Tuesday 29 March 2022

Rugby League History: The 1982 Newtown Jets

Rugby League History - Published March 29, 2022 

📷 The '82 Newtown Jets entered the newly minted Winfield Cup era with high hopes.
After being beaten by Parramatta in the '81 decider, the Jets would never have dreamed their start to the '82 campaign could possibly be as bad as it was.
They opened the '82 season against the team they'd beaten in the '81 Preliminary Final, Eastern Suburbs, and were edged out 11-5 at Henson Park. They were then held scoreless at Redfern v Souths (a 30-0 shellacking) and Lidcombe v Western Suburbs (18-0) to languish in 14th spot with no wins and just 5 points for scored in the opening 3 rounds.
Things improved in Round 4 when they defeated North Sydney 18-2 back at Henson Park, before the fabled 0-0 draw v Canterbury (again at Henson) etched the Blue Baggers into history as part of the only scoreless game in Premiership history.
But as you can see above, they'd got some practice in ahead of time as the Round 5 stalemate was the 3rd time in 5 games they'd failed to trouble the scorers.
The Jets added another low point to the season in Round 8, when one of the new kids on the block in '82 the Canberra Raiders, won their first ever premiership game 12-11 over Newtown at Seiffert Oval. This loss was sandwiched by defeats to eventual Grand Finalists Manly and Parramatta. 
So by the end of Round 9 the Jets were sitting in 12th spot with just 2 wins and a draw (propped up from the cellar by Canberra and fellow newcomer Illawarra) and a return to the Finals looked a forlorn hope at best.
But Round 10 and a visit from Illawarra to Henson saw the Jets emerge from their point-scoring slumber with a thumping 51-0 win over the Steelers. John Ferguson, Phil Sigsworth and Jim Walters all crossing for doubles and Ken Wilson kicking 10 from 11 goals, a field goal and a try for a personal tally of 24 points (tries were worth 3 points in '82).
This win was followed by victories in 6 of the next 8 rounds and the Jets were quietly moving back up the ladder and by Round 17 were just 2 points off the Top 5 with 8 wins, 8 losses and a draw... could they salvage a season that started horribly and get back into the Semis?
Unfortunately the next 3 rounds put pay to their realistic chances, picking up just a draw (again v Canterbury - this time 12-all) from the available 6 points, and when they hosted one of the Premiership's front-runners Manly-Warringah at Henson in Round 21 they were 6 points off the pace in 10th spot.
Newtown upset the fancied Sea Eagles 16-13, and got a sniff of September. 
They then beat Canberra 42-5 in the revenge match at Henson to get to 8th spot but were still 6 points off Wests in 5th spot and simply had to beat league-leaders Parramatta in Round 23 at Belmore... but a 36-0 humbling by the eventual Premiers killed off their Semi Final hopes once and for all and saw them held off the scoreboard for the 4th time in '82.
Newtown did however still have a meaningful game to play after the Parramatta loss - with the Jets having qualified for the Final of the '82 KB Cup mid-week comp (they advanced past Souths in the Semi Final a few days before the Parramatta game) to be played on August 11 against Manly-Warringah at Leichhardt Oval.
Despite going down to the Sea Eagles in the Final 23-8, the Jets had given their loyal supporters one final Cup ride to enjoy - having beaten Canterbury 25-5 in Round 1, thrashed QLD Country 43-2 in Round 2, then knocking out Cronulla 7-2 in the Quarter Finals and then scraping past Souths on the penalty count-back 8-all draw in the Semi Final.
And as you can see, Tommy Raudonikis was sporting a magnificent 80s beard for the Cup run.
The Jets didn't phone in the last 3 weeks though, beating Illawarra 15-12, Balmain 30-8 and Penrith 40-12 (Chicka Ferguson scored 4 tries) to finish in 7th spot with 13 wins, 11 losses and 2 draw and 28 points - 4 points behind Easts and Wests who finished on 32 points in 4th and 5th respectively.
Despite their inability to score points early in the '82 season, the Jets under Warren Ryan (his last year at Newtown) still managed to have the 3rd best defence in the comp - conceding just 309 points in 26 games. They were far better at home than on the road, winning 9 of their 13 games in front of an average of just under 5,000 fans at each game at Henson Park.
Chicka Ferguson led the tryscoring tally with 15, and Ken Wilson scored the most points with 139.
Sadly for the Jets, '82 would be the last competitive year for the club, before faltering badly in the '83 season to finish 13th and being removed from the First Grade competition for the '84 season.
The full 36 man squad used by the '82 Newtown Jets:
P Akkary, R Blacklock, S Blyth, S Bowden, M Bugden, G Byron, J Crow, B Cummins, C Doyle, C Ellis, G Ellis, J Emirian, J Ferguson, P Gould (yep, Gus), M Graham, B Grech, P Kelly, D Lance, A McMahon, J Mackay, L Mara, P Morris, C Murphy, W Newling, M O'Brien, G O'Grady, M Oliveira, M Pitman, M Pobjie, T Raudonikis, M Ryan, P Sigsworth, R Sigsworth, Howmuchareapacketof Sigsworth, J Standen, J Walters, K Wilson.
Coach: W Ryan.
As for how the Finals Series of the '82 Winfield Cup played out?
Parramatta and Manly would meet in the Grand Final, with the Eels securing back to back Premierships.
Huge shoutout to Rugby League Project for their fantastic resource, making this recap possible.
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