Clive Churchill

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Clive Churchill
Personal information
Full name Clive Bernard Churchill
Nickname The Little Master[1][2]
Born (1927-01-21)21 January 1927
Newcastle, New South Wales
Died 9 August 1985(1985-08-09) (aged 58)
Sydney, New South Wales
Playing information
Height 175 cm (5 ft 9 in)
Weight 76 kg (12 st 0 lb)
Position Fullback
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1946–47 Central Newcastle
1947–58 South Sydney 157 13 77 0 193
1959 Norths (Brisbane)
1961 Moree
Total 157 13 77 0 193
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1948–55 City Firsts 8 2 3 1 14
1948–57 New South Wales 27 4 15 3 48
1948–56 Australia 37 0 10 0 20
1951 Sydney Firsts 1 0 0 0 0
1959 Queensland 1 0 0 0 0
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1958 South Sydney 18 6 0 12 33
1959 Norths (Brisbane)
1964 Canterbury-Bankstown 18 1 1 16 6
1967–75 South Sydney 211 136 3 72 64
Total 247 143 4 100 58
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1952–63 Australia 29 15 1 13 52
1959 Queensland 3 2 0 1 67
Source: NRL Stats and RLP

Clive Bernard Churchill AM (21 January 1927 – 9 August 1985) was an Australian professional rugby league footballer and coach of the mid-20th century. An Australian international and New South Wales and Queensland interstate representative Fullback, he played the majority of his club football with and later coached the South Sydney Rabbitohs. He won five premierships with the club as a player and three more as coach. Retiring as the most capped Australian Kangaroos player ever, Churchill is thus considered one of the game's greatest ever players[3] and the prestigious Clive Churchill Medal for man-of-the-match in the NRL grand final bears his name. Churchill's attacking flair as a player is credited with having changed the role of the fullback.[4]

Club career

Clive Churchill was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, and was a star schoolboy Five-eighth at Marist Brothers Hamilton where he won five premierships while at school. The brothers at his school banned him from playing with Central Newcastle juniors and as a result he only appeared for them a handful of times.[2] In 1946 he was graded with Central in the Newcastle competition as a fullback.

He represented for Country Seconds in 1946 and came to the attention of Sydney talent scouts. He was signed to South Sydney by their patron Dave Spring and moved to Sydney at the start of the 1947 NSWRFL season. He would spend twelve seasons with the club, playing 164 games.

He won five premierships with Souths in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1954 and 1955. He missed the 1952 premiership as he was away on the Kangaroo tour to England and missed the final in 1955 due to injury (he played South's last regular game of the 1955 season against Manly with a broken arm, winning the game with a successful sideline conversion kicked after the full-time bell with his broken arm wrapped in cardboard).

In 1959 Churchill captain-coached Brisbane Rugby League club Norths to a premiership. He retired from playing at the end of the season, although in 1961 he played a swansong season in the outback town of Moree, New South Wales.

Representative career

Churchill was selected to captain Sydney's representative team when they hosted France during the 1951 French rugby league tour of Australia and New Zealand. The match ended in a 19 all draw.

Churchill played 34 Tests for Australia and the 1954 World Cup series. He captained Australia in 24 Test matches over a period of six years which including three series against Great Britain. Churchill played his final test for Australia on the 1956–57 Kangaroo Tour.

He also played 37 games for New South Wales the standing record for most games by a player for the state (ahead of Langlands and Ray Stehr).


Churchill, widely renowned for his coaching career, toured Europe with the 1959 Kangaroos as non-playing coach.[5] In 1967 Churchill was appointed coach of South Sydney. He had immediate success, the Rabbitohs winning the premiership in his inaugural year as coach. He steered the Rabbitohs to four premiership victories out of five grand final appearances between 1967 and 1971. Churchill resigned as coach of the Rabbitohs during the 1975 season.

Churchill also had success in coaching the Queensland and Australian teams. Churchill was also commemorated as one of Australias most successful coaches.


On 10 June 1985 Churchill was honoured as a Member of the Order of Australia "in recognition of service to sport, particularly Rugby League Football and to the community". Also that year he was selected by the respected publication Rugby League Week as one of the initial four post-war "Immortals" of the Australian game alongside Fulton, Raper and Gasnier.[2]

In 1986 the newly built Clive Churchill Stand at the Sydney Cricket Ground was named in his honour. He is one of only six sportsmen and two rugby league players to have a stand at the SCG named after him. The Clive Churchill Medal has, since 1986, been awarded annually to the player judged best on ground in the season's Grand Final. A plaque in the Walk of Honour at the Sydney Cricket Ground commemorates his career as not only a great player but as an all-time great coach.

In 2002 Churchill was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame and was later named in the South Sydney team of the Century.

In 2007 Churchill was selected by a panel of experts at fullback in an Australian 'Team of the 50s'.[6]

In February 2008, Churchill was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia.[7][8] Churchill went on to be named as fullback in Australian rugby league's Team of the Century. Announced on 17 April 2008, the team is the panel's majority choice for each of the thirteen starting positions and four interchange players.[9][10]

See also

Clive Churchill Medal


  1. Toby Creswell and Samantha Trenoweth (2006). 1001 Australians You Should Know. Australia: Pluto Press. p. 654. ISBN 978-1-86403-361-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Herald (5 February 2008). "Famous deeds, names mark NRL golden age". Retrieved 9 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Century's Top 100 Players
  4. Middleton, David (2008). League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia (PDF). National Museum of Australia. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-876944-64-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Ricketts, Steve (27 August 2009). "Darren Lockyer to overtake Clive Churchill on Four Nations tour". The Courier Mail. Queensland Newspapers. Retrieved 31 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. AAP (1 August 2007). "Team of the 50s named". The Daily Telegraph. Australia: News Limited. Retrieved 6 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Peter Cassidy (23 February 2008). "Controversy reigns as NRL releases top 100 players". Macquarie National News. Retrieved 23 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Centenary of Rugby League – The Players". NRL & ARL. 23 February 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Todd Balym (17 April 2008). "Johns, Meninga among Immortals". Fox Sports Australia. Retrieved 17 April 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Team of the Century Announced". NRL & ARL. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 17 April 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Preceded by
Keith Froome
Australian national rugby league captain
Succeeded by
Ken Kearney