- Australian Rugby League season 1996
Infobox rugby league season
year = 1996
competition = Australian Rugby League
imagesize = 100%
teams = 20
count = 6th
minor premiers =
mpcount = 9th
matches = 223
points = 8547
attendance = 2743516
top points scorer = (238)
top try scorer = (21)The
Australian Rugby League's 1996premiership was the 89th season of professional rugby league footballin Australia, and the second to be run by the Australian Rugby League (ARL). Twenty teams contested during the season for the OptusCup trophy, including five Sydney-based foundation teams, another six from Sydney, two from greater New South Wales, four from Queensland, and one from New Zealand, the Australian Capital Territoryand Western Australia.
Super League warin full effect off the field, those clubs affiliated with the breakaway competition refused to participate in five games of Round 1, all forfeited to ARL-aligned clubs and only four of the ten scheduled games took place. Of the two games between two Super League clubs, Canterbury versus North Queensland was cancelled, whilst Auckland announced they would field a team from the Lion Red competition and were thus declared winners over Brisbane by forfeit.
Following up on their performance in the 1995 season up to the grand final, Manly-Warringah dominated the season with their defence, which conceded only 34 tries in 25 matches, the best record of any team since the six-tackle rule was introduced in 1971. Their 1995 rivals Canberra were hit by injuries which wiped out the seasons of key players
Ricky Stuart, Bradley Clydeand Jason Croker, and suspensions to Kiwi props John Lomax and Quentin Pongia.
Super League-aligned Canterbury-Bankstown were also hit by the loss of key players
Jim Dymock, Dean Pay, Jason Smith and Jarrod McCrackento ARL-loyal Parramatta. Sydney City started the season in good form, but fell off after winning their first ten games, whilst Brisbane (with Allan Langerputting in some strong performances) dominated early but lost ground mid-season. North Sydney, with a powerful forward pack and skillful half Jason Taylor feeding a superb set of outside backs, were expected to make the Grand Finalbut lost to St. George in the preliminary final.
The 20-team competition in 1995 and 1996 caused frequent jackpots in FootyTAB's "
Pick The Margins" and after three successive rounds without a single winner, on July 8 1996after a last-minute Sydney City penalty goal, one punter received an all-time record for any form of sports bettingin Australia: $2,006,217.
for the 1996 season, North Sydney's Jason Taylor won the official player of the year award, the
Rothmans Medal, while the Dally M Medal was awarded to Brisbane's Allan Langer.
In the 5th minute, Manly centre Craig Innes won the chase and scored after a grubber kick by his skipper Geoff Toovey. Matthew Ridge converted from the sideline for 6-0. The Dragons played on after being awarded a penalty in front of the posts in the 8th minute but failed to score.
At the 15 minute mark Saints' halfback Noel Goldthorpe conceded a penalty right in front of their goalpost after committing a head high tackle on Manly's Daniel Gartner. Ridge took the kick, extending the lead to 8–0. St George sent in forward replacements Lance Thompson and David Barnhill for Scott Gourley and Kevin Campion (head cut). For Manly, Tierney came off the interchange bench to replace Gillespie. Up until the 19 minute mark when Manly veteran five-eighth Cliff Lyons took the field, their coach Bob Fulton was using six running forwards with Toovey as dummy half.
The Dragon's first points came in the 37th minute when Wayne Bartrim kicked a penalty awarded when Manly forward Cunningham stripped the ball. From the ensuing kick-off just before half-time came the game's controversial moment and a hotly disputed try. Ridge made a spectacular short kick-off and regathered, catching the Dragons unaware. St George hooker Nathan Brown appeared to tackle Ridge albeit one-handedly and by the collar. Ridge got up and ran when Brown was expecting him to stop and play the ball. Referee David Manson ruled that Brown did not complete the tackle. Nik Kosef then passed the ball to Steve Menzies who stormed his way through Saints' Thompson, Raper, Goldthorpe and Bartrim to score before Ridge converted for another 2 points. The controversial ruling by referee Manson gave Manly a 14–2 half time lead and broke Saints' resolve.
In the 53rd minute Manly's Danny Moore scored a try from a Terry Hill pass after Hill drew Saints defenders, Adrian Brunker and Nick Zisti. Innes converted from 5m off the sideline for the Sea-Eagles to take a 20-2 lead. Five minutes later Dragons' winger Zisti scored a try from a Bartrim cut-out pass. Bartrim then converted from the sideline for a scoreline of 20–8.
The final twenty minutes were scoreless with two field goal attempts from Ridge charged down by Dragons' defenders.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: 20 (Innes, Menzies, Moore tries; Ridge 3, Innes goals)
St George Dragons: 8 (Zisti try; Bartrim 2 goals).
Clive Churchill Medallist: Geoff Toovey
* [http://www.stats.rleague.com/rl/seas/1996.html Rugby League Tables - Season 1996] "The World of Rugby League"
* [http://www.showroom.com.au/dragons/dragonshistory/history_stgeorge7b.htm#1996 St. George Dragons 1996 season at showroom.com.au]
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