40 Years - 40 Moments

Canberra Raiders history

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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

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15. Rapana scores four... and goes on to break club try scoring record

Round 8 of 2016 - ANZAC Round - had everyone digging out the record books. It was the sixth biggest win in Canberra Raiders history. 60 points posted. It was difficult for Raiders fans to believe after Canberra had conceded 76 points in the previous two weeks against the Eels and the Sharks. After the 40-16 loss to the Sharks in Round 7, coach Ricky Stuart had made some stinging comments about his team’s performance.

"There's a situation there where we've got a winger and a centre showing the whole team how to play, and it's embarrassing," he said. "We were shocking. We had five players [performing] today and I can't wait to have the other 12 follow their lead."

Stuart then named an extended bench for the Round 8 match against the Tigers - and ultimately dropped Frank Paul Nuuausala for Clay Priest, who didn't even have a Raiders contract a week earlier. Stuart had the players’ attention and their minds were right on the job.



The Tigers clash coincided with the night of the Forever Green former players reunion, and it turned into an 11 try romp. Some outstanding tries were scored, but the best came in the first half. Josh Hodgson ran out of dummy half in Raiders’ own end. Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana were loitering mid field and Hodgson set Leilua away - while Rapana backed up, streaking away to score a breath taking 70 metre try.

Josh Hodgson was masterful producing three line break assists and three try assists. Jordan Rapana ended up with four tries to his name. Ricky Stuart, pleased with his winger, produced a great tongue in cheek comment after the game.

"I sent a message down there at one stage to Jordy... Mal's here tonight, I don't want you getting five, because Mal's the only bloke who's got five at the Raiders."

Rapana joined a list of players, including John Ferguson and Brett Mullins, with four.



It proved to be the best season of Rapana's career.

When he scored his 23rd try in the Preliminary Final between the Raiders and the Storm, he had not only ended as the joint top try scorer in the NRL for the season, he had set a new Canberra club record for most tries in a single season.

He had overtaken Noa Nadruku (1993), Jason Croker and Brett Mullins (1994) - who all scored 22 tries in a single year.

Round 8 2016 - Canberra Raiders 60 (J. Rapana 4, J. Leilua Kelemete 2, S. Boyd, J. Croker, A. Sezer, P. Vaughan, E. Whitehead tries; J. Croker 8 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 6 (C. Lawrence try; J. Rankin goal) at Canberra Stadium
Halftime: Canberra 22-6

Canberra Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jarrod Croker (C) 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Sam Williams 7, Aidan Sezer 8. Shannon Boyd 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Shaun Fensom

14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Luke Bateman 16. Joe Tapine 17. Clay Priest

Coach Ricky Stuart

Crowd: 13,420
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

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14. Meninga scores five



It was Easter of 1990. The scene was Canberra Stadium... or Bruce Stadium as it was then known. The opposition was the Sydney Roosters... or Eastern Suburbs as they were then known.

It was a smash up, with the Raiders defeating the Sydney outfit 66-4. Mal Meninga posted five tries, nine goals and 38 points himself. No other Canberra player has ever scored five tries or more in a match. No other Canberra player has ever scored 38 points or more in a match. He'd come close to the all time record set by Easts player Dave Brown, who scored five tries and 15 goals for a total 45 points. At the time it was Canberra’s biggest win in club history. It is still the Roosters biggest ever loss.

"You have those days. I’ve scored 20 odd points in games before, but that was something special," Meninga said later. "Everything I did turned to gold. I was chipping, passing running, things just happened for me. The majority of the tries were scored under the posts, so that was easy for me with nine goals. It was a good day."





Roosters forward Craid Salvitori later recalled: "I was walking back and Fatty [Vautin] was yelling 'Has Meninga got spiders on him or something?'"

"None of our blokes were willing to touch him. Canberra was just awesome on the day. We trooped on to the team bus for the three hour trip back to Sydney with our tails between our legs. To make matters worse, coach Russell Fairfax banned grog on the bus and made us sit through the video of the game. It was like a horror show."

