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 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.
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.
In 1946 Churchill was graded with Central in the Newcastle Rugby League 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. Under captain-coach Jack Rayner, South Sydney reached the 1949 NSWRFL season's grand final against St. George and Churchill played at fullback in the Rabbitohs' loss. Souths reached the grand final again the following year, this time against Western Suburbs, and Churchill played fullback in the Rabbitohs' victory.
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. At the end of the 1951 NSWRFL season Souths Sydney reached their 3rd consecutive grand final, this time against Manly-Warringah and Churchill played at fullback, scoring a try in the Rabbitohs' second consecutive victory. Churchill missed South Sydney's third consecutive premiership in 1952 as he was away on the Kangaroo tour to England.
South Sydney reached the 1953 NSWRFL season's premiership final, their 5th in succession, and Churchill played at fullback, kicking a goal in the Rabbitohs' victory over St. George. Souths won the 1954 NSWRFL Premiership without the need to play a final,and this would be that last time such an outcome was possible with the mandating of a grand final t determine the premiership fromm the following season onward. At the 1954 Rugby League World Cup, the first ever rugby football world cup, Churchill captained the Australian team, however they failed to reach the final. He played Souths' last regular game of the 1955 NSWRFL 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. However he was forced to miss the final in 1955 due to injury.
Churchill played his final test for Australia on the 1956–57 Kangaroo tour. He captained South Sydney in the 1957 NSWRFL season and captained-coached them in the 1958 NSWRFL season, which would be his last at the club. He had spent twelve seasons with Souths, playing 164 games and winning five premierships: 1950, 1951, 1952, 1954 and 1955.
In 1959 Churchill captain-coached Brisbane Rugby League club Norths to a premiership. Also in 1959 Churchill was selected as captain-coach for the Queensland team. He retired from playing at the end of the season, but in 1961 he played a swansong season in the outback town of Moree, New South Wales. Churchill had 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. He also played 37 games for New South Wales the standing record for most games by a player for the state.
Churchill, widely renowned for his coaching career, was appointed non-playing coach of the Australia national team for their 1959–60 Kangaroo tour. On the tour the Australians lost the Ashes series to Great Britain but won both test matches against France.
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.
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'.
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. 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.
- Century's Top 100 Players
- Middleton, David (2008). League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia. National Museum of Australia. pp. 31. ISBN 978-1-876944-64-3. http://www.nma.gov.au/shared/libraries/attachments/league_of_legends/rugby_league_a_work_in_progress/files/22453/F_RL_work_in_progress.pdf.
- The Herald (5 February 2008). "Famous deeds, names mark NRL golden age". TheHerald.com.au. http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/sport/rugby-league/famous-deeds-names-mark-nrl-golden-age/682411.aspx. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
- Ricketts, Steve (27 August 2009). "Darren Lockyer to overtake Clive Churchill on Four Nations tour". The Courier Mail (Queensland Newspapers). http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,25984977-10389,00.html. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- AAP (1 August 2007). "Team of the 50s named". The Daily Telegraph (Australia: News Limited). http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/team-of-the-50s-named/story-e6frexnr-1111114085439. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
- Peter Cassidy (23 February 2008). "Controversy reigns as NRL releases top 100 players". Macquarie National News. http://www.livenews.com.au/Articles/2008/02/22/Controversy_reigns_as_NRL_releases_top_100_players. Retrieved 23 February 2008.
- "Centenary of Rugby League – The Players". NRL & ARL. 23 February 2008. http://www.centenaryofrugbyleague.com.au/site/the-players.aspx?cat=3&list=true. Retrieved 23 February 2008.
- Todd Balym (17 April 2008). "Johns, Meninga among Immortals". Fox Sports Australia. http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,23557351-23214,00.html. Retrieved 17 April 2008.
- "Team of the Century Announced". NRL & ARL. 17 April 2008. http://www.centenaryofrugbyleague.com.au/site/news--reviews/media-releases/team-of-the-century-announced.aspx. Retrieved 17 April 2008.