the Tigers play their last home game in first grade at Leichhardt Oval as the Balmain Tigers.

The new entity, Wests Tigers, made it to the 2005 Grand Final and defeated the North Queensland Cowboys 30-16.

Club today[edit]

The club currently competes in both of the junior New South Wales Rugby League competitions, the Harold Matthews Cup and S. G. Ball Cup competitions, recording consecutive SG Ball premierships in 2012-13. From 2000, they played in the NSW Cup as a merged team with the Ryde-Eastwood Hawks and competed as the Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers. From season 2013 onwards, Balmain do not have a senior representative side, having formed a joint venture with the Western Suburbs Magpies to form a Wests Tigers team.

In October 2018, it was reported that the Balmain Leagues club was placed into voluntary administration placing the future of the Balmain side at risk, it was also revealed that Balmain were required to pay a $2.5 million loan to the NRL by November 2021. The report followed on from the news that for over 10 years the leagues club at Rozelle had sat dormant as different shareholders and developers struggled to negotiate deals on what to do with the land. Both the Harold Matthews Cup and S. G. Ball Cup Balmain sides who still compete were reportedly not to be in any danger in the short term future.[6][7][8]

Coaching register[edit]

Pony Halloway player and coach.
No. Name Years G W D L % Finals Premierships Runners-up Minor Premierships Wooden spoons
1 Robert Graves 1908–1913 76 33 2 41 43% 1909 1909 1911
2 Bill Kelly 1914–1915, 1938–1943 120 73 11 35 61% 1938, 1939, 1941, 1942, 1943 1915, 1939 1915, 1939,
3 Arthur Halloway 1916–1920 75 57 3 15 76% 1916 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920
4 Charles Fraser 1921–1924 & 1932 79 45 7 27 57% 1924, 1932 1924 1924
5 Alf Fraser 1925–1929 74 28 4 42 38%
6 Reg Latta 1929, 1931 30 11 1 18 37%
7 Norm Robinson 1930, 1944–1947, 1954–1956 143 84 9 50 59% 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1956 1944, 1946, 1947 1945, 1956
8 Cec Fifield 1930 14 5 2 7 36%
9 George Robinson 1933–1934 28 9 3 16 32%
10 Joe Busch 1935–1936 31 18 1 12 58% 1936 1936
11 Harold Matthews 1937 8 4 0 4 50%
12 Athol Smith 1948–1950 60 37 6 17 62% 1948, 1949, 1950 1948
13 Jim Duckworth 1951 18 6 0 12 33%
14 Arthur Patton 1952–1953 36 15 0 21 42%
15 Sid Ryan 1957 18 9 0 9 50%
16 John O'Toole 1958–1960 59 29 1 29 49% 1958, 1960
17 Harry Bath 1961–1966 117 65 3 49 56% 1961, 1963, 1964, 1966 1964, 1966
18 Keith Barnes 1967–1968 46 28 2 16 61%
19 Leo Nosworthy 1969–1973 113 55 2 56 49% 1969 1969
20 Alan Mason 1974 22 4 2 16 18% 1974
21 Paul Broughton 1975–1976 45 22 2 21 49% 1975
22 Ron Willey 1977–1979 68 35 4 29 52% 1977
23 Dennis Tutty 1980 22 7 0 15 32%
24 Frank Stanton 1981–1986 152 78 2 72 51% 1983, 1985, 1986 1981
25 Bill Anderson 1987 25 14 1 10 56% 1987
26 Warren Ryan 1988–1990 76 50 1 25 66% 1988, 1989, 1990 1988, 1989
27 Alan Jones 1991–1993 66 24 3 39 36%
28 Wayne Pearce 1994–1999 136 49 1 86 36% 1994

Players of note[edit]

In May 2003 the Balmain Tigers Team of the Century was named:[9]

2005 the members of the Team of the Century became the inaugural inductees to the Balmain Tigers Hall of Fame. In addition to those inductees a further five were inducted at the inaugural Hall of Fame dinner on 17 March 2005; these were:

A further five were inducted at the Hall of Fame dinner on 29 March 2006; these were:

A further five were inducted at the Hall of Fame dinner on 20 March 2007; these were:

A further six were inducted at the Hall of Fame dinner in 2008; these were:

A further four were inducted in 2009:[10]


The Tigers have had several 'Home game grounds' used in the club's history; the club spent a majority of the early days at Birchgrove Oval (1908 - 1933, and in 1942), with short stints at Wentworth Park (1930) and at Drummoyne Oval (1932 - 1933) in that time.

In 1934, they moved to Leichhardt Oval, where they majority played until they merged with the Western Suburbs Magpies at the end of the 1999 season. In this time, they had short stints at Sydney Showground (1971 - 1972) and Parramatta Stadium (1995 - 1996).

The clubs' existing lower grade sides play home games at Leichhardt Oval and TG Milner Sportsground in Marsfield.