1990 Round 5 – Canberra Raiders 66 (M. Meninga 5, J. Ferguson 3, G. Belcher, M. Bell, L. Daley, R. Stuart tries; M. Meninga 9 goals) defeated Eastern Suburbs Roosters 4 (T. Dwyer try) at Bruce Stadium

Canberra Raiders: 1. Gary Belcher 2. Paul Martin 3. Mal Meninga (C) 4. Laurie Daley 5. John Ferguson 6. Chris O'Sullivan 7. Ricky Stuart 8. Brent Todd 9. Steve Walters 10. Glenn Lazarus 11. Dean Lance 12. Gary Coyne 13. Brad Clyde

14. Mark Bell 15. Dave Woods 16. Ashley Gilbert

Coach Tim Sheens

Crowd: 12,675
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

Post by -PJ- »

Rusty put the Chooks on the dry and made them sit through a replay.

Gold Rusty.
3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment..Old Faithful
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

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13. Magic pass



2016. It was the best season for the Canberra Raiders since 1995, more than 20 years. 1995 was the last time the Raiders had finished in second position on the ladder and made a Preliminary Final in a full competition. Unfortunately, the Raiders did not make it to the Grand Final in 1995 or 2016. But 2016 was an outstanding season for the Green Machine, one in which all expectations were exceeded. In the end, Canberra just missed a Grand Final appearance. They were only beaten by two points in each of the finals contests against the eventual Grand Finalists, the Sharks and Storm. Along the way, the Raiders won 10 matches in a row, the most in club history during a single season.

Canberra was number one in the league for points scored, scoring nearly 100 points more than the second placed team. No Canberra team had ever scored more points in a season, breaking the record of the 1994 outfit. All sorts of other records were broken too. Jarrod Croker became the club's highest point scorer of all time, breaking David Furner's record. He also broke the record for most points scored in single season for the club. Jordan Rapana broke the club record for most tries scored in a season, at 23.

Joey Leilua was recognised as the Dally M Centre of the Year, while Jarrod Croker was named Dally M Captain of the Year, Provan-Summons Medalist - and was the top point scorer in the NRL. Ricky Stuart was named Coach of the Year. Players like Jordan Rapana and Josh Papalii were unlucky not to win their positional awards at the Dally Ms as well. Josh Hodgson was named one of the best five players in the competition in the NRL's Official Annual.

The reaction of the fans and the city of Canberra was remarkable. The Viking Clap was first revealed in the home match against the Parramatta Eels and it was a sensation in the world of rugby league - and much more broadly. The city was engulfed in green fever when Canberra Stadium staged two home finals. It showed that no team can grip the national capital like the Raiders can.

If one moment could sum up the 2016 season - the audaciousness of the attack - it came in Round 26 at Leichhardt Oval. A top two finish was on the line for the Raiders, a top eight position on the line for the Wests Tigers. And the Raiders unleashed. It was a nine tries and a 52-10 victory. The moment? It came in the 18th minute, from a lethal right edge combinaton known as "Leipana". Joey Leilua ran backwards towards the try line... and then threw the most magical pass you'll ever see... around his back to set up Rapana for a try.



2016 Round 26 - Canberra Raiders 52 (J. Papalii 2, J. Rapana 2, J. Croker, J. Hodgson, J. Leilua Kelemete, J. Tapine, S. Williams tries; J. Croker 6, A. Sezer 2 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 10 (J. Aloiai, T. Grant tries; J. Rankin goal) at Leichhardt Oval

Canberra Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jason Croker (C) 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jorda Rapana 6. Sam Williams 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Paul Vaughan 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Sia Soliola

14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Luke Bateman 16. Clay Priest 17. Joe Tapine

Coach Ricky Stuart

Crowd: 18,634
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

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12. Jarrod Croker's point scoring records

It happened in Round 10 2016 at a gloomy Kogarah against the Dragons through a try in the 77th minute - and once converted, Jarrod Croker had also forced the game into extra time. With that try, Croker had broken David Furner's all time point scoring record for the Raiders of 1218 points. In 2016 he also scored 296 points, the most by any Raiders player in a season.

