You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
1974 grand final rewind: Big Artie's Roosters break 29-year drought

As part of a series of fresh looks at the grand finals of yesteryear, NRL.com revisits the 1974 decider between the team that Jack built, Eastern Suburbs, and an emerging Canterbury side featuring George Peponis and Mark Hughes in the early stages of their careers.

NRL.com has gone into the vault to find footage of the grand finals from the pre-NRL era dating back to 1966 and will be showcasing these games, including a full replay, match highlights and great moments from these memorable encounters.

With the Supercoach Jack Gibson back at Bondi for a second stint after two years at the helm in 1967-68, the Tricolours were a dominant force in '74.

They won 19 of 22 games in the regular season to claim the minor premiership but had to go the long way to the decider after losing 19-17 to Canterbury in the semis.

Arthur Beetson's men recovered to smash Wests 25-2 in the preliminary final to set up a mouth-watering rematch with the Malcolm Clift-coached Canterbury in the big one.

In the heavy early exchanges it was Beetson setting the tone with some powerful defence but Canterbury hung in there as John Brass and Stan Cutler traded penalty goals for a 2-2 scoreline after 10 minutes.

Elusive 22-year-old fullback Russell Faitfax laid on the game's opening try for Beetson and with Brass' conversion it was 7-2 to the Roosters.

Former Wallaby Fairfax was a sensation in rugby league and his speed and sidestep made him in an instant crowd favourite with the Chooks faithful.

A second penalty goal to Cutler got it back to 7-4 after Johnny Mayes had been penalised for second-row feed and that's how the score remained at the break.

As the game wore on, Roosters big guns Beetson, Fairfax, Ron Coote and John Peard started to take control and it was Coote setting up rampaging centre Mark Harris for the second try.

Harris, who scored 88 tries in a decade-long career for Easts, left three Canterbury defenders in his wake to stretch the lead to six points and Peard's conversion made it 12-4.

Nine years later at the famous old ground Parramatta's runaway train Eric Grothe would produce a similar barnstorming try, also against Canterbury, as a star-studded Eels side charged towards a third consecutive premiership.

Arthur Beetson is chaired from the field after the Roosters defeated Canterbury.
Arthur Beetson is chaired from the field after the Roosters defeated Canterbury.

Peard, who had taken over the goalkicking duties when Brass left the field. piloted another penalty to make it 14-4 and the Roosters had it wrapped up.

Try as they might through halves Hughes and Don Moseley, and speedy No.1 Garry Dowling, Canterbury simply couldn't find a way to the tryline.

Another penalty goal to Peard and a try to winger Bill Mullins in the final minute gave the Roosters a 19-4 victory, securing the club's 10th premiership and their first since 1945.

Fairfax gets the ball to Beetson

Play of the day

All three of the Roosters tries were well crafted but they saved something special for the last play of the day when left winger Jim Porter went infield looking for work and busted the Canterbury line before floating a perfectly timed pass to Bill Mullins to score in the right corner.

One of only three men in the Roosters' proud history to score 100 tries for the club, Mullins retired in 1978 with 104 four-pointers to his name. Anthony Minichiello and Shaun Kenny-Dowall have since gone past Mullins and modern day try machine Daniel Tupou headed into round four of the Telstra Premiership on 102 tries.

Best player

Rugby league Immortal Arthur Beetson was a ball-playing genius but he could also mix it up with the game's toughest forwards. Beetson spent plenty of time at first receiver in the grand final, setting up the play for halves Peard and Mayes to feed the Roosters' classy backs. In a career stacked with masterly performances, the 1974 decider was up there with the best of them for Big Artie.

Harris scores as Coote and Beetson split the Bulldogs

The quote

"There is no magic. We'll defend when they've got the ball; we'll try to do something with it when we've got it. Simplicity wins football matches, complexity loses them," the great Jack Gibson as concise and to the point as ever when talking to Rugby League Week's Ian Heads in 1987. 

The what-if moment

With the match still in the balance at 7-4, Canterbury centre Peter Winchester took a short ball off Englishman Brian Lockwood and looked certain to score before Bill Mullins, Johnny Mayes and Russell Fairfax converged in cover defence to deny the try.

Had Canterbury been able to score and level up at 7-all it may have been a very different scenario but the Roosters' desperation defence was a feature of their back-to-back grand final wins. Neither Canterbury in '74 or St George in '75 were able to get across the Easts line.

Full Match Replay: Roosters v Bulldogs - Grand Final, 1974

Sign up for a free NRL Account to access this video and other exclusive content.

Sign Up

Already have an NRL Account? Log In

Not sure? Learn more about an NRL Account.

The unsung hero

Jim Porter was rock solid on the wing for the Roosters. Playing in his second grand final, the Lakes United product absorbed pressure under the high ball and did plenty of work in attack as well. His non-stop effort was rewarded with a late try assist to put fellow winger Brett Mullins in as the Tricolours made amends for their loss two years earlier to Manly in the 1972 decider.

The following year

The Roosters made it back-to-back premierships with a stunning 38-0 shutout of St George. With Beetson and Gibson again leading the way, nine members of the 1974 side got to savour another premiership.

Canterbury scraped into the finals in fourth spot but were eliminated 6-5 by the fifth-placed Eels in a tight struggle.

Extended Highlights: Roosters v Bulldogs