Robert (Bobby) McCarthy
On Friday, 11th April, 2014 Sydney Metro Welfare Officers Warren Thompson and Alan Webb together with Northern Sydney Welfare Officers Ken Vessey and Fred Jackson visited Bobby at the Mater Hospital Crows Nest. Bobby was recovering from a total knee (right) replacement operation.
Bobby revolutionised 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 he 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 Bob 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 he 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), 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 current Men of League President Ron Coote.
Bob made his Test debut on the Australian Tour of NZ in 1969 he 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.
While a host of champion players left Souths during the early 1970s Bob at first remained to captain the club. During the disastrous 1975 season that led to Clive Churchill’s resignation Bob took over as caretaker coach. After a club record number of first grade games to his credit he reluctantly left Souths and signed with Canterbury the following year. Bob 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 he coached successfully in Brisbane after his retirement as a player. He was Gold ’Coast’s initial coach in 1988-90.
Bobby has served on the NRL Judiciary and then as Chairman of the NSW and Australian Selection Panels, but despite his achievements Bobby still is a humble man who regularly attends Chelsea Old Mates days where he mingles with former teammates and opponents from his early days in South Sydney Juniors. He was recently overtaken by John Sutton for most games played at Souths.
Alan Webb, 15th April, 2014.