Since then Croker has passed all sorts of other milestones. In 2017, he scored his 100th career try in the 35th minute of Round 5, diving on a Josh Hodgson grubber. He became only one of five players in NRL history - along with Ryan Girdler, Hazem El Masri, Jamie Lyon and Luke Burt - to have scored 100 tries and kicked 500 goals. He passed Brett Mullins' try scoring mark of 105 tries in Round 23 against the Warriors that year. Croker also played his 200th NRL match against the Parramatta Eels in Round 11. He was 26 years and 251 days old when he did it... one of the youngest ever, behind Mitchell Pearce, Craig Wing and Luke Patten.



In 2019, he scored his 120th try against the Sharks in Canberra, equalling Jason Croker's club record. He broke the record in Wollongong against the Dragons in Round 17... and that night became the youngest player ever in the NRL to score 1900 points. He went on to play his 250th game in green in Round 21 against the Roosters - the second youngest NRL player to do so. He also became the second most capped Raider of all time, overtaking Simon Woolford and Laurie Daley in that season.

In 2020, Croker broke through the 2,000 career points barrier in the Round 1 win over the Gold Coast Titans - becoming the youngest player to ever do so. Only seven players have ever surpassed that benchmark.

In 2021, in the Round 19 clash with the Eels, Croker equalled the point scoring record of an all time great half, Johnathan Thurston - and became the equal third highest point scorer in NRL history. 2,222 points. He surpassed it the next week, when he converted Harley Smith-Shields' try from the sideline in the 29th minute against the Knights. Only Cameron Smith and Hazem El Masri have scored more career points. Croker also passed the point scoring record of an Immortal, Andrew Johns, in the Round 5 2021 match against the Panthers.



Jarrod Croker presently holds the club record for most tries (133), most goals (853), most points in a season (296 in 2016) and, obviously, most points (2238). With 291 NRL games, he is nine short of breaking into the 300 club. He is 27 games shy of Jason Croker's record for most appearances (318). Time will tell whether he can surpass those marks, given his chronic knee injury. Regardless, he has already secured his place in the history of the Canberra Raiders.
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

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11. Mullins miracle try

Round 8 1995. Canberra Raiders V Brisbane Broncos. It was a Friday night at Bruce and almost 24,000 turned up to see a heavy weight clash, one that was worthy of a Grand Final. Both were undefeated in the first seven rounds. It turned into a 26-0 thrashing for the team in green. The Stuart-Langer clash was an expected highlight, and Stuart came out well on top. Clyde and Furner led the forward domination, and Furner ended by scoring two tries.

But Brett Mullins produced the most memorable try, one of the most famous in Raiders history. It was the 19th minute and Mullins seemed covered by the defence near half way. The Ray Warren classic commentary is hard to forget: "Kick and chase by Mullins. Kick and chase again by Mullins! This will be a miracle! Oh, it is a miracle! Oh my goodness, you won't see anything else like that again this year. And maybe never!"



It was Mullins’ 50th try for the club.

The Raiders followed with more pain for the Broncos in the 36th, 43rd and 55th minutes. The Broncos were held scoreless for the first time since 1991. The Raiders extended their unbeaten run at home to 25 matches.

It was a double victory for the Raiders, with a settlement reached that day with the Auckland Warriors, allowing Ruben Wiki to take up a three year deal with the Green Machine. Wiki had signed with the Warriors, but changed his mind and also signed with Canberra. He’d been left sitting on the sidelines for the opening of the season while the dispute between the clubs dragged on.

