The bigger the occasion, the more a rugby league try takes on mythical status – and there is no bigger stage to produce a famous four-pointer on than the grand final.
Many players have etched their names into the game’s folklore with a flash of brilliant inspiration in a decider, often having their entire career defined by that one special try in a grand final.
The Book of NRL Lists, by The New Daily writer Will Evans and rugby league journalist Nick Tedeschi, is a treasure trove of the best, worst and most obscure players, matches and moments in the code’s history – 200-plus passionately-compiled top 5s, 10s and 20s about everything rugby league, packed into 672 pages.
For NRL Grand Final week, we have an exclusive excerpt from The Book of NRL Lists – the top 10 Greatest Grand Final Tries.
GREATEST GRAND FINAL TRIES
1. Steve Gearin—Canterbury, 1980
An incredible try that capped Canterbury’s first premiership win in 38 years, Steve Gearin’s flyer in the 1980 decider against Eastern Suburbs rates as the greatest in grand final history.
Inside their own half, Canterbury shifted the ball to its left with international Greg Brentnall steaming on to a Graeme Hughes short ball. Brentnall burst through the Easts’ defence before launching a towering bomb 40 metres from the Roosters’ line. Canterbury winger Gearin came flying through and outjumped the shocked Eastern Suburbs defenders before diving over to score a magical try.
2. Ted Goodwin—St George, 1977
One of league’s most flamboyant players during the 1970s, ‘Lord’ Ted Goodwin scored one of the great grand final tries in the drawn 1977 decider. Playing fullback, Goodwin collected a pass from a standing Rod Reddy near halfway and charged on to the ball and through the Parramatta defence. With only lanky Eels custodian Phil Mann between Goodwin and the try-line, the Dragons No.1 chipped. Goodwin and Mann chased desperately and an exaggerated lunge from Goodwin saw the Dragons score. Goodwin knocked himself out in the play but became a grand final legend because of its brilliance.
3. Darren Albert—Newcastle, 1997
Manly and Newcastle seemed destined for extra-time in the incredible 1997 decider with the scores locked at 16-apiece well inside the final minute. The Knights were on the attack but seemingly setting for a field goal when future Immortal Andrew Johns, at dummy-half, darted down the blindside in what was the final play of the game. Johns then cut back in, stood in an attempted tackle and found a flying Darren Albert charging on to it. Albert scooted through untouched to give the Knights their first premiership in the most dramatic of circumstances.
4. Pat Richards—Wests Tigers, 2005
It is perhaps the most mythologised and without question the most replayed grand final try of all. That try. The Benji flick. Pat Richards’ forgotten fend. The 2005 finale was all square at 6-6 late in the first half when some Benji Marshall brilliance broke the game wide open. Inside their own 10, pinned in the corner, Wests Tigers fullback Brett Hodgson collected a kick from North Queensland star Johnathan Thurston and linked up with young five-eighth Marshall. Marshall put the afterburners on and sliced through the staggered Cowboys chase. With Matt Bowen coming across in cover, Marshall called Richards inside and threw a perfect flick pass that hit Richards on the chest. The Tigers winger then palmed off the covering Rod Jensen with a monster fend to dive over in the corner and set in motion a stunning Tigers grand final win.
5. Bob Fulton—Manly, 1973
The 1973 grand final was a bloodbath, an 80-minute opera of violence and thuggery. The dashing brilliance of Manly star Bob Fulton, one of the few players prepared to play football rather than resort to the vicious tactics of the majority, proved the difference in the clash with the Sharks. Fulton scored a double, with his first magnificent. Taking a flick pass from skipper Fred Jones, he scooted through four Sharks defenders, leaving them grasping at air, as he put Manly in front and well on its way to back-to-back grand final victories.
(Skip to 1:05)
6. Nathan Blacklock—St George Illawarra, 1999
The most recent player to lead the premiership tryscoring tally for three straight years, Nathan Blacklock knew how to score like few others. He used both his unrivalled speed and an innate sense of timing to perfection in the 1999 grand final against Melbourne when he scored a scintillating try after collecting a Brett Kimmorley chip on his bootlaces 32 metres from his own line at full pace. He hit the ball so hard he emerged in a flash through the other side of the defence before sprinting away to score under the posts. The try gave the Dragons a 14-0 lead, but they were overrun by a gallant Melbourne 20-18 in the second half.
7. Brett Kenny—Parramatta, 1981
Parramatta five-eighth Brett Kenny incredibly scored three straight grand final doubles from 1981 to 1983, but without question his best was his second in the 1981 decider that sealed the result against Newtown. A freakish talent, Kenny collected a deflected grubber 35 metres out from the Jets’ line and tiptoed down the sideline as he attempted to regain his balance. He then took off and, when confronted by Newtown fullback Phil Sigsworth, sold an incredible dummy and sprinted to the corner untouched.
(Skip to 7:25)
8. Bob McCarthy—South Sydney, 1967
One of South Sydney’s most beloved tries, Souths forward Bob McCarthy’s intercept in the 1967 decider proved the difference in the grand final win over Canterbury. On the attack, the Berries shifted the ball right with hooker Col Brown attempting a long looping pass for centre Johnny Greaves. The pacy backrower McCarthy steamed on to it and ran the length of the field to give South Sydney a 5-2 lead on the stroke of halftime. Canterbury fought back to lead, but an Eric Simms penalty goal four minutes from time gave Souths a 12-10 premiership victory, their first in 12 seasons.
(Skip to 2:10)
9. Steve Jackson—Canberra, 1989
Little-known Canberra prop Steve Jackson etched his name into rugby league folklore with his barnstorming try at the end of extra-time in the 1989 decider. In just his 16th game, the bullocking front-rower charged on to a Mal Meninga pass 20 metres from the Tigers’ line and pinned the ears back, stepping past Shaun Edwards and through the desperate tackle of Garry Jack, fending off Mick Neil and charging straight over the last-ditch efforts of Gary Freeman, Steve O’Brien and Kevin Hardwick to secure the Raiders’ first premiership.
10. Stacey Jones – New Zealand Warriors, 2002
The nation of New Zealand (and tens of thousands of expat Kiwis living in Australia) rose as one when the Warriors’ diminutive skipper Stacey Jones produced a phenomenal individual try to give the first-time grand finalists an 8-6 lead over the Sydney Roosters early in the second half of the 2002 decider. Working off the back of some trademark Warriors second-phase play, the instinctive halfback stepped, jinked and weaved his way past five Roosters defenders on a majestic 40-metre jaunt to the line. The Warriors ultimately crashed to a 30-8 loss to the Brad Fittler-inspired Roosters, but Jones’ sizzling try still ranks as arguably the most iconic moment in the club’s 20-season history, while he became just the second Kiwi to win the Golden Boot award later that year.
The Book of NRL Lists, by Will Evans and Nick Tedeschi, is on sale now at all leading bookstores and department stores, or online through Slattery Media Group (RRP: $39.95).