1990 NSWRL season

1990 NSWRL season
1990 NSWRL season
Teams 16
Premiers Canberra colours.svg Canberra (2nd title)
Minor premiers Canberra colours.svg Canberra (1st title)
Matches played 183
Points scored 6107 (total)
33.372 (per match)
Attendance 2,209,354 (total)
12,073 (per match)
Top try scorer(s) Canberra colours.svg Mal Meninga (17)

The 1990 New South Wales Rugby League season was the eighty-third season of professional rugby league football in Australia. Sixteen clubs competed for the J J Giltinan Shield and Winfield Cup during the premiership season, which culminated in a grand final between the previous season's premiers, the Canberra Raiders and the Penrith Panthers, who were making their grand final debut.


Season summary

For the 1990 season, the salary cap was introduced in the New South Wales Rugby League premiership.[1] Twenty-two regular season rounds were played from March till August, resulting in a top six of Canberra, Brisbane, Penrith, Manly, Balmain and Newcastle.

Parramatta's halfback Peter Sterling won the official player of the year award, the Rothmans Medal. The Dally M Medal was awarded to Manly's five-eighth Cliff Lyons. Rugby League Week gave their player of the year award to Canberra Raiders centre and captain, Mal Meninga.


The number of teams competing remained unchanged for the second consecutive year, with sixteen clubs contesting the premiership, including five Sydney-based foundation teams, another six from Sydney, two from greater New South Wales, two from Queensland, and one from the Australian Capital Territory

Balmain Tigers
Balmain home jersey 1963.svg
83rd season
Ground: Leichhardt Oval
Coach: Warren Ryan
Captain: Wayne Pearce
Brisbane Broncos
Brisbane Broncos home jersey 1988.svg
3rd season
Ground: Lang Park
Coach: Wayne Bennett
Captain: Gene Miles
Canberra Raiders
Canberra Raiders home jersey 1982.svg
9th season
Ground: Bruce Stadium
Coach: Tim Sheens
Captain: Mal Meninga
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Canterbury home jersey 1966.svg
56th season
Ground: Belmore Sports Ground
Coach: Chris Anderson
Captain: Terry Lamb
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Cronulla home jersey 1970.svg
24th season
Ground: Endeavour Field
Coach: Allan Fitzgibbon
Captain: David Hatch
Eastern Suburbs Roosters
Eastern Suburbs home jersey 1953.svg
83rd season
Ground: Sydney Football Stadium
Coach: Russell FairfaxHugh McGahan
Captain: Hugh McGahan
Gold Coast Giants
Gold Coast Giants home jersey 1988.svg
3rd season
Ground: Seagulls Stadium
Coach: Bob McCarthy
Captain: Billy Johnstone
Illawarra Steelers
Illawarra Steelers home jersey 1982.svg
9th season
Ground: Wollongong Showground
Coach: Ron Hilditch
Captain: Chris Walsh
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Manly Sea Eagles home jersey 1965.svg
44th season
Ground: Brookvale Oval
Coach: Graham Lowe
Captain: Michael O'Connor
Newcastle Knights
Newcastle Knights home jersey 1988.svg
3rd season
Ground: Marathon Stadium
Coach: Allan McMahon
Captain: Sam Stewart
North Sydney Bears
North Sydney Bears home jersey 1979.svg
83rd season
Ground: North Sydney Oval
Coach: Steve Martin
Captain: Tony Rea
Parramatta Eels
Parramatta Eels home jersey 1990.svg
44th season
Ground: Parramatta Stadium
Coach: Mick Cronin
Captain: Peter Sterling
Penrith Panthers
Penrith Panthers home jersey 1983.svg
24th season
Ground: Penrith Stadium
Coach: Phil Gould
Captain: Royce Simmons
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney home jersey 1980.svg
83rd season
Ground: Sydney Football Stadium
Coach: George Piggins → Frank Curry
Captain: Mario Fenech
St. George Dragons
St. George home jersey 1945.svg
70th season
Ground: Kogarah Oval
Coach: Craig Young
Captain: Trevor Bailey
Western Suburbs Magpies
Western Suburbs home jersey 1977.svg
83rd season
Ground: Orana Park
Coach: John Bailey
Captain: Ivan Henjak


1990 saw the NSWRL's advertising shift to a new level of sophistication, marking the first use of Tina Turner's 1989 hit "The Best". The league and its Sydney advertising agency Hertz Walpole struck gold in forging a link between the game and the song, which would become the soundtrack to a marketing success story that skyrocketed right up to a point of self-implosion in the Super League war of 1996-1997.

Tina Turner's manager Roger Davies contacted agency chief Jim Walpole in 1989 to advise that Turner's upcoming album Foreign Affair was to contain a rendition of a Mike Chapman and Holly Knight song which might possibly be of interest to Walpole's NSWRL client. The track, which had been previously released by Bonnie Tyler with modest results, would prove to be one of Turner's most successful singles. After hearing demo tracks, Walpole and the NSWRL General Manager John Quayle and his marketing staff sensed the linkage could be perfect.

Turner was brought to Australia amid much public interest for a massive film shoot where enough footage was secured for advertisements for both the 1990 and 1991 seasons.