"I will always have my family there," Wiki said after the settlement was reached. "I wish the Auckland Warriors all the best, but my home is here now and I am happy to stay here. I just want to play football. I was going to stick to my guns no matter what happened. My future is here."

1995 Round 8 - Canberra Raiders 26 (David Furner 2, Brett Mullins, Jason Croker, Ken Nagas tries, David Furner 3 goals) defeated Brisbane Broncos 0

Canberra Raiders: 1. Brett Mullins 2. Ken Nagas 3. David Boyle 4. Jason Croker 5. Noa Nadruku 6. Laurie Daley 7. Ricky Stuart 8. Quentin Pongia 9. Steve Walters 10. John Lomax 11. Brett Hetherington 12. David Furner 13. Brad Clyde

14. David Westley 15. Ruben Wiki 16. Luke Davico

Coach Tim Sheens

Crowd: 23,740
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40 Years - 40 Moments

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10. Laurie Daley's final home game

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Round 23 2000. It was the final home game for three greats of the club, Brett Mullins, David Furner and Laurie Daley - but, there was no doubt, the focus was on Daley. One of only three Raiders players to have won the Dally M Medal, the captain led his team to a wonderful 40-12 victory over the Roosters - one of the grand finalists of 2000 - on a wet Sunday afternoon in front of nearly 24,000.

Daley said after the match: "I felt invincible out there today and I just felt like I could do nothing wrong. Without no word of a lie, this is one of the best moments I've had in my career. I'd put it right up there. For the people to stay around in the terrible weather, it means a lot and is very touching."

Looking back later, Daley still felt it was one of the most special days of his footballing life.

"I think I was more emotional in that game than any other. I was very passionate and used to get extremely excited and keyed up for big games. People said to try and stay relaxed but I found I played better when I was keyed up. I remember running onto the field with all these little kids lining up in a guard of honour and that brought a tear to the eye and the chest was beating really quick. It was also David Furner's and Brett Mullins' last home game. We wanted to make sure it was a good one."

And so they did.

The Roosters led 8-0 after scoring the first two tries. It looked a bit grim. But Canberra fought back and led by 14-8 at half time. And then Canberra opened up some magical attack in the second half, with four tries giving Canberra a 36-8 lead. The departing Mullins scored a double.



A try on full time to Lesley Vainikolo gave Daley an opportunity for a final kick at goal at home - but he missed from the sideline. It didn't matter. It didn't halt the magic. The sun started to shine and a rainbow appeared over Bruce Stadium. It was the perfect goodbye.

The trio would play one more match at Canberra Stadium - the Week 1 Finals victory over the Panthers. But it could not match the emotion of that Sunday in July.

2000 Round 23 - Canberra Raiders 40 (Jason Croker 2, Brett Mullins 2, Jamaal Lolesi, Andrew McFadden, Lesley Vainikolo tries, David Furner 6 goals) defeated Sydney Roosters 12 (Anthony Minichiello 2, Robert Miles tries) at Canberra Stadium

Canberra Raiders: 1. Brett Mullins 2. Jamaal Lolesi 3. Brad Kelly 4. Ken Nagas 5. Lesley Vainikolo 6. Laurie Daley 7. Andrew McFadden 8. Todd Payten 9. Simon Woolford 10. Luke Davico 11. Ruben Wiki 12. David Furner 13. Jason Croker

14. Mark McLinden 15. Alan Tongue 16. Adam Peters 17. Justin Morgan

Coach Mal Meninga

Crowd: 23,603


Careers of three greats

Laurie Daley: Laurie Daley joined the Raiders in 1987, after coach Don Furner saw him playing for the Junee Diesels as a 16 year old. He started the year in Jersey Flegg and ended making a finals appearance in first grade. He also sat on the bench in the 1987 Grand Final. He went on to win three premierships and make four Grand Final appearances for Canberra. He played at centre in the 1989 and 1990 Grand Final wins and at five eighth in the 1994 Grand Final victory. No Raider has made more finals appearances. No Raider has won more club Player of the Year awards - five. He was the Dally M Player of the Year in 1995 and the Super League Player of the Year in 1997 - playing both seasons at five eighth. He is just one of two Raiders players to captain Australia, along with Mal Meninga. He is also one of seven Raiders inducted to the NRL Hall of Fame. A true legend of the club.

