This newsreel item from 1939 shows highlights from the rugby league football premiership final at the Sydney Cricket Ground between South Sydney and Balmain. This is the earliest footage we have of a rugby league grand final in the NFSA collection.
The game was watched by an estimated crowd of almost 27,000 spectators. The first half was tightly contested with the 'Balmainiacs' leading 7-2 at the break. In the second half Balmain ran away with the game, scoring six tries to a final score of 33-4 and a seventh premiership title. They had also won the minor premiership.
The zero-metre defensive line inherited from rugby union can be seen in this footage. It was was extended to three metres in the 1950s and then to five metres in the 1960s. In 1993 (mid-season), the reference point for measuring the defensive line at the play-the-ball was changed to where the ball is placed on the ground rather than the back foot of the marker, and the defensive line was extended to 10 metres. In 1997 striking at the ball in the play-the-ball was banned.