In the lead-up to Friday night’s do-or-die finals clash between arch rivals Manly and Cronulla, NRL.com caught up with Sharks Grand Final heroes Cliff Watson, Grahame Bowen and John Maguire, who relived their epic clash with the Sea Eagles in 1973.
Watson was a fearless English prop who moved to Australia in 1971 to join Cronulla, after 11 years playing for St Helens.
Watson’s experience playing in seven World Cup matches and more than 30 Test matches for his country saw him step straight into a leadership role within Cronulla’s forward pack, steering the club to their maiden premiership decider against Manly at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1973.
“I came out here with Tommy (Bishop), I played with Tommy in 1966 at Wembley (Stadium, London), and with the players around us like Grahame (Bowen) and John Maguire, we had a great understanding,” he said.
“I was the so-called leader of the pack but they were very good – whatever I said, they did. They wouldn’t take a backwards step.
“We just played together as a well-balanced pack and I think this is what helped us to sustain the tackling up the middle as hard as we did against Manly.”
Watson retired from first grade and international rugby league following that Grand Final defeat.
Cronulla junior Graham Bowen began his career with St George in the mid-1960s, playing in the 1971 Grand Final team that lost to South Sydney, before moving on to the Sutherland Shire for the final two years of his Rugby League career.
The hard-working prop showed his sheer fortitude, playing through the 1973 Grand Final with injury concerns to keep Cronulla in the match.
“We had a very well put together side. I think each player knew what they had to do, especially in the forwards,” he recalled.
“There was Cliff (Watson) and myself in the front row, Ron Turner at hooker, Ken Maddison and John Maguire in the second row and Greg Pierce at lock.
“We had a pretty formidable side that could face anyone and I think we more than carried it on the day.”
Maguire, also a Cronulla junior, played alongside Bowen at St George in 1966 before returning home in 1968 to represent his beloved Sutherland Shire club for eight years.
Maguire was regarded as a tireless defender and skilled ball-player.
The second-rower recalls going head to head with opposition forward and friend Peter Peters during the 1973 Grand Final against Manly.
“Peter is a fellow I played against quite regularly and we did know each other quite well in those days,” he remembered.
“It’s always good to see him after a lengthy time.
“We get along really well together, we have good memories together and we have a laugh too.”
Maguire went on to coach and captain Corrimal in the St George Illawarra competition in 1976 before being lured back to Sydney for one final season with Parramatta.