Raiders record: 1987-2000, 244 games, 87 tries, 44 goals, nine field goals, 445 points
173 games at five eighth, 48 at centre, nine at lock, six at fullback, one at halfback, seven off the bench
Three premierships, four grand finals, 27 finals matches
17 finals games at five eighth, including the 1991 and 1994 grand finals. Seven finals games at centre, including the 1989 and 1990 grand finals. One finals game at five eighth, one at halfback
Six World Club Challenge matches
Dally M Player of the Year 1995
Rugby League Week Player of the Year 1995
Super League Player of the Year 1997
Silver Dally M 1996
Dally M Captain of the Year 1996
Provan Summons Medal 1996
Dally M Five eighth of the Year 1995
Raiders Player of the Year 1990, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999
Raiders Best Player 1988, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000
Raiders Clubman of the Year 1997
First for most Raiders Player of the Year awards: Five
First for most finals appearances for the club: 27
Third for most games for the club: 244
Fourth for most tries for the club: 87
NRL Hall of Fame
Canberra Raiders Hall of Fame

Representative record: 1990-1999 Australia, 26 games, including five Super League Tests and five World Cup games
1993, 1997-1998 Australia captain
1989-1999 New South Wales, 26 games, including three with Super League
1988-1996 NSW Country, seven games

Brett Mullins: Speedster Brett Mullins rose from the Raiders' junior ranks to become one of the club's top try scorers of all time. He scored 105 tries - one of only three Raiders to score more than 100 four pointers. He and his father Bill became the first father-son combination to score more than a century of tries. At times, the things he did on the field were exhilarating - such as the "miracle try" scored against the Broncos one night at Canberra Statdium. That double kick and chase has gone down in Raiders folklore. He memorably scored four long range tries against the Knights at Newcastle in 1994. He went to England to play with Leeds in the 2001 season. He then linked with Ricky Stuart and the Roosters in 2002 for a premiership winning season, playing mostly on the wing.

Raiders record: 1990-2000, 183 games, 105 tries, 420 points
113 games at fullback, 48 at centre, 12 at winger, 10 off the bench
One premiership, one grand final, 17 finals matches. Eight finals games at fullback, including the 1994 grand final. Eight finals games at centre and one on the wing.
Raiders Sponsors Award 1994
Dally M Fullback of the Year 1994
Third most tries: 105, 1990-2000
Equal second for most tries in a season: 22, 1994
Twice scored four tries in a game: four V South Sydney, Sydney Football Stadium, July 24, 1994
four V Newcastle, Newcastle, July 29, 1994
Ninth most points: 420 (105T) 1990-2000

Representative record: 1994-1997 Australia nine games, including three with Super League
1994-1997 New South Wales seven games, including two with Super League
1992-1996 NSW Country four games

David Furner: Born in Queanbeyan, the son of the club's inaugural coach, Don, David Furner made his first grade debut for the Raiders in Round 2 of 1992 against the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval. He went on to play exactly 200 games, win a premiership and take out the Clive Churchill Medal for the best player of the 1994 grand final. A goal kicker, he left the club as the game's highest point scoring forward - and his points record has only been surpassed by Jarrod Croker. He headed to England in 2001, and played 110 games in Super League with Wigan and Leeds.

