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It was a quiet wedding, somewhat down on the pomp and pageantry of London this week.

But it was the talk of the rugby league world in 1977 when it took place the night before the grand final replay between Parramatta and St George.

The nuptials in question involved Parramatta centre Ed Sulkowicz and his fiancée Lynn Myers.

The young couple chose a date for the wedding for the week after the grand final, never once thinking that the premiership decider would finish in a draw for the first time in history.

“When we were planning the wedding we decided on the week after the grand final on the off chance that we actually made it,” Sulkowicz explained.

“Then when the game finished in a draw our coach Terry Fearnley asked me what I was going to do about the wedding. I think he expected me to cancel it but the money wasn’t that great in those days and I told him that everything was already paid for.”

So the wedding at All Saints Catholic Church at Liverpool went ahead less than 24 hours before the Eels were to meet St George in the history-making grand final replay. If the name of the church wasn’t ominous enough, Ed’s white suit with red bow tie undoubtedly drew muffled comments among the footballers assembled inside. It is impossible to contemplate such a scenario today but 34 years ago almost half of the Parramatta team plus coach Fearnley attended the wedding the night before the big game. Ron Hilditch, Jim Porter, John Kolc and Geoff Gerard can all be seen in photos of the wedding that appeared in Rugby League Week.

“In those days if you played on a Sunday plenty of players would still go out on a Saturday night for dinner and a few quiet drinks,” explained former Parramatta CEO Denis Fitzgerald, who was a replacement in both the grand final and the replay.

The grand final of 1977 and the subsequent replay are the high watermarks of a rivalry between the Dragons and the Eels that has been ongoing for 64 years. On Sunday afternoon at WIN Jubilee Oval at Kogarah, the clubs will meet again and many of the old stories will be recalled by fans.

Sulkowicz scored Parramatta’s only try in the grand final; he followed a break by centre partner Mick Cronin before accepting an inside pass from lock Ray Price to cross out wide and level the scores at 9-all. Cronin had the chance to kick the winning conversion but his angled kick sprayed wide of the uprights.

Twenty minutes of extra-time produced a succession of close calls but the impasse remained and NSWRL officials were forced to hastily schedule a replay for the following Saturday.

A week later many of the Eels carried injuries into the big game and fullback Phil Mann couldn’t make it onto the field at all. The Dragons hit the Eels with everything but the kitchen sink in the opening stages and eventually sent them crashing to a 22-0 defeat. Dragons lock Rod Reddy (whose son Joel will play for Parramatta on Sunday) was issued with five cautions in the opening 20 minutes by referee Gary Cook but was allowed to stay on the field. Fearnley later remarked that “I have never been so disappointed with the attitude of a side as I was with Saints in the first 20 minutes.”

Sulkowicz says he heard rumours after the match that half the Parramatta team was drunk at the wedding. “But it just wasn’t true,” he said. “None of us had a drink at the wedding, the coach saw to that!”

These days Sulkowicz runs a successful landscaping and commercial cleaning business, Blue Rose Landscaping, that operates in Sydney’s west. And his marriage to Lynne is still going strong as they approach their 34th wedding anniversary. They have two daughters and three grandchildren.

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