Peter Maxwell John Sterling OAM (born 16 June 1960 in Toowoomba, Queensland) is an Australian rugby league commentator and former player. He was one of the all-time great halfbacks and a major contributor to Parramatta Eels' dominance of the New South Wales Rugby League premiership in the 1980s. Sterling played eighteen Tests for the Australian national team between 1982 and 1988. He also played in thirteen State of Origins for New South Wales, winning man of the match on four occasions. He played in four premiership-winning sides with Parramatta in 1981–1983 and 1986 and has been inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame. His time spent playing for English club Hull F.C. also earned him membership in their hall of fame.
Sterling was born in Toowoomba and raised in Raymond Terrace & Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. He commenced his playing career at the age of fourteen when he joined the Wagga Wagga Kangaroo Panthers in 1974. As a teenager he spent several years living at RAAF Base Wagga, where his father was serving as a dental technician. Sterling then moved to Sydney where he attended the Patrician Brothers' College on a scholarship.
Sterling compensated for a lack of size and pace with control and organisational skills that allowed Parramatta's all-star back line of Brett Kenny, Mick Cronin, Steve Ella and Eric Grothe a great deal of ball. His kicking, backed up by Kenny and Ray Price's superb chasing, often gave Parramatta an advantage in territory. His fast mind meant that he rarely made a wrong decision.. He was an effective defender rare to miss a tackle, and often in position to secure a loose ball.
He joined the Parramatta Eels in 1978 making his first appearance as a stand-in Fullback during the 1978 finals series, and played his first game as the Eels halfback in the 17-11 Minor-Semi replay loss to eventual premiers Manly-Warringah. After a few games at Five-eighth in 1979, Sterling shifted to halfback and established himself as a player to watch in 1980. 1981 saw the Jack Gibson coached Eels win their first Grand Final with a 20-11 win over the Tommy Raudonikis led Newtown Jets, with Sterling's superb skill and control one of the decisive factors. He made his State of Origin debut for New South Wales in the 1981 State of Origin game, setting up a try for Mick Cronin, though the Wally Lewis led Queenslanders turned a 10 point half time deficit into a 7 point, 22-15 win
In 1982, Parramatta could seemingly do no wrong, winning the Minor Premiership by four games over Manly. Though they were beaten 20-0 by Manly in the Major Semi-final, the Eels then thrashed Eastern Suburbs 33-0 in the Preliminary Final, before going on to turn the tables on the Sea Eagles with a 21-8 in the Grand Final at the Sydney Cricket Ground to win their second successive premiership.
Sterling was then chosen for the 1982 Kangaroo tour (along with Queensland halfback Mark Murray) as backup to incumbent test halfback Steve Mortimer, despite having not played in the 1982 State of Origin series. After travelling with part of the team to Perth to face a Western Australian team and thus missing a place in the test against Papua New Guinea, Sterlo was presented a golden opportunity by coach Frank Stanton when he was chosen for the first game of the tour against English club side Hull Kingston Rovers. Sterling went about cementing his place in the Kangaroos "A" side and went on to make his Test debut for Australia in the first Ashes Test against Great Britain at Boothferry Park in Hull. The 1982 Kangaroos went on to become the first team to go through Great Britain and France undefeated, earning them the nickname "The Invincibles", and was a personal success for Sterling who played in all five tests against Great Britain and France, and cemented his place as the worlds best halfback.
In 1983, Sterling played in Australia's win in the first test against New Zealand at Carlaw Park in Auckland, but wasn't selected for Australia's shock 12–19 second Test loss at Lang Park. He was named man-of-the-match in Game 2 of the State of Origin series, a game which saw the NSW side with an all-Parramatta backline of Marty Gurr (fullback), Neil Hunt and Eric Grothe (wings), Mick Cronin and Steve Ella (centres) and Sterlo and Bret Kenny (halves), while the Blues, who defeated Qld 10-6, were captained by Eels lock forward Ray Price. Sterling then helped Parramatta to a third successive Grand Final win with an 18-6 win, again over Manly. Following the his third successive premiership and his fifth overall, Jack Gibson, a man Peter Sterling has nothing but high praise for as both a person and a coach, shocked the establishment and resigned as Parrmatta coach.
Following the Kangaroo Tour, Sterling had been highly sought after by English clubs and he went on to play for Hull in the 1983–84 English season. He was then chosen for Game 1 of the 1984 State of Origin series, but lost his place to Steve Mortimer for the rest of the series. Sterling was then overlooked for the home Ashes series against Great Britain in 1984, but would still go on to win the Rugby League Week Player of the Year award for the first time. In the 1984 grand final, Sterling and longtime partner in crime Brett Kenny had few opportunities against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs who's forwards dominated the Eels pack and gave the star pairing little room to move. The loss narrow 6-4 loss to the Bulldogs ended the now John Monie coached Parramatta's bid for a 4th successive premiership.
Sterling did not play for Parramatta, in the first half of 1985 as he returned to England to again link with Hull. Though he was relatively quiet upon his return to Parramatta, at the end of the season Sterling's skill allowed Parramatta to defeat Balmain (twice, the second a 32-4 win in the Minor-Semi) and Penrith (Minor Preliminary-Semi), to move from doubtful finalists to the Preliminary Final – where a ruthless Canterbury side on their way to a second successive premiership, easily accounted for the Eels 26-0. As a result of his decision to play in England and miss the first part of the NSWRL premiership, Sterling lost his place in the NSW side in the 1985 State of Origin series to Steve Mortimer, who led the Blues to their first ever series win over Queensland. He also miss his chance to regain his test place for the mid-season tour of New Zealand in 1985, with the halfback role shared between Mark Murray and Manly's versatile utility Des Hasler. By missing both Origin and Test selection in 1985, Sterling missed the opportunity to link with the coach who gave him his first grade debut at Parramatta Terry Fearnley, who coached both representative teams.