Raiders record: 1992-2000, 200 games, 49 tries, 511 goals, 1218 points
171 games in the second row, 18 at lock, two at prop, one at hooker, eight off the bench
One premiership, one grand final, 15 finals games, 13 in the second row, two off the bench
Clive Churchill Medal 1994
12th for most games for the club - 200
Second for most points for the club - 1218
Second for most goals for the club - 511
10th and 11th for most points in a season for the club - 198 in 1995 and 196 in 1994
Most goals for the club in a match - 10 against the Eels at Canberra Stadium, August 22, 1993
Raiders Best Player 1998
Raiders Clubman of the Year 1994
Raiders Sponsors Award 1992

Representative record: 1994-1997 Australia, three games
1996-2000 New South Wales, 11 games
1996 NSW Country, one game
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

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9. First taste of victory

The worst point of the Raiders debut season came in Round 7 at Belmore Oval - a 54-3 thrashing from the Eels. But something better was to come on the Sunday at Seiffert Oval in the round eight clash against Newtown – the team that met premier Parramatta in the 1981 Grand Final.

It turned into a tense and gripping contest. Canberra trailed 8-2 at the break, but a barnstorming try from John McLeod after a David Grant bust shortly after half time brought the Raiders back into the match. Late in the game, the Raiders trailed the Jets 11-7, but a young replacement, Chris O’Sullivan proved the difference. He ran past two Newtown defenders, leapt over some more, and lunged over the try line. It produced a 12-11 lead for the home side, which the Raiders held until the hooter sounded.

It’s a cliché to say “the crowd went wild”, but it certainly did. There seemed to be many more in attendance than 9,982. The seven game losing streak was over, the local team had won its first ever match and the roar was as loud as if Canberra had won the premiership. After the match captain David Grant simply said: “We are on top of the world”.



Goal kicker Steve O’Callaghan was the other hero of the first win. The Raiders scored just two tries to Newtown’s three. O’Callaghan was a reluctant kicker that day, with coach Furner revealing: “O’Callaghan had to be press ganged into it. I called for volunteers to take the goal kicks at training during the week, but O’Callaghan is such a quiet type that he didn’t say anything. Fortunately I had seen him kick before and knew he was up to it”. O’Callaghan kicked three from three, while normally reliable Newtown goal kicker, Ken Wilson, landed only one from five attempts.

Second rower Ashley Gilbert recalled the match later: “It was like winning a grand final. Like batting in your first Test match and finally getting off the duck”. Hooker Jay Hoffman said: “I’d injured my neck towards the end of the game and had to go to the hospital for some x-rays. All I wanted to do was to get back for the celebrations. To carry that losing streak for so long, it was a momentous occasion.” Others were thinking about more than just the win. “I remember walking into the sheds after our first win against Newtown and David Reid said ‘You beauty, 500 bucks.’ Most of the other clubs were paying $200 a win, but we were on $500. That was a lot of money back then,” winger Steve O’Callaghan said.

The Jets had been grand finalists the year before and in the midst of Seiffert celebrations, it must have felt like they had lost another decider. Four future Raiders were amongst their midst - Allan McMahon, Ray Blacklock, Dean Lance and John Ferguson. Some of them would see much better days in the national capital.

The day after the Newtown victory, Sydney commentator Ron Casey sent a telegram to Canberra Raiders headquarters at Queanbeyan. He had predicted the Raiders would not win a match in their first year. All it said was: “Sincere congratulations – JC is infallible. RC is not.” It would not be the last time that the so-called Sydney experts would be proven wrong by the team from the national capital.

1982 Round 8 - Canberra Raiders 12 (Jon McLeod, Chris O'Sullivan tries, Steve O'Callaghan 3 goals) defeated Newtown Jets 11 (Ray Blacklock, Steve Bowden, Allan McMahon tries, Ken Wilson 1 goal).

Canberra Raiders: 1. Rowan Brennan 2. Steve O'Callaghan 3. Craig Bellamy 4. Frank Roddy 5. David Reid 6. Lloyd Martin 7. Terry Wickey 8. Carl Frommel 9. John McLeod 10. Jon Hardy 11. David Grant (c) 12. Jay Hoffman 13. Jeff Simons

14. Gary Britt 15. Graham Waugh 16. Chris O'Sullivan 17. Peter Elliott

Coach: Don Furner

Crowd: 9,982
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40 Years - 40 Moments

Post by greeneyed »

8. The birth of a club

When the Canberra Raiders took to the field for the first time, a match against South Sydney at Redfern Oval on February 27, 1982, it was the culmination of a dream. It was a dream originating with a group of people in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, just over the border from the Australian Capital Territory.

