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The Sydney Morning Herald

1941: THE SAINTS SURPRISED THEM THEN, TOO

Author: By SAM NORTH
Date: 25/09/1992
Words: 515
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 1
Alby McAndrew, like all St George fans, hopes the Saints will win tomorrow's rugby league grand final against Brisbane but he has his doubts.

"I dunno, they've got a good side but the Broncos I think might be a little bit too good."

But then St George teams have done the unexpected before. When the Saints won their first premiership at the Sydney Cricket Ground back in 1941, with Alby McAndrew feeding the scrums that day, most people had expected them to be overwhelmed by the powerful Easts.

Instead they won 31-14 in what Rugby League News described as "masterly displays of individual speed, skill and determination plus a maximum of teamwork".

Amid the legend of St George's 11 consecutive premierships from 1956-1966 it is sometimes forgotten that it took the mighty Saints 20 years to win their first title and that apart from those 11, the club has had only four other successes.

McAndrew was a tiny 20-year-old granted day leave from the Army to play that day in front of 39,957 fans looking for a diversion from the bad news on the war front.

When he was called into the St George first grade side as a 17-year-old in 1938 he weighed about 54 kg but after three years he had grown to about 60 kg

It was still tiny. Allan Langer and Noel Goldthorpe, the opposing halves tomorrow, weigh in at 73 kg.

If Saints do win tomorrow there will be riotous post-match celebrations at the St George Leagues club, but it didn't happen that way in the war years.

"I don't know whether I had a drink after the game," McAndrew said. "You didn't have the clubs in those days and the money wasn't around."

In fact, a Saints' centre, Gordon Hart, travelled for 28 hours from his army camp in Victoria, arriving at 10 am on the day of the match, then left at 8 pm to return.

Pay was strictly limited. In 1941 McAndrew received Pound 120 for his year's football, not a fortune but a vast improvement on the Pound 9 10s he got after his first season, 1938.

Winning the premiership was the highlight of McAndrew's 100 grade games with the Saints but the lasting memory is of the friendships. "Just mixing with the people, getting to know them. They were marvellous fellows," he recalls.

PAGE 24: Editorial; PAGE 37: Grand final special.

 
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