Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

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Canterbury-Bankstown Berries now the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 1976.

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are a professional rugby league football club based in Belmore. They compete in the National Rugby League (NRL) premiership, as well as New South Wales Rugby League junior competitions.

It is certain that pick-up matches, and unofficial games, were played in the Canterbury areas not long after the game started in Sydney in 1908. The first evidence of formulated Rugby League is provided by a photo of a 1909 team, believed to be the first Canterbury junior league side. The team was 'Campsie District Football Club – Juniors'. The inscription under the photo reads, “Winners of St George District B grade competition, Season 1909.” .[1]

Canterbury-Bankstown was accepted into the Sydney Rugby League competition in 1935.

In that first season, the Berries (as they were then known), won only two of the sixteen games and suffered humiliating losses, including 91-6 to St George (which still stands as the greatest score in first grade) and 86-7 to Eastern Suburbs.

In 1936, Canterbury lost only four matches in the Premiership, reaching the semi-finals. In that semi, played at Belmore, Easts won 25-13. That semi-final at Belmore is unique in Sydney Rugby League history, the only one played on the home ground of a competing team.

Two years later, the Berries won their first Premiership 19-6 against Easts, unbeaten in the two preceding seasons.

Canterbury's second Premiership success was on 12 September, 1942, when the forwards lead the way for an 11-9 victory over St George, in pouring rain. Balmain defeated Canterbury in the 1947 Grand Final. Twenty years later, in the 1967 preliminary final, the Bulldogs beat St George, who had ruled the Sydney Premiership or eleven straight seasons, but Canterbury finished as runner-up to South Sydney. In 1974, the club defeated Easts 19-17 in the minor semi-final but went down 19-4 to Eastern Suburbs in the grand Final.

In 1979, Canterbury just went down 17-13 to St George, after making Rugby League history by being the first club to reach the Grand Final from fifth position. Many regarded this 1979 achievement as a fluke, and at the start of the 1980 season, the Bulldogs were rated well down. However, Canterbury-Bankstown and Eastern Suburbs each won 15 competition matches, but Easts had a better points for and against record and became Minor Premiers. Easts had eaten Canterbury 20-5 in the first round, and 14-7 in the second round. Canterbury defeated Wests 22-17 in the major preliminary semi-final and Easts 13-7 in the major semi-final. In the final, Easts defeated Wests 41-5.

After 38 years, the drought was broken and Canterbury-Bankstown won the 1980 Sydney Rugby League Premiership. They had won the Premiership only twice before – in 1938 and 1942 although it was runner-up on five occasions - 1940, 19479 1967, 1974 and in 1979. Canterbury-Bankstown defeated Eastern Suburbs 18-4 in the 1980 Grand Final.

Before a crowd of 52,881 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Chris Anderson scored a try, and Steve Gearin scored the remaining points with a try and six goals (from six attempts). A try by Gearin in the 75th minute will go down as one of the greatest ever scored in a Grand Final.

To inspire the firsts, the reserves won their Premiership from 1980 Minor Premiers and 1979 Premiers Parramatta 18—16 after playing extra time, repeating wins in 1939,1971 and 1972. Parramatta had downed Canterbury 22-2 in 1979. Canterbury won the Third Grade Premiership in 1971, before it was replaced by the under-23 competition.

1980 was the second consecutive year that both firsts and reserves played in the Grand Final, and 1980 wins by both teams avenged the 1979 losses.

Sources

Madden, B. (1980). Bulldogs Win 1980 Premiership. Canterbury & District Historical Society Journal, Series 2, No. 1.