Back then Queanbeyan was a place that Canberrans often called "Struggletown". It was a small country town - there long before the site of the national capital was selected, before the nation was even founded. It was without the planning and services of the nation's capital on its doorstep. It was a town populated by the working class of the district.

But in the rugby league world, Queanbeyan was a powerful centre of country football. A centre supported by a prosperous leagues club, built on the streams of Canberrans who would drive over the border to the poker machine palace – at a time poker machines were not legal in the ACT. Eighty per cent of the members of the club at the time actually lived in Canberra.

The local rugby league ground, Seiffert Oval, was the equal, if not superior, to many of the grounds that Sydney rugby league clubs called home after the Queanbeyan Leagues club had injected $2 million into the ground's development. It even had floodlighting which allowed for mid-week Cup matches to be played for television between Eastern Suburbs and Monaro and Riverina and Canterbury.

The man who led the push for the Canberra district to have its own team in the "Sydney competition" was Les McIntyre – the man behind the rise of the Queanbeyan Blues and then the president of the Queanbeyan Leagues Club. The New South Wales Rugby League had already decided in December 1980 to admit Illawarra to its top flight competition in 1982, but was on a search for a 14th team to enter alongside them.

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Les McIntyre, founder of the Canberra Raiders.

McIntyre was originally interested in entering his Queanbeyan Blues team into the Sydney league, but as McIntyre recalled: "They didn't want a club side, they wanted a district team. With that in mind, I called a meeting of the district clubs". It had to be a club that represented Canberra and the whole region. It wouldn't happen otherwise.

On January 4, 1981, a meeting of the 16 ACT and region clubs voted unanimously to test the support of the local public and in principle to prepare a submission to the NSWRL. A survey of 1872 people later showed that 80.5 per cent of people wanted to attend matches if a local team played in the NSWRL competition. Surveys in Goulburn and Yass found 65 per cent of people would support the venture as well. So a committee was formed to proceed with the bid. It was headed by McIntyre and included Don Elphick (ACT Rugby League president), George Tooke (Canberra District Rugby League secretary), Gerry Edwards (ACTRL secretary), Graham Ayre (CDRL treasurer), Mark Herron (ACTRL treasurer), Rod Edwards (QLC secretary), Fred Daly (patron), and Arthur Laing (promotions and marketing).

The Canberra bid faced some stiff competition. There was also interest from Campbelltown, Newcastle and the Central Coast – all districts which were much closer to Sydney than the nation's capital. Again Les McIntyre recalled: "Three districts were asked to put in a submission – there was Campbelltown, Newcastle and ourselves. Newcastle declined the invitation, saying they already had a very good competition and it would be decimated if a side was chosen to play in Sydney. It's my opinion and I think it's everyone else's opinion, if Newcastle would have applied they would have been in. There's no risk on that score".

The Canberra bid submission was delivered to the NSWRL on March 9, 1981 and presented at a meeting in Sydney on March 30 – alongside the bid from Campbelltown. The team representing Canberra and district included Les McIntyre, Don Elphick, George Tooke, Graham Ayre, Ron Edwards and Fred Daly. The Canberra bid had already selected Don Furner as inaugural coach, with a term of three years, should the team be admitted. Furner, along with the Member for Canberra, Ros Kelly, also attended.

Bringing Furner on board was a smart, albeit obvious move. Indeed, it would never have succeeded without him. As a player, Furner had represented Queensland and toured with the 1956-57 Kangaroos. He coached the Queanbeyan Blues from 1965-69, but then moved to the big smoke to coach the Eastern Suburbs Roosters between 1970-72, taking them to the 1972 Grand Final. He then settled back to coach Queanbeyan Blues again, long term. He was therefore well known in Sydney League circles.