The finished 1990 advertisement, in its full two-minute version, tells the story of Turner's touchdown at Sydney Airport and a scurry through paparazzi; she then finds herself in a warehouse training scene that's more glamour than grit where players from a number of clubs are working out on weights and climbing vertical chains. She plays touch footy on a beach, attends a lunch where she cheekily surprises Gavin Miller, whom she had met at the 1989 UK shoot, and later arrives by helicopter to a black-tie dinner with Andrew Ettingshausen and Gene Miles. Throughout are the de rigueur big hits and action shots, with Turner cheering in a replica grand final crowd, and finally congratulating the 1989 premiership captain, Mal Meninga.


South Sydney went from being the previous season's minor premiers to wooden spooners in 1990.

Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
1 Canberra colours.svg Canberra 22 16 1 5 532 245 +287 33
2 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane 22 16 1 5 478 278 +200 33
3 Panthers colours.svg Penrith 22 15 1 6 415 286 +129 31
4 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah 22 15 0 7 395 255 +125 30
5 Balmain colours.svg Balmain 22 14 0 8 432 284 +148 28
6 Newcastle colours.svg Newcastle 22 13 2 7 344 305 +39 28
7 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown 22 12 1 9 354 291 +65 25
8 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta 22 12 1 9 387 347 +40 25
9 Illawarra colours.svg Illawarra 22 11 1 10 366 361 +5 23
10 Cronulla colours.svg Cronulla-Sutherland 22 11 0 11 370 359 +11 22
11 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney 22 10 0 12 322 298 +24 20
12 St. George colours.svg St. George 22 8 0 14 371 399 -28 16
13 Western Suburbs colours.svg Western Suburbs 22 6 1 15 323 433 -110 13
14 Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Eastern Suburbs 22 6 1 15 283 547 -264 13
15 Gold Coast Chargers colours.svg Gold Coast-Tweed 22 4 0 18 233 567 -334 8
16 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney 22 2 0 20 302 652 -350 4


Balmain and Newcastle both finished on equal competition points in fifth position at the end of the regular season, so had to play off for the chance to advance through the finals.

Home Score Away Match Information
Date and Time Venue Referee Crowd
Balmain colours.svg Balmain Tigers 12-4 Newcastle colours.svg Newcastle Knights 28 August 1990 Parramatta Stadium Bill Harrigan 19,174
Qualifying Finals
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 16-0 Balmain colours.svg Balmain Tigers 1 September 1990 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 30,965
Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos 16-26 Panthers colours.svg Penrith Panthers 2 September 1990 Sydney Football Stadium Eddie Ward 24,409
Semi Finals
Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos 12-4 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 8 September 1990 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 31,424
Canberra colours.svg Canberra Raiders 12-30 Panthers colours.svg Penrith Panthers 9 September 1990 Sydney Football Stadium Greg McCallum 35,263
Preliminary Final
Canberra colours.svg Canberra Raiders 32-4 Brisbane colours.svg Brisbane Broncos 16 September 1990 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 31,628
Grand Final
Panthers colours.svg Penrith Panthers 14-18 Canberra colours.svg Canberra Raiders 23 September 1990 Sydney Football Stadium Bill Harrigan 41,535

Grand Final

Canberra Raiders Position Penrith Panthers
Gary Belcher FB David Greene
Paul Martin WG Alan McIndoe
Mal Meninga (c) CE Brad Fittler
Laurie Daley CE Col Bentley
John Ferguson WG Paul Smith
Chris O'Sullivan FE Brad Izzard
Ricky Stuart HB Greg Alexander
Brent Todd PR Paul Clarke
Steve Walters HK Royce Simmons (c)
Glenn Lazarus PR Barry Walker
Nigel Gaffey SR Mark Geyer
Gary Coyne SR John Cartwright
Dean Lance LK Chris Mortimer
Matthew Wood Bench Steve Carter
Phil Carey Bench Joe Vitanza
Craig Bellamy Bench
David Barnhill Bench
Tim Sheens Coach Phil Gould

Penrith were attempting to become the first team to win a Grand Final in their first attempt, but were coming up against a superb Canberra outfit who knew what finals football was all about. Extra time in the reserve grade grand final followed by the pre-match entertainment, including a performance by John Farnham, running late combined to put the kick-off 30 minutes behind schedule. This may have worked to the advantage of the more experienced Raiders and served to rattle the young Panthers.

Canberra jumped to a 12-nil lead in the opening minutes after their halfback Ricky Stuart laid on tries for winger John Ferguson and Laurie Daley and the match appeared as good as over despite a strengthening of Penrith's defence as they recovered.

The Panthers came back to trail 12-10 after Greg Alexander put Brad Fittler in for a try just before half-time and Paul Smith in for another seven minutes into the second half.

Canberra moved to 18-10 in the second half when replacement winger Matthew Wood scored. A late try from Alexander still left Penrith trailing 18-14 at the full-time siren.

Both sides finished with three tries each but the wizadry of Stuart and the kicking boot of Meninga were the difference that saw the Raiders with their second consecutive premiership.

Canberra Raiders 18
Tries: Ferguson, Daley, Wood
Goals: Meninga 3/3

Penrith Panthers 14
Tries: Fittler, Smith, Alexander
Goals: Alexander 1/3


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