Group 10 1960s grand finals: When Oberon conquered the Central West

The 1966 Oberon Tigers winning side.
The 1966 Oberon Tigers winning side.

WHILE St George were creating their own dynasty in the NSWRL, the Oberon Tigers were building a winning streak that would go unmatched in Country Rugby League. 

From 1960 to 1969, Oberon featured in every single grand final, winning eight of them. And in the grand finals they won, the opposition rarely got close.

In all, Oberon would win all but one grand final between 1961 and 1971, adding an 11th title in 1975, their last Group 10 major honour and their last grand final appearance before their heartbreaking loss in 2017 to Orange CYMS. 

1960: Lithgow Workies 12−11 Oberon Tigers

A win for Lithgow Workies made it the third Lithgow-based side to win a Group 10 premiership since 1950, following the success of East Diggers and Small Arms Factory.

Oberon's loss, however, was followed by seven premierships in a row for the Tigers.

In terms of the game, it was played hard, but was exceptionally clean and injuries were minimal.

After being down 9−7 at half-time, Workmen's Club staged a second half rally to just get home 12−11.

Workmen's Club lost the scrums 23−10, but won the penalty count 13−7.

Don Elwin was right on the beam with his goal-kicking and, at one stage, it appeared he would win the match for Oberon.

But his shots at goal were kept at a minimum by the Lithgow side, who fully realised the power of his kicking boot.

1961: Oberon Tigers 22−7 Lithgow Workies

Oberon gained their revenge for the previous year's loss to Workmen's Club as the Tigers scored their first premiership in Group 10 at the Bathurst Sportsground.

At no stage of the match did Oberon lose the initiative and they proved superior in all departments.

Star of the match was Oberon captain-coach Tony Paskins, who set the pattern of play and initiated most of the winning side's scoring movements. 

Paskins featured prominently in the three-quarter line and, at one stage, left his position as fullback to run with the forward division. When winger Brian Harvey went in for his try, Paskins had acted as dummy-half for Vince Everingham, when the latter brought the ball from his own 25, with a cross field run of more than 60 yards. 

Everingham played one of his best games, outplaying the Workmen's Club centres Barry Rushworth and Jim Schram. 

1962: Oberon Tigers 14−7 Lithgow Workies

Oberon made it back-to-back titles when the Tigers held off Lithgow Workies at Orange's Wade Park.

The Tigers led 8−7 at half-time before keeping the Lithgow club scoreless in the second to prevail 14−7.

Oberon quickly ran to an early 3−0 lead in the game and, from that point, never looked back.

It was only the second year of the Tigers' celebrated streak, but the Lithgow Mercury journalist who watched the game must have known there was something special about the Oberon side.

"The club has set a standard of rugby league that will take a lot of beating," the journalist wrote in the Mercury on October 1, 1962.

Oberon finished the season with only two losses, each by a single point, to Lithgow Workies (7−6) and Bathurst St Pat's (12−11). 

OBERON TIGERS 14 (Everingham, Harvey, Brien, Glendenning tries; D Elwin goal) defeated LITHGOW WORKIES 7 (Briggs try, Smith 2 goals)

The 1963 Oberon Tigers team that were Group 10 premiers.

The 1963 Oberon Tigers team that were Group 10 premiers.

1963: Oberon Tigers 23−2 Lithgow Workies

A crowd estimated at 6500 packed into the Bathurst Sportsground to see Oberon take home a third consecutive premiership as they defeated Lithgow Workmen's Club 23−2.

Oberon's win - after the Tigers led 13−2 at half-time - was far more convincing than in the two previous grand final encounters between the sides in 1961 and 1962.

Oberon scored five tries and goal kicker Don Elwin landed four goals.

Lithgow's only points were scored midway through the first half when fullback Peter Thompson landed a penalty goal.

The crowd paid £990/13/3 at the gate, only £25 less than the record of £1015/14/6 set in Bathurst in 1961. 

OBERON TIGERS 23 (Rawlings, Fawcett, Brown, Richards, Grady tries; Elwin 4 goals) defeated LITHGOW WORKIES 2 (Thompson goal)

1964: Oberon Tigers 30−2 Lithgow Workies

The all-conquering Oberon Tigers made Group 10 history in 1964 when they not only became the first team to win four consecutive titles, but also claimed the historic Clayton Cup trophy. They would become the last Group 10 team to date to win the cup.