While playing for Hull in the early part of 1985, Sterling led the team, which also included a number of Great Britain and New Zealand internationals, into the 1985 Challenge Cup Final against Wigan at the famous Wembley Stadium. In front of a Wembley Cup Final record crowd of 99,801 Wigan ran out 28-24 winners, with Sterling's Parramatta halves partner Brett Kenny (playing for Wigan) winning the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match. Sterlo, who produced a great game in both attack and defense, had gone into the game as one of the shortest priced favourites to win the Lance Todd Trophy.
1986 saw Sterling almost carry a clean sweep of the major awards – except the Rothmans Medal – and win the inaugural Clive Churchill Medal in Parramatta's fourth Grand Final victory with Parramatta reversing the 1984 result with a 4-2 win over Canterbury-Bankstown to send the retiring Mick Cronin and team captain Ray Price out as premiership winners. During the year he was also part of the NSW Team which swept Qld 3-0 in the State of Origin series, winning man of the match in Game 2 at the Cricket Ground. After regaining his test place in the successful two test series against New Zealand, Sterling was an automatic selection for his second Kangaroo tour at the end of the season, this time going away as the undisputed number one halfback. Sterling kept his reputation intact on a second unbeaten tour (which earned the team the nickname "The Unbeatables") and added six more tests to his personal tally with tests against Papua New Guinea (1), Great Britain (3) and France (2).
Despite acquiring Qld and Kangaroo lock Bob Lindner to replace the retired Price, Parramatta fell from premiers to seventh and missed the finals in 1987, with both Grothe and Ella playing very little due to injuries. The year was undoubtedly Sterling's finest year playing in Australia. He swept all major player of the year awards – winning the Rothmans Medal by five points, the Dally M player of the year award, and the Rugby League Week player of the year award. He also played in all four State of Origin games in 1987, which included the exhibition game played at the Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach, California, where he won his second man of the match award after also winning in the 12-6 loss on a wet and muddy SCG in Game 2. He then played in Australia's shock 13-6 loss to New Zealand at Lang Park in the only test match Australia played in 1987.
The 1988 season saw Sterling produce more quality displays for Parramatta despite the team having a disappointing year by finishing in 11th place on the Winfield Cup ladder. After Qld had swept NSW 3-0 in the 1988 Origin series, Sterlo was selected for all three mid-season Ashes tests against Great Britain In the dead rubber last Test against the Lions at the Sydney Football Stadium, he suffered a serious shoulder injury and did not play again that year. In 1989, Sterling retired from representative rugby league but performed for Parramatta until an ankle injury ended his season and plans to play out his career in England. 1990 saw Sterling play a full season at the top of his form and lead a young Parramatta side to an improved 8th placing. He won his second Rothmans Medal, but in the last match of the season against Manly, a shoulder injury recurred such that despite Parramatta signing him for two more seasons, Sterling was only able to play four games over the next one and a half seasons
A crunching tackle from Western Suburbs forward David "Cement" Gillespie in Round 3 of the 1992 season saw him dislocate his troublesome shoulder and force his retirement from playing, announced in a tearful press conference the next day (6 April) at the Parramatta Stadium.
Sterling played 229 games for Parramatta, scoring 48 tries, one goal, and 15 field goals for a total of 190 points. He played 18 tests for Australia, scoring 4 tries, as well as playing 13 games for NSW (winning 4 man of the match awards), one game for City Firsts, 3 for Country Firsts and two for County Origin.
Television / Radio Career
His sharp intelligence marked Sterling as an astute analyst of the game and he took to commentating on Channel Nine after an initial media stint with Western Sydney radio station 2WS. In 1989 he wrote his autobiography, Sterlo! The Story of A Champion. Sterling has been a co-host on Nine Network's The NRL Footy Show with Paul Vautin from 1994-2006. In 2007, he made a special appearance on the first episode of 2007 to give his farewell from the show. In 2010, he made a comeback to the show as an alternating host. Sterling continues hosting The Sunday Footy Show and plays a key commentary role in Nine's game coverage. Sterling will make his head commentator debut in the local derby between the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, and his former team, the Parramatta Eels at Brookvale Oval.
In March 2010, Sterling joined Triple M radio, where he is the expert commentator on Monday Night Football on Triple M as well as an occasional panellist on Dead Set Legends and The Rush Hour with Dan Ginnane (Sports Broadcaster)
In March 2013 Sterling started hosting a new weekly NRL show on Fox Sports called 'Sterlo' airing Thursday nights
Rugby League Awards
Since retiring from playing the game, Sterling has won several awards. In 1995, Sterling was picked at halfback in a poll to judge the best Australian team since the introduction of the limited-tackle rule in 1967. He won eight of fourteen votes, with the remainder going to Billy Smith, Ricky Stuart and Allan Langer.
In 2000 Sterling was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australia's international standing in rugby league. He was also inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in that year. In 2006, he was one of six past players to be inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame at the Dally M. Awards 2006 award ceremony.
In February 2008, Sterling 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.
- Whiticker, Alan and Hudson, Glen; The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players (3rd edition 1998); published Gary Allen Pty. Ltd.; Smithfield
- Middleton, David (editor); Rugby League 1987–88,(1988) Lester Townsend Publishing Pty Ltd; Paddington, NSW
- Middleton, David (editor); Rugby League 1996; (1996) HarperCollins Publishers, Pymble, Sydney
Media related to Peter Sterling at Wikimedia Commons