Match report of the brutal St George, Souths finals game in 1984

Flashback to the brutal 1984 finals match between St George and South Sydney and a brawl that was to change attitudes to violence in rugby league.

This article was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday, September 10, 1984


By Alan Clarkson

Four minutes of brilliant football by St George ended the 1984 fairytale of the South Sydney Rugby League team at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday.

That period of play in the match put St George into next Sunday's final against the loser of today's semi-final between Canterbury-Bankstown and Parramatta.

From The Sydney Morning Herald, September 10, 1984. The match report of the finals match between St George and South Sydney that included a brutal brawl in the fourth minute that lasted more than three minutes.

Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

Down 6-4 at halftime, Saints unleashed their power and pace to score 18 points in 14 minutes, including two converted tries in four minutes that scuttled the Rabbitohs.

Saints finished with four tries to none and, on their second half performance, will take a lot of stopping next Sunday.

The two tries, the first by fullback Brian Johnson and the second by brilliant winger Steve Morris after an 80-metre run, ended whatever chance Souths had of winning.

The season's biggest crowd of 32,162 saw an ugly brawl explode in the fourth minute of the match and last for more than three minutes.

It was a disgraceful display of the ugly side of Rugby League. The crowd hooted the players who traded punches, kneed, and kept the brawl going until it spilled over the sideline and then ignited on the other side of the field.

What happened out there, with three players on to one in some instances, was thuggery

St George secretary John Fleming

It began when a scrum blew up. It was not unexpected because the two teams, bitter rivals in the past, were geared for an early show of strength.

The crowd did not like what they saw. They hooted and jeered when the odds appeared to be one-sided in several of the pockets of brawling.

St George secretary John Fleming was tight-lipped about the incident after the match but he did say that he does not mind a player having a toe-to-toe confrontation with another player.

"But what happened out there, with three players on to one in some instances, was thuggery" a white-faced Mr Fleming said.

When the brawl exploded, players swapped punches, kneed, and some rolled around on the ground. Play went on across to the other side of the field until there was a tackle - and that was the signal for another brawl.

Saints' prop Craig Young finished with a bad gash on his lip that needed stitches.

"While they are hitting me I suppose they are laying off someone else," Young said after the match with what passed as a grin.

"I don't mind a one-out situation, but that was weak what happened out there with two or three of their players on to one of ours.

"Three of their blokes had Chris Walsh down on the ground and you really haven't got to be a hero to be involved in something like that."

After the match St George coach Roy Masters made the very valid point that it was obvious spectators do not appreciate brawling.

"It is a myth - and it was proved today when the crowd hooted the players," Masters said.

St George were very impressive in winning, and the first to say this was Smiths' coach, Ron Willey. "You cannot argue with a four tries-to-nil score line," Willey said. "Whoever they play in the final will know they have been in a tough match."

Saints have obviously hit on the right playing formula with Steve Rogers at five-eighth, Brian Johnston in the centres, and Chris Walsh in the second-row.

The team showed their experience when they were not rattled after the brawling start but concentrated on football, with big Graeme Wynn bursting through to score the first try after 18 minutes.

Brawling in the Souths v St George match at the SCG on September 8, 1984.

Photo: Fairfax Media

The combination of pace and power wrecked Souths in the second half. Saints knew that they had to score quickly to gain the initiative and it took them only three minutes for Johnson to cross for a try.

Wynn again showed his danger to the defence when he ran on to a pass from Steve Rogers, went through a couple of attempted tackles, and then passed infield to the fullback who dashed over.

In attempting to regain the initiative, Souths poured on the pressure and on the sixth tackle fullback Bronco Djura put up a high bomb.

Johnson went high for the ball, took it magnificently, and then fired out a long pass to Morris, who scored the first of his two tries.

Morris, with his eyes flicking to the left to watch the cover, made it over the line but he was gloriously tackled by Souths' five-eighth, Neil Baker, who showed the South Sydney spirit by continuing to chase when it was a lost cause.

Ten minutes later Morris was over again from one of the best try-scoring movements of this season's premiership competition.

It was a glorious piece of teamwork, with eight players handling before Johnson gave the ball to the little winger.

Morris stepped off his right foot and cut inside two Souths defenders to touch down for his second try.

I cannot remember when I have seen Johnson have a better match.

He took the ball superbly and, put under tremendous pressure by the South Sydney kickers, handled the situation with calm authority. His running the ball up in attack posed many problems for Souths.

ST GEORGE 24 (S Morris 2, B Johnson, G Wynn tries; S Gearin 4 goals) bt SOUTH SYDNEY 6 (N Baker 2, M Ellison goals). CROWD: 32,162. REFEREE: S BARNES

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