Rugby League’s Greatest Grand Final Tries
There are great tries … and then there are great grand final tries.
A great try is usually about the skill and strength demonstrated by the players involved. But a great grand final try can be about so much more: A moment where, on the biggest stage, a player or team pulls out something extraordinary that lifts their side to a special victory; a moment that lives in the memory bank of fans forever.
There are many factors that may influence your own view of the best grand final tries – including whether you are old enough to personally recall the moment, perhaps which team you support and, of course, your own view on the significance of the try and the level of skill involved.
With all that in mind, my top five is:
5 – Pat Richards (2005 NRL Grand Final)
With scores deadlocked at 6-6, Cowboys playmaker Jonathan Thurston kicked deep into the Wests Tigers’ corner. Tigers fullback Brett Hodgson gathered and passed to New Zealand legend Benji Marshall, whose speed and changes of pace enabled him to split the Cowboys defence and run 60 metres. Marshall drew Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen to the sideline before throwing the most famous flick pass the game has seen to find Pat Richards. The winger put a superb fend on David Faiumu on his way to the line.
4 – Steve Menzies (2008 NRL Grand Final)
Menzies, a Mr Nice Guy of league and Manly legend, was playing in his then-record-equalling 349th – and last – game in the 2008 decider. With his side up 28-nil the backrower was on the bench and had packed his famous headgear into his playing kit. Then an injury to Steve Matai saw him called into the centres with eight minutes remaining. Just a couple of plays later the ball was passed through three sets of hands before Menzies burst on to it at speed to split the defence, setting up an overlap for winger Michael Robertson, who already had three tries to his name. Robertson (who was unlucky to miss out on the Clive Churchill Medal) headed for the corner and as it appeared he’d be taken into touch threw a speculative pass back in-field. Menzies, as he’d done throughout his career, was backing up and was rewarded with one of the great individual moments in grand final history and a fairytale finish to his career.
3 – Darren Albert (1997 ARL Grand Final)
Every young player dreams of scoring a try to win the grand final as the siren sounds. Darren Albert achieved that dream for the Newcastle Knights on the back of some brilliant Andrew Johns play. With seconds remaining and the Knights trailing the Sea Eagles, Johns darted to the blindside from dummy half, dummied to his supporting winger and stood in a tackle before offloading on the inside to Albert, whose turn of speed was too much for the tiring Manly forwards. Albert ran 20 metres untouched to score under the posts to give Newcastle its first premiership.
2 – Steve Jackson (1989 NSWRL Grand Final)
In what is widely regarded as the greatest grand final of all time, Canberra and Balmain were locked 14-all at the end of 80 minutes and the game went into a 20 minute extra time period. The Raiders had taken a one point lead and the Tigers, attacking from their own territory, fumbled. The ball spilled to Mal Meninga who, as he attempted to fend off a defender, found Steve Jackson in support, 20 metres from the line. Jackson stepped one defender, beat another, crashed through the first again and then dragged three players over the line as he planted the ball with his left hand. Not only was it an outstanding four pointer, it was the first Jackson had scored for the season (what a way to avoid a nudie run!) and – far more importantly – it cemented Jackson’s place in rugby league history and gave the Raiders the first premiership for a team from outside of Sydney.
1 – Steve Gearin (1980 NSWRFL Grand Final)
Canterbury’s Graeme Hughes stepped to draw a defender and put fullback Greg Brentnall through a gap on the halfway line. In an era where bombs were a far less-practiced skill, Brentnall was at full sprint and 40 metres out when he launched arguably one of the best high balls the game has seen. Winger Gearin was three metres behind his fullback when the ball was kicked, but never took his eyes off it. He timed his run perfectly and caught the ball over the top of his opposing winger David Michael just short of the line, but had enough momentum to score as Michael unsuccessfully attempted to wrap him up. It was a stunning try, ahead of its time and since the day it was scored has been the moment I think of when the words “grand final try” are uttered.
Bob McCarthy’s 1967 intercept and 75 metre run to score for the Rabbitohs against the Bulldogs is another moment that has stood the test of time and could easily have made the cut. And 47 years later George Burgess provided an epic forward’s try when the two sides again met; the big Rabbitohs prop barged through three defenders with an inspirational run to score under the posts, putting Souths on the path to their historic 2014 victory. Steve Renouf’s length-of-the-field effort for the Broncos in the 1992 grand final was another contender; as was Dragon Nathan Blacklock’s high speed pick-up and untouched 55 metre run in the 1999 decider – although his side would go down to the Storm that day. And for memorable moments, Royce Simmons could easily be included for his match-clinching second try as the Panthers claimed their first ever title in 1991, in the skipper’s retirement match.
What do you think? What was your favourite Grand Final try?