In this episode we speak to Souths legend Bob McCarthy. The interview takes place in a noisy Coogee cafe but it’s still a tremendous chat with one of the greatest ever Rabbitohs. Long time Souths trainer Terry Coulits gives us some interesting insights into what goes on behind the scenes at Redfern.
The advent of limited tackle football in 1967 saw Bob McCarthy revolutionise the role of the second row forward. While most back-rowers were content to stay in tight and make their runs close to the ruck McCarthy was one of the first forwards to stand wide and make his devastating bursts out in the centres. A scorer of over 100 tries for Souths (the second forward to do so after the great Frank Burge), club captain John Sattler rated McCarthy the greatest blind-side forward in the world. The national selectors, however, were slow to recognise his talent. The athletically built forward came through Souths’ junior ranks in the early 1960s and was a member of the young Rabbitohs team that was beaten by St George in the 1965 grand final. Under the guidance of coach Clive Churchill McCarthy was given greater freedom to skirt wide (his memorable intercept try that turned the tide of the 1967 grand final came from his unorthodox positioning on the field). Incredibly, he was omitted from the Kangaroo squad selected on grand final night that year. A vital cog in the champion Souths teams that won premierships in 1967-68 & 1970-71, (he was coming back from injury in 1968 and had to be content with a reserve grade premiership), McCarthy made his Test debut on the Australian Tour of NZ in 1969. The season’s leading try-scorer in 1970 with 15 tries, he scored another vital try to wrap up the 1971 grand final against St George after linking brilliantly with Ron Coote. McCarthy was a member of Australia’s World Cup squads in 1970 and 1972 and was vice-captain of the 1973 Kangaroos. He captained Australia in the Second Test win over Great Britain and scored a defiant try before injuring his shoulder. His last of 10 Test appearances was against Great Britain in 1974 and while a host of champion players left Souths during the early 1970s McCarthy at first remained to captained the club. During the disastrous 1975 season that led to Clive Churchill’s resignation McCarthy took over as caretaker coach. After a club record number of first grade games to his credit he reluctantly left Souths and signed with C’bury the following year. McCarthy stoically led the Bulldogs in two competitive seasons but returned to Souths at the instigation of coach Jack Gibson in 1978. The following year he played in two trials for Easts but injury finally caught up with him. Awarded the MBE in 1977 McCarthy coached successfully in Brisbane after his retirement as a player. He was G’Coast’s initial coach in 1988-90 but his return to Souths at the start of the 1994 season proved to be short-lived. Souths won the pre-season competition that year but McCarthy’s position as sole coach was changed to accommodate football manager Alan Jones and reserve grade coach Ken Shine and McCarthy stood down after the opening rounds of the season citing health reasons. The most exciting ball-running forward of the new era of limited tackles McCarthy rose to a position on the NRL Judiciary and then as Chairman of the NSW and Australian Selection Panels.
– ALAN WHITICKER