A crowd, estimated at more than 4000, paid £810/3/- to see the match.

Oberon hit the front a few minutes after kick-off when the ever reliable Don Elwin landed a penalty goal.

A few minutes before half-time, the breakthrough came when winger Gordon Rawlings scored a splendid try after five-eight Jock Schrader made the initial opening.

The opening of the second session saw the wearers of the black and gold assert their superiority through two quick tries from Rawlings and Brian Harvey and the match began to drift away midway through the second half as Oberon dominated play.

Workmen's Club never held the initiative.

Lithgow tackled well in the first half, but found the Oberon vanguard and the darting thrusts of the opposition three-quarters beyond them.

The 1965 Group 10 grand final line-up.

The 1965 Group 10 grand final line-up.

1965: Oberon Tigers 29−5 Lithgow Workies

Workmen's Club were runners-up for the fifth consecutive year and, once again, didn't even get close to the red-hot Tigers side.

Both sides were rated an even chance of taking out the premiership before the match, so the winning margin was unexpected.

A deciding factor was the possession, with Oberon winning the scrums 14−7.

On the occasions that Lithgow did gain possession, mishandling lost them the advantage. The match was played in oppressive heat and, at one stage during the match, the temperature rose to 30 degrees. A stiff northeasterly breeze favoured neither side. 

How the teams finished in the 1965 season.

How the teams finished in the 1965 season.

Lithgow's young players John Baker, Ray Thompson, Merv Hawken and John Fisher played well, but the experience of their opponents Jock Schrader, Trevor Grady and Ken Nicholls told in the latter stages of the match. 

The highlights of the match were the outstanding goal kicking from Oberon's Don Elwin and fullback Bill Fawcett's 75-yard try.

1966: Oberon Tigers 23−10 Bathurst Charlestons

Another grand final, another Oberon win.

The Tigers defeated Bathurst Charlestons at the Bathurst Sportsground to claim their sixth successive Group 10 premiership.

A report from the Lithgow Mercury in September described the Tigers as playing "scintillating football".

Some of the faces from the 1966 Bathurst Charlestons team.

Some of the faces from the 1966 Bathurst Charlestons team.

A large crowd, which included talent scouts from Eastern Suburbs and Penrith, paid $1722 in admission.

The Mercury's report described the scoring by the clock:

  • 5': Oberon captain Norm Brown scores first try. Garry Harvey misses conversion - OBERON 3−0
  • 15': John Medway crosses for Charlestons. Ken Nicholls fails with conversion attempt - TIED 3−3
  • 25': Gordon Rawlings misses penalty kick at goal for Oberon - TIED 3−3
  • 28': Nicholls scores Oberon's second try. Brown converts - OBERON 8−3
  • 45': Trevor Grady crosses for Oberon. Brown adds extras - OBERON 13−3
  • 50': Brian Harvey scores for Oberon, Garry Harvey converts - OBERON 18−3
  • 58': Brown kicks goal for Oberon - OBERON 20−3
  • 60': Bernie Ovington kicks penalty goal for Charlestons - OBERON 20−5
  • 70': John Harvey scores try for Oberon - OBERON 23−5
  • 77': Alf Rich scores for Charlestons, Ovington converts - OBERON 23−10

1967: Oberon Tigers 23−2 Bathurst Charlestons

Sparkling football in the second half gave Oberon their seventh consecutive Group 10 grand final win at the Bathurst Sportsground in front of a crowd of more than 4000.

According to the Lithgow Mercury report from September 18, 1966, Charlestons played admirably through their forwards in the first half and seemed to have a great chance of causing a major upset.

The first half points all came from penalty goals, three by Oberon's Garry Harvey and one from Charlestons' Bill Negus.

Harvey landed seven goals from 10 attempts all up.

Oberon were in full cry 30 seconds after the half-time break. A magnificent try by five-eight and captain Jock Schrader was the first of three tries the Tigers scored on their way to victory.

Schrader was the mastermind, his clever manoeuvring dazzling Charlestons and often leaving them flatfooted. He dominated the game with his intelligent distribution and kicks.

Veteran Oberon hooker Col Elwin dished out a banquet of the ball to the eager hands of his speedy backline and his complete dominance of the scrums 23−4 in the second half was a deciding issue.

Charlestons fullback Bill Negus had an outstanding game, combining some faultless handling with regular solo bursts which always gained territory for the red and blacks. 

