Football Roundabouts: Bring Back The Balmain Tigers

Football Roundabouts: Bring Back The Balmain Tigers

Super League War Was More Than Just Storm In A Teacup

Victor P Taffa

The controversy that has engulfed rugby league surrounding the Melbourne Storm Football Club is in some ways back to the future for the code.

In 1908 the New South Wales Rugby Football League competition began as a break away from Rugby Union primarily so as players could be paid to play football.

Nine teams were launched in season 1908 with these being:

  • Balmain
  • Cumberland
  • Eastern Suburbs
  • Glebe
  • Newcastle
  • Newtown
  • North Sydney
  • South Sydney
  • Western Suburbs

The first round of matches was:

  • Balmain Vs Wests
  • Souths Vs Norths
  • Easts Vs Newtown
  • Glebe Vs Newcastle


The 1908 season concluded with the players under pressure not to play the new ‘breakaway’ game.

Season 1909:

Season 1909 is a season that should be remembered for two factors that is relevant in season 2010.

  • Newcastle did not rejoin the competition until 1988.
  • South Sydney won the premiership on forfeit.

Balmain Vs South Sydney:

According to “True Blue: The Story of the NSW Rugby League” by Ian Heads P.79 Balmain had refused to take the field in protest at the programming of the match. The representative matches would clash with the club matches and given the ‘split’ from Rugby Union it was not surprising that Balmain had felt aggrieved. South Sydney decided to ‘renege’ on the agreement and this would be the beginning of a fierce rivalry that would last for decades.

Season 1969:

Season 1969 will always be remembered for Balmain defeating South Sydney 11-2. To this day South Sydney players and supporters claim that Balmain players ‘lied down’ on the field in the Grand Final. The reality is that Balmain coach Leo Nosworthy and Captain Peter Provan had a game plan that simply outsmarted their opponents. The accusation of Balmain players ‘lying down’ was a poor excuse because whatever tactics Balmain employed effectively shut down the free flowing playing style of South Sydney that boasted a team of eleven international players out of thirteen.

Season 2010:

Following the NRL’s decision to strip Melbourne Storm Football Club of the 2007 and 2009 Premierships and given precedents used in legal cases and the 1909 Premiership Forfeit the fairest decision would be to award the 2007 and 2009 titles to Manly and Parramatta respectively.

South Sydney ‘reneged’ on an agreement in 1909 and similarly both Manly and Parramatta should be awarded the Premierships.

Some people have argued this case based on drug cheating in Olympic Games contests whereby the Silver medallist won the Gold medal when the Gold Medallist was disqualified for drug abuse.

Editor Victor P Taffa has followed the Balmain Tigers since the age of six years and would subsequently follow the Richmond, Glenelg and Claremont Tigers in the Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia Australian Rules Competitions. At the 1977 V.F.L. Grand Final North Melbourne defeated Collingwood in the Grand Final replay and in season 1978 Victor P Taffa began following Richmond Tigers. When attending the 1990 A.F.L. Grand Final between Collingwood and Essendon, Richmond held a ‘Save Our Skins’ S.O.S. campaign as the Club was in dire financial straits. Since 1990 Victor P Taffa has been a member of the Richmond Football Club.

When the ‘Super League’ war erupted and Rugby League clubs were forced to merge it would never be the same again. The passion for the game of Rugby League was diminished. Wests Tigers won the title in 2005 and while this was a great feat it was not as if Balmain Tigers had won their twelfth Premiership.

In contrast between the AFL and NRL on the Club mergers, the AFL learned in 1989 that football supporters who hold the game together would not support Club mergers. Members of Hawthorn and Melbourne Football Clubs rejected a merger deal and had Fitzroy not been in such financial debt that merger with Brisbane would never have eventuated.

The one message to come out of the mess that Rugby League finds itself is that Greed has overtaken the thinking of people and the supporters of the game are appalled at the actions of a few.

There are no winners in this Rugby League mess however if the NRL is to maintain credibility amongst the football public, the 2007 and 2009 Premierships should be awarded to Manly and Parramatta especially given the history of the 1909 Premiership between Balmain and South Sydney.