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Schofield King’s Throwback Thursday: Eels Slip Away in Opening Final

Seeing as 2021 marks 40 years since our club’s remarkable charge to the 1981 NSWRFL Grand Final, this year Schofield King’s Throwback Thursday will focus exclusively on that season.

Each week we’ll revisit the fixture from the corresponding round in a series of articles that we hope will take our long-time fans on a fun journey down memory lane, while also educating our newer fans on our club’s illustrious history.


Major Preliminary Semi-Final

Newtown’s first taste of September football in eight years ended in disappointment after narrowly going down 10-8 to Parramatta.

The Jets battled hard and were tied 5-all with the Eels at halftime, however, superior goal kicking from Mick Cronin ultimately allowed Jack Gibson’s team to take the match. Replacement Ken Wilson had the chance to level the scores in the dying stages of the match, however the usually reliable kicker sprayed the relatively easy kick.

“I’m proud of what the boys did today,” Ryan said after the game. 

“They vindicated our place in the semi-finals . . . they showed we deserved to be here.”

As for Wilson, he vowed not to miss another sitter.

“I’m bloody sure it won’t happen again,” he said.

“It’s something I can’t explain . . .but it’s done and there’s no excuse.

“It’s over. I’m professional enough to know you can’t dwell on such things.”

It was an unlucky day all-round for the Blues, with Brian Hetherington denied a seemingly fair try after winning the race to a Phil Sigsworth bomb in the opening minute.

Newtown soon saw another chance evaporate before their eyes when Steve Ella managed to knock down a Sigsworth pass after the dashing fullback had created a three-on-one overlap down a narrow blind side. Despite their early dominance, the didn’t manage to get on the scoreboard until the17th minute when Phil Gould nailed a long range penalty goal

This lead was extended to 5-0 when Hetherington, Sigsworth and Gould combined to put Ray Blacklock in for the opening try, but Parramatta struck back almost immediately when Steve Ella set up a try for Peter Sterling. Cronin converted from in-front and at half-time the scores were level.

The second half didn’t get off to the best start for Newtown when Graeme Atkins scored after the Eels regathered a Sterling grubber that had ricocheted off Gould’s boot. Cronin was successful with the sideline conversion and suddenly the Jets were down 10-5.

Following this Atkins’ try, coach Warren Ryan made a significant tactical decision, replacing halfback Tommy Raudonikis with Wilson. This was particularly surprising considering there were still 20 minutes left to play.

Down but not out, the Jets returned serve in the 68th minute with a magical long-range try to Mick Ryan. After receiving the ball inside his 22, Hetherington evaded Parramatta’s Paul Younane and raced down the touchline before linking up with a flying Blacklock. The dashing winger then sprinted 20 metres before switching it to Sigsworth, who run 40 metres before passing inside to Ryan who touched down adjacent to the right upright.

This set up a grandstand finish and there is no doubt that the Eels blew a collective sigh of relief as they watched Wilson’s penalty attempt miss to the left of the posts.

The Jets were also controversially denied a penalty within kicking range in the final seconds of the game, when referee John Goucher waved play-on despite what looked like a blatant illegal ball steal in a tackle on Graeme O’Grady.

Parramatta 10 (G.Atkins, P.Sterling tries; M.Cronin 2 goals) def. Newtown 8 (R.Blacklock, M.Ryan tries; P.Gould goal)


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Tu’u Maori fires out a pass in a match between the Newtown Jets and Wentworthville at Henson Park in 2010. (Gary Sutherland Photography)

RIP Tu’u Maori

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Jets coach Warren Ryan presents Bill Noonan with a special award prior to his final appearance with Newtown at Henson Park on Sunday, 31st August 1980. (NSWRL photo).

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