St George Dragons Rugby League History
1996, the Dragons heralded in their 75th season in the first
grade. Following a series of disastrous events off the field
and a mixed start to the year on the field (which included a
five match losing streak), the Dragons defied the odds to win
11 out of 12 matches prior to qualifying for the grand final.
Saints eventually went down to hot favourites Manly but were
far from disgrace, finishing the 1996 season as runners-up.
Steelers had another inconsistent year and this was well illustrated
in round 3 when they were crushed 54-4 by Brisbane but backed
up the following week to thrash Souths 56-14. Illawarra ended
their season in 14th position and nine points outside of the
top eight. Off the field, the Illawarra club had already rejected
the News Limited-backed 'Super League' and remained loyal to
the ARL. The club however, was by now experiencing financial
FUTURE IN DOUBT
MONTHS OF DRAMA AS SAINTS FIGHT TO SURVIVE,
RESULTING IN AN AMAZING SEASON ABOVE EXPECTATIONS...
SAINTS GO THROUGH ADMIN SHAKE UP
Following the abortive merger talks between Saints and Easts,
and the Save Our Saints-led supporter revolt in 1995,
a change of administration became inevitable with CEO Geoff
Carr being shown the door and departing at the end of
Popular former player Brian Johnston became the club's
"THE SMELL OF NEWTOWN" - COACH
In late 1995, Brian Smith announced that he will
be taking up a coaching job in the UK and will not be seeing
out his contract with St George. Although it was an amicable
decision, it was clear that Smith was influenced by the
uncertain Super League climate and how it would effect Saints'
In lamenting what he saw as the demise of Saints, Smith
was critical of a St George board which he believed had
become too conservative..
"It is tragic to see a team that went within a whisker
of winning the competition for two straight years being
decimated." Smith said.
"I think there is a real smell of Newtown to the place."
coincidentally began his coaching career in the lower grades
with Newtown only a few seasons before the club folded in
A former Saints player, Smith came to St George in 1991
after coaching Hull (UK) and Illawarra. He guided the Dragons
to two grand final appearances in 1992 and 1993.
Former St George forward Rod Reddy was named as
ANOTHER COACH GONE
NEW COACH REDDY QUITS
long after his appointment in late 1995, new coach Rod
Reddy abandoned Saints with little notice after he
was offered a position with the proposed Super League
franchise, the Adelaide Rams. In a parting shot, Reddy
claimed in the media that Saints would not last another
2-3 years - Reddy would later be sacked with the Rams'
demise in 1998.
Former Newcastle Knights coach David Waite is signed
as Dragons head coach for 1996.
PLAYERS LEAVE EN-MASSE
mass exodus of personnel continued to bring the very existence
of the Dragons into question. Matters
became worse in early 1996 when most of the playing squad
gave notice that they were now training with other clubs.
In almost every case, matters were quickly resolved and
players returned to the Dragons.
MAJOR SPONSOR GONE
PENFOLDS END LONG ASSOCIATION WITH ST GEORGE
To top it off, St George's long term jersey sponsor, Penfolds
Wines announced that they were withdrawing their support.
Newmans of Kogarah became the new jersey sponsor prior to
the 1996 season kicking off.
WAITE APPOINTED NEW COACH
am only going to address those thing I can control"
- David Waite
Newcastle Knights coach, David Waite has been appointed
coach of the Dragons. Aware that he was walking into a club
in turmoil, Waite proclaimed that he was 'only going to
address those things which he could control.'
Waite's first training session saw a dismal player turn
out. Captain Mark Coyne and Wayne Bartrim (pic
right) being amongst the handful of players that stood
by the club in the off season.
TALLIS REFUSES TO TRAIN AND LEAVES SYDNEY FOR BRISBANE
a year of Rugby League court appearances, St George began
proceedings against a number of players that breached their
contracts by training with other clubs. In almost every
case, matters were quickly resolved and players returned
to the Dragons. However, one player, Gorden Tallis refused
to front up to training and announced that he wanted to
join Super League protagonists, Brisbane. Tallis would ultimately
be forced to sit out the year in Queensland as Saints refused
to grant him a release from his contract.
TO THE RESCUE AS NEW JERSEY SPONSOR
Following the departure of Penfolds, motor car dealers Newmans
of Kogarah became the new jersey sponsor prior to the 1996
season kicking off. Newmans was firstly a sleeve sponsor
from 1991. Local businessman and owner of Newmans Motors,
Martin Newman, was by all reports a very proud St George
Newman took on the jersey sponsorship from 1996-1998 when
the club needed him most.
