1924 NSWRFL Premiership Final (lost radio coverage of rugby league game; 1924)
The 1924 NSWRFL Premiership Final culminated the 1924 New South Wales Rugby Football League Premiership season. Occurring on 29th July at the Sydney Cricket Ground with about 15,000 in attendance, Balmain edged out South Sydney 3-0 courtesy of a lone try by Reg Latta, claiming its sixth Premiership title in the process. The game is historic from a radio perspective, as 2SB's broadcast meant it became the first rugby league game to receive live radio coverage.
Balmain and the South Sydney were in close competition throughout the season. Both sides only lost one game each; in Round 2, Sydney lost 8-6 to Glebe. Two rounds later, the Tigers were bested by Eastern Suburbs 15-2. The sides recorded a 10-10 against each other on 14th June in Round 5. With both sides, therefore, finishing with a 6-1-1 record, the Premiership Final was expected to be a hard-fought contest. Balmain was seeking its first crown since 1920, while Sydney aimed to redeem themselves after losing the 1923 edition to Eastern Suburbs and thus end a six-year itch. Heading to the clash, both sides were fielding several reserve-grade players, many of whom were competing in their own league. South Sydney won said league with a 100% winning record.
The match was occurring in the fledgling years of Australian radio. Two years beforehand, live coverage of cricket matches commenced and other sporting events like the Grand National Steeplechase soon followed. Naturally, experiments on rugby league games arose. As the game was to take place in Sydney, local radio station 2SB decided to cover it. Fulfilling commentary duties was Bob Savage, Balmain's secretary at the time. Due to the low quality of radio recordings back then, Savage regularly remarked that listeners may have heard the result as 33-0 in Balmain's favour. Nevertheless, the 1924 NSWRFL Premiership Final became the inaugural rugby league game to be broadcast live on radio. Soon, radio broadcasts of rugby league and rugby union games would commence in South Africa and New Zealand. In the United Kingdom, the 1927 Challenge Cup Final was the first rugby league match covered by British radio. Despite a head start in radio broadcasting, Australia's first televised game did not occur until 15th April 1961, which featured Balmain against the North Sydney Bears. In contrast, the BBC inaugural broadcast occurred with the 1948 Challenge Cup Final.
Taking place on 29th July, around 15,000 were reported to have attended at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with an equal split of Balmain and South Sydney fans. It immediately became clear the game would be decided by the teams' defensive might, with brutal tackles becoming commonplace. Ultimately, only one chink in Sydney's armour was found, allowing Reg Latta to score a try in the first half. Balmain appeared seemingly impenetrable as the team nullified numerous back-division attacks from Sydney. As the interval approached, Sydney became the first side not to score in the first half of a Premiership Final. However, Balmain were weakened when Norm Robinson picked up a shoulder injury, affecting him for the rest of the game.
Both sides were counting on their backs with the game clearly up for grabs. With only moments remaining, Sydney captain Harold Horder broke through the Balmain defence and passed the ball to wing three-quarter Benny Wearing. Ultimately, Wearing fumbled the ball, ending the play just as full-time was signified. Balmain won 3-0 in what remains the lowest-scoring Premiership Final, with Sydney becoming the first team to fail to score throughout a Final. The Tigers claimed their sixth Premiership title, all of which were earned in a ten-year timespan. It would not be until 1939 that Balmain won another title, with the Tigers also becoming champions in the 1944, 1946, 1947, and finally the 1969 Premiership seasons. Since 2000, the Tigers have forged a joint venture with the Western Suburbs Magpies, creating the West Tigers. While the 1924 defeat was a setback, Sydney soon became the dominant team in the league, winning all but one title between 1925 to 1932. Two other great runs occurred between 1950-1955 and 1967-1971, with the Rabbitohs' 21st and as of 2022, last, victory coming in 2014.
The Final received live radio coverage during an era where only exceptional cases were recorded. Recordings of outside sports broadcast recordings were especially out of the question during this era, as the few means of preserving output were too impractical. Ultimately, none of the radio coverage is believed to have survived, with very few radio recordings from 1924 in general being preserved. No footage of the Final is known to exist, though South Sydney's opening 13-5 victory over Western Suburbs was partially preserved via a newsreel.
- 1927 Challenge Cup Final (lost radio coverage of rugby league game; 1927)
- 1948 Challenge Cup Final (partially found footage of rugby league game; 1948)
- 1954 Rugby League World Cup Final (partially found footage of international rugby league game; 1954)
- Christchurch vs High School Old Boys (lost radio coverage of charity rugby game; 1926)
- England 11-9 Wales (lost radio coverage of Five Nations Championship game; 1927)
- England 16-21 Scotland (partially found footage of Home Nations Championship game; 1938)
- Great Britain 20-19 New Zealand (partially found footage of international rugby league game; 1951)
- North Sydney Bears 19-21 Balmain Tigers (lost footage of NSWRFL Premiership season game; 1961)
- Scotland 21-13 England (lost radio coverage of Five Nations Championship game; 1927)
- AFL Tables detailing the 1924 NSWRFL Premiership season. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- National Film and Sound Archive of Australia summarising the season and noting the Final was the first ever rugby league game to receive radio coverage. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- NRL listing the Premiership winners. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- 2nd August 1924 issue of The Rugby League News providing a match report. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- Radio Sports Broadcasting documenting early sports radio broadcasts in Australia, including the Final. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- BBC Radio and Sport documenting early rugby radio history, including the Final and subsequent broadcasts internationally. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- NRL summarising the first radio broadcast of a rugby league game. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- ABC summarising 2BS/2BL radio. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- 22nd April 1961 issue of The Rugby League News summarising Savage's comments on the broadcast and noting the inaugural television coverage also featuring Balmain. Retrieved 17th Sep '23
- Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain noting the 1927 Challenge Cup Final was the first to receive radio coverage in Britain. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- NRL summarising the first televised rugby league game in Australia. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- Archived RFL noting the 1948 Challenge Cup Final was the first to be televised. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- Rugby League Project detailing the result of the game and other statistics. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- West Tigers Podcast summarising the West Tigers' history. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- Rabbitohs summarising its history. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- Documenting Early Radio listing just three examples of preserved radio recordings from 1924. Retrieved 15th Sep '23
- Ngā Taonga noting most early-1920s airings were never recorded because of the impracticality involved. Retrieved 15th Sep '23