Halfback Johnny Medway was only slightly overshadowed by Negus and Charlestons' usually fiery forwards met blunt rebukes from their Oberon opposites.

The crowd paid $1590 at the gate.

A match program from the 1968 Group 10 grand final.

A match program from the 1968 Group 10 grand final.

1968: Bathurst St Pat's 9−8 Oberon Tigers

Oberon's premiership dynasty came to an end in a one-point defeat at the hands of a resilient St Pat's outfit.

More than 6000 people saw St Pat's claim their maiden premiership after the hosts led 4−2 at halftime at the Bathurst Sportsground. 

In the lead-up to the grand final, St Pat's coach Bill Horder said that "youth and spirit would prevail" and it did.

His side had a big advantage in youth and the spirit they displayed when under the full pressure of Oberon in attack was admirable.

Oberon's failing was the inability to get possession as the Tigers were outplayed in the scrums by St Pat's.

The scrums were won methodically by St Pat's captain Jack Arrow. Although his opposite Bill Brien got at least a fair share, Arrow won the margin 22−15.

Arrow was without question the man who launched St Pat's along the victory trail, his team holding the ball for long periods of time and making the Tigers scrounge for the ball in tackles to feed a generally starved backline.

Oberon's pack, which over the years had paved the way, met a match in the younger St Pat's combination. Rallying with Arrow, young heavyweight Peter Murphy, rangy Roger Crabtree and the youthful players John Willoughby and Dave Edwards played tirelessly.

Garry Knight had to retire hurt after 20 minutes.

St Pat's scored one try to the Tigers' two, but the Bathurst's team goal kicking got them across the line, scoring three to Oberon's one.

1969: Oberon Tigers 7−3 Orange Ex-Services

Oberon were lucky to qualify for the finals, let alone the decider in 1969.

According to Wendy Casey's book Tiger Territory: The History of Oberon Rugby League, there was an interesting set of circumstances in the competition's final round before the finals.

The result of the final match between Shamrocks and Railway was crucial for Oberon. If Shamrocks won it would have ended the team's hopes of reaching the finals and Oberon hadn't missed a final since entering Group 10. Shamrocks were confident of defeating Railway as they had defeated them 40−3 in the first round. Oberon was concerned the Bathurst team wouldn't put their best into the game because they had no hope of reaching the finals, so they offered Railway a $100 incentive. A Railway win would mean a CYMS-Oberon play-off for fourth place. Fortunately for Oberon, Railway defeated Shamrocks 20−7.

Under the rules of the day, Oberon were required to play off against Orange CYMS for fourth spot, as teams that finished level on points were not separated by points differential. 

Oberon defeated CYMS in the play-off, then Workmen's Club in the semi-final and then Cowra in the preliminary final to qualify for an incredible 10th consecutive grand final.

They were up against minor premiers Orange Ex-Services and the conditions were quite unique.

The decider was played in a snowstorm at the Bathurst Sportsground and, at times, it was impossible to tell players apart. 

The Orange forwards were completely outplayed by the more experienced Oberon side.

John Brien out-hooked Ex-Services' George Jones 24−19 and Gary Harvey had an outstanding game for the Tigers.

Brian Harvey and Paul Casey outplayed their opposing wingers, while Jock Schrader inspired his team with his courage, going into the game with a knee injury but virtually out-kicking Ex-Services.

Gil Schrader played well until he suffered an eye injury and had to be taken from the field, while Bill Fawcett scored a fantastic individual try which Norm Brown converted. Jock Schrader kicked a field goal as well. 

Oberon Tigers president Ross Baldwin said it was "one of the most inspired" wins Oberon had had for years. 

The 1960s grand final results in summary:

  • 1960: Lithgow Workies 12−11 Oberon Tigers
  • 1961: Oberon Tigers 22−7 Lithgow Workies
  • 1962: Oberon Tigers 14−7 Lithgow Workies
  • 1963: Oberon Tigers 23−2 Lithgow Workies
  • 1964: Oberon Tigers 30−2 Lithgow Workies
  • 1965: Oberon Tigers 29−5 Lithgow Workies
  • 1966: Oberon Tigers 23−10 Bathurst Charlestons
  • 1967: Oberon Tigers 23−2 Bathurst Charlestons
  • 1968: Bathurst St Pat's 9−8 Oberon Tigers
  • 1969: Oberon Tigers 7−3 Orange Ex-Services​