WINS FIRST COURT BATTLE AGAINST SUPERLEAGUE
23 February 1996: The Australian Rugby League
(ARL) and Super League (SL) took each to court as both sides
fought for control of the game. Justice Burchett found in
favour of the ARL, the administration that claimed a long
association with the game.
The News LTD backed
SL were claiming restriction of trade and lodged an appeal.
there were many emotion-charged issues, the main fight seemed
to be over advertising and broadcasting rights.
court decision came too late for the first round of the
1996 premiership with six 'breakaway' SL clubs (Brisbane,
Cronulla, Canterbury, Canberra, Penrith and the Western
Reds) all forfeiting their opening games.
Following the completion of the premiership
season, the game was back in court with the decision this
time going the way Super League. This paved the way for
a separate 1997 competition and a further escalation of
what had become known as the 'Super League War.'
FLIES TO BRISBANE
notice and without his manager, Saints five eighth Anthony
Mundine was flown up to Brisbane in 1996 for discussions
with Broncos' officials. He appeared on national television
with Brisbane coach, Wayne Bennett to announce that
he has signed a deal with the Super League franchise for
Tallis (left) presents Mundine with a cake as Bennett
(right) looks on.
(317 Kb) click on the speaker to hear David
of the most vulgar things I've seen in football..."
- St George coach David Waite
an extraordinary display, former St
George forward, Gorden Tallis emerged from a side
door and presented Mundine with a birthday cake.
Years later, Bennett reflected upon what was one of League's
more distasteful moments:
"The other great mistake we made - and we still
feel terrible about it to this day - was the parading him
in a Broncos jersey in the middle of the '96 season when
he was still under contract and playing for St George. It
was bad taste. We got it totally wrong that day."
- Wayne Bennett
Extract from The Man in the Mirror by Wayne Bennett (with
Steve Crawley), 2008.
1996: A SEASON
ST GEORGE v MANLY GRAND
Football Stadium, 29 September 1996: Competition front
runners, Manly have scored four tries to one and defeated
St George in the 1996 Grand Final. The turning point happened
just minutes before halftime when Manly fullback, Mathew
Ridge grubbered a short kick off, regathered the ball
and appeared to be tackled by Nathan Brown. However,
referee David Manson allowed play to continue and
a few moments later, Manly's Steven Menzies scored
under the posts. This gave Manly a half time lead of 14-2.
MANSON'S CRUCIAL DECISION
second half, Saints and Manly scored one converted try each
with winger Nick Zisti crossing the rarely breached Manly
Army 1996. Click on pic for larger image (488 Kbs)
ST GEORGE DRAGONS 8 (N Zisti try, W
Bartrim 2/2 goals)
MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES 20 (C Innes,
S Menzies, D Moore tries, M Ridge 3/3, C Innes 1/1goals)
Scrums: St George 8-7; Penalties: St George
7-6; Referee David Manson.
WHEN THEY SCORED 5min Manly 6-0 (Innes
try, Ridge goal) 17min Manly 8-0 (Ridge goal)
38min Manly 8-2 (Bartrim goal) 40min Manly
14-2 (Menzies try, Ridge goal) 54min Manly 20-2 (Moore try,
Innes goal) 61min Manly 20-8 (Zisti try, Bartrim goal)
ST GEORGE: Dean RAPER, Nick ZISTI,
Mark COYNE (c), Adrian BRUNKER, Mark BELL, Anthony MUNDINE,
Noel GOLDTHORPE, Wayne BARTRIM, Scott GOURLEY, Kevin CAMPION,
Luke FELSCH, Jeff HARDY, Troy STONE, INTERCHANGE: David
BARNHILL, Lance THOMPSON, Colin WARD, Nathan BROWN, COACH:
MANLY: Matthew RIDGE, Danny MOORE,
Craig INNES, Terry HILL, John HOPOATE, Nik KOSEF, Geoff
TOOVEY (c), Owen CUNNINGHAM, Daniel GARTNER, Steve MENZIES,
Mark CARROLL, Jim SEDARIS, David GILLESPIE, INTERCHANGE:
Cliff LYONS, Neil TIERNEY, Des HASLER, Craig HANCOCK, COACH:
8 in semis)
p = Season Premiers
| AFTER 22 ROUNDS
Points For 443
(6th best attack)
Points Against 360
(5th best defence)
Points For 89
Points Against 62
Points For 532
89t 87g 2fg
Points Against 422
70t 69g 4fg
| AFTER 22 ROUNDS
Points For 403
(9th best attack)
70t 61g 1fg
Points Against 444
(14th best defence)
77t 67g 2fg