1976 GF - a good read

Discussion in 'Parramatta Eels' started by Sterling, Sep 4, 2005.

  1. Sterling

    Sterling Juniors

    Sep 2, 2003
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    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Fearnley's Flying Wedge And The '76 Eels[/font][/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]by Sean Fagan of RL1908.com[/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Grand Finals hold special memories for all of us, whether players or spectators. We remember the defining moments, the winners, the losers, controversies, triumphs and tragedies. But there are also those moments in a Grand Final which are testimony to the personal effort that each player brings to a premiership decider. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]After three decades in the premiership wilderness, Parramatta finally made their Grand Final debut in 1976. Facing up to the experienced Manly side, Eels coach Terry Fearnley sought a shock weapon to surprise the Sea Eagles. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]He found it in the RU move called the “flying wedge”. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The move had been suggested to Fearnley by a Parramatta supporter. The Eels coach asked former Wallaby Ray Price what this “wedge” idea was all about - neither could see any rules to prevent its use and thought it worthy of adding to their trick bag.[/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]In their final training session Fearnley explained the move to his players - taken from a tap penalty the “wedge” would entail the Eels forwards combining into a scrum formation. The man taking the lead position (hooker) would hold the ball as this unstoppable mass of football muscle and power hurled itself at the Sea Eagles defensive line. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Fearnley called for a volunteer to be the ball holder in the middle of the front row. Knowing that whoever it was would be the focal point of a massive collision - with no way out - unsurprisingly no one stepped forward. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The coach then changed tact - he said to his forward pack that included Ray Higgs, Geoff Gerard, Graham Olling, Denis Fitzgerald and Ray Price: “Who wants to score a try in the Grand Final?” [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]According to Fearnley, he immediately then had a volunteer as Ron Hilditch put his hand forward. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The lanky prop/hooker though says that he was “volunteered” for the role. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]However it came about, Hilditch’s involvement demonstrates that when its comes to achieving premiership glory, players will almost put their souls on the line to see it through.[/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Late in the 2nd half of the Grand Final Parramatta were behind by 13- 10.[/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]A penalty saw the Eels kick for touch, leaving them a with a tap still 15m away from the Manly try-line. The call went out to form the “wedge” - Ron Hilditch’s moment had arrived.[/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The Sea Eagles defensive line was immediately confused by what they saw materialising before them. The nearest Manly players, including Gary Stephens, Tom Mooney, Alan Thompson, Max Krilich, Graham Eadie and Steve Norton, had even less of an idea that the Parramatta pack was about to charge at them! [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The SCG crowd of over 57,000 along with the hundreds of thousands watching on TV, were equally bewildered. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Hilditch tapped the ball and the six Parramatta forwards careered toward the Manly line on the blindside. This caught the Sea Eagles completely unaware. Near the corner, Eadie watched on as his team-mates in front of him either fell away or bravely held on to this hurtling scrum. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]It was then clear to the Test fullback that this “wedge” wasn’t going to stop! [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]He threw himself at Hilditch and the ball. With the tryline before them the Parramatta pack collapsed - with Hilditch under it. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Eadie though had pinned Hilditch’s arms as the Eels prop fell on the ground with the ball under his chest. The “wedge” had been stopped in the corner only inches from the line and a match- winning try.[/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Hilditch later told how: “My eyes were actually over the line!”. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Somehow Hilditch, Eadie and the other players walked away uninjured. [/font]

    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The “flying wedge” was soon banned by the NSWRL, but it serves as a reminder of the courage that players demonstrate to play through a Grand Final - let alone win it! [/font]

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