Here is a list of their grounds used as their primary use in first grade:



Biggest win

Worst defeat


Most appearances

Most tries in a match

Most tries in a season

Most tries for club

Most goals in a match

Most goals in a season

Most Goals For Club

Most points in a match

Most points in a season

Most points for club

Award winners

Major sponsors[edit]

  • Camperford (1977)
  • Avis (1978–1980)
  • Sharp (1981–1982)
  • Saxonvale Wines (1983–1985)
  • Alpha Micro Computers (1986–1987)
  • Philips (1988–1993)
  • MLC mobiles (1994–1995)
  • Meriton Apartments (1997–1999)

Notable fans[edit]

Balmain Tigers District Junior Rugby League[edit]

The Balmain Tigers District Junior Rugby League is one of the oldest Junior Rugby League Competitions in Australia, it administers an affiliation of junior rugby league clubs in the inner west and inner north west of Sydney.

The league caters for age groups from under 6's to A Grade (opens); the Senior competition (Under 13's - A Grade) is a combined inner Sydney competition with the St. George, South Sydney & Eastern Suburbs District Junior Rugby League; the Under 6's to Under 8's is a non-competitive competition. The Under 9's to Under 12's play in a modified competition.

As of 2009 there were ten clubs in the Balmain Tigers Junior Rugby League, with over 120 teams; these clubs are;

  • Balmain PCYC (formerly known as Balmain Police Boys)
  • Carlingford Cougars (formerly known as St Gerards Carlingford)
  • Concord-Burwood United Wolves (merger of Burwood Utd & Concord Utd in the 1990s, former Western Suburbs junior clubs)
  • Dundas Shamrocks Junior Rugby League Football Club (formerly known as St Patricks Dundas)
  • Five Dock RSL Dockers (former Western Suburbs junior club)
  • Holy Cross Rhinos (Ryde)
  • Leichhardt Juniors
  • Leichhardt Wanderers (known as Leichhardt Gladstone until the 1930s) who are the oldest continuously running junior league team in Australia - having fielded at least one team every year since 1913.
  • North Ryde Hawks
  • Strathfield Raiders
  • West Ryde-Denistone Stones
  • Enfield Federals (joined 2010, former Western Suburbs junior club)

Some extinct clubs that once played in the Balmain District junior competition include;

  • Drummoyne Sports (until the 1990s)
  • Balmain Waratahs (until the 1990s)
  • Ermington-Rydalmere (until the 1990s)
  • Glebe Police Boys (until the 1990s)
  • Balmain United (until the 1990s)
  • Cricketers Arms (until the 1990s - Darling St, Balmain - now known as Monkey Bar)
  • Sackville Sharks
  • Ryde District Devils (until the 1980s)
  • Birchgrove Scorpions (until the 1980s)
  • Gladesville Sports (until the 1980s)
  • West Ryde-Dundas
  • Rozelle Codocks (until the 1970s)
  • Pyrmont Colts (until the 1970s)
  • Glebe Shamrocks (aka St James Sports Club - until the 1970s)
  • Ryde CYO (until the 1970s)
  • Carlingford CYO (until the 1970s)
  • Balmain Arlines (until the 1970s)
  • Glebe Youth
  • Bing & Swing (Glebe, former Glebe district junior team - folded in 1930)
  • Balmain Iona (aka Rozelle Iona)
  • Drummoyne Rovers (1920s)
  • Rozelle Fernleigh (1920s)
  • Marist College Eastwood

Some notable Balmain juniors include;

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tony Collins (2006). Rugby's Great Split: Class, Culture and the Origins of Rugby League Football (2nd ed.). UK: Routledge. p. 173. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  2. ^ Coady, Ben (28 September 2009). "Grand final dramas". WA Today. Australia: Fairfax Digital. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  3. ^ Clarkson, Alan (6 August 1985). "League's popularity grows with boost in crowds". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia: John Fairfax and Sons Ltd. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
  4. ^ MacDonald, John (29 June 1988). "Tigers sign Hanley for last Rounds". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  5. ^ Hadfield, Dave (12 December 1996). "Hetherington signs three players from Eagles". The Independent. UK: Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  6. ^ "Foundation club Balmain Tigers in danger of folding".
  7. ^ "Balmain Leagues Club in financial strife with Wests Ashfield urged to take over Wests Tigers joint venture".
  8. ^ "Tigers Five Dock closed by administrators, with venue 'not viable' enough to continue". Daily Telegraph.
  9. ^ AAP (1 May 2003). "Balmain team of the century". Sydney: CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 20 November 2009.[dead link]
  10. ^ Tigers Hall of Fame Inductees Archived 1 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine at
  11. ^ Goodwin, Dorothy (26 September 1982). "Eels Premier Tip". League Souvenir. Sun-Herald, The. Retrieved 27 September 2009.[dead link]
  12. ^ Warren Ryan (30 August 1989). "Why the Tigers won't be talking after Thursday". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney: John Fairfax Group. p. 76. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  13. ^ "Balls and whistles" 6 December 2005 The Sydney Morning Herald
  14. ^ Chesterton, Ray (27 July 2007). "Remembering Laurie Nichols". Daily Telegraph (Sydney). Sydney. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
  15. ^ "Balls and whistles" 6 December 2005 The Sydney Morning Herald

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]