FLASHBACK: March 1967

New Sydney rugby league club, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, budgeted to spend $73,000 in their first season, after being promoted from second division with the Penrith Panthers.

“That is the amount we need to field a respectable team,” said club secretary, Kevin McSweyn. “We expect that our campaign to make our weight felt in first grade will take five years.”

Cronulla also had committed to spending $110,000 on a grandstand and other facilities at the ground it was leasing from Sutherland Shire.

The Sharks most prominent players in their inaugural season were former St George star, Monty Porter and former Australian Commonwealth Games shot putt representative, Warren Ryan, the future ‘super coach’ at Newtown, Canterbury and Wests. Cronulla’s coach in 1967 was former dual rugby international, Ken ‘Killer’ Kearney.

The Sharks won three games and drew one, but also had the honor of producing the first ever Rothmans Gold Medal winner, halfback, Terry Hughes, who previously had played for Wentworthville, one of the prominent second division clubs to miss out when Cronulla and Penrith were promoted. Hughes had played alongside veteran former Great Britain five eighth, Welshman, Lewis Jones at ‘Wenty’.

As things transpired, Cronulla reached its first grand final in 1973, under captain-coach, Tommy Bishop, but did not win their first premiership until 2016.

In 1967 top Sydney players were earning over $200 a week. At least two solicitors were acting as agents for the top stars, vetting contracts, negotiating terms and advising players on investments.

In the top echelon of players were internationals, Johnny Raper, Reg Gasnier (St George) and the Thornett Brothers, Ken and Dick at Parramatta.

.Corbett Park in Brisbane hosted a series of trials at the start of March, with Brisbane Souths defeating Ipswich club, Booval Swifts 8-2, while Easts defeated Tweed Heads Seagulls 22-2 in a double header.

National Serviceman, Geoff Connell was outstanding for Easts – at five eighth – and would go on to play second row for Australia later in the season. Connell had played for Balmain in Sydney in 1966. Seagulls were best served by forward, Paddy Morgan and five eighth, Claude McDermott.

Four days later, Brothers defeated Wests 19-12 with Test five eighth, Johnny Gleeson in fine touch for the victors (Corbett Park was Brothers’ home ground).

Kev Lingard, who would late become a State parliamentarian, starred for Wests in the centres. Captain-coach, Barry Muir, the legendary Test halfback, made intelligent use of the grubber kick to confuse Brothers’ defence as teams tried to come to terms with the four tackle rule, which had replaced the unlimited tackle rule.

Redcliffe captain-coach, John Treeby scored two tries in the Dolphins’ 8-7 win over Wynnum-Manly at Wynnum. But the player to catch the eye was Redcliffe centre, Doc Kavanagh, a Caboolture product, who bamboozled Wynnum rivals with his incisive running.


Terry Hughes

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