Making Fred Daly and Ros Kelly – co patrons of the budding club – part of the team was also a plus. It was their job to put the case from the Canberra community. Daly was a long time Federal Labor politician, representing seats in the inner south west of Sydney, and a long time Newtown stalwart – but had retired in 1975 and lived in Canberra. He was famous for his wit, and became known as the "King of Canberra". Ros Kelly was a popular local member, newly elected to the seat of Canberra in 1980. Kelly recalled the March 30 meeting: "I was told at rugby league headquarters as we walked into the room that no woman had officially step foot in that room before. I knew I had their attention for at least two minutes and told them it was their opportunity to grow rugby league in the region. Fred of course, made them laugh".

The Canberra submission highlighted that the admission of Canberra to the NSWRL was critical for rugby league's development and growth in the region and to promote its popularity outside of Sydney. Canberra was sold as one of the fastest growing regions outside of Sydney and Melbourne. In addition, "in terms of status, Canberra, as the national capital is the front window of Australia, and rugby league should be prominently displayed". But McIntyre also warned in his submission that Canberra was a major target for the promotion of competitor codes and that rugby league was suffering in the district. He argued that admission of a team in Canberra was essential if this was to be turned around.

That made sense, but the Sydney based clubs still had a healthy dose of self-interest at the top of mind. One significant issue was the distance to Canberra and the costs of travel for the Sydney teams. The Canberra submission pointed out that the flight from Sydney to Canberra airports took only 23 minutes – and all up, it would take only 40 minutes to get to Seiffert Oval. For the majority of clubs, that was as close in terms of travel as the Sea Eagles' ground at Brookvale or the Panthers' ground at Penrith. And right up front, the Canberra bid promised "to look favourably, by assisting in transporting the first grade team and officials at no cost who require this assistance." But that was not clear enough.

Les McIntyre recalled the March 30 meeting: "During Campbelltown's submission [NSWRL chief] Kevin Humphreys came out and called me aside and he said, 'Les, if you don't get in there and promise to pay the expenses for the Sydney teams to come to Queanbeyan, you're no chance.' So I got in there and promised them the world. We kept those promises – the first year we did, we paid all their airfares and accommodation."

The travel costs were not the only issue. Campbelltown had presented at the March 30 meeting first and they adopted some spoiling tactics. Campbelltown delegate John Marsden provided statistics to the NSWRL showing that Canberra airport was closed by fog at least up until noon 39 times between March and September in 1980. The statistics caused several NSWRL delegates concern that matches might have to be called off, with Sydney teams stuck waiting at Mascot while planes were grounded.

There had been some early betting that Canberra – with a well-financed annual budget of $660,000, a recognised top line coach and high standard ground – would win by 20 votes. But it was much closer than that on the night. The Campbelltown presentation had had its impact. At the end of the four and a half hour meeting on March 30, Canberra won out over Campbelltown by 24 votes to 18. At the same time, it was agreed that the possible admission of Campbelltown and Newcastle in 1984 would be considered at the next NSWRL meeting.

The decision was front page news in The Canberra Times next day. Les McIntyre said: "It's the best thing that has happened to Canberra since inauguration as far as sport is concerned." On his return to Canberra, Don Furner said: "I feel like someone who has gone round one with Muhammed Ali, and now has the rest of the fight to go. It will take three years to build a foundation. We are starting from scratch. Basically next year we will be seeking six experienced players. I'm a realist. I'm not fooled into thinking that we are going to challenge the top teams yet. But what happened on Monday night was a magnificent boost for rugby league in this area and we can compete, without any doubt".

The biggest task was gathering a team in less than a year – within the strictures of a "13 import rule" which applied to all clubs at the time. There were no special dispensations for the new kids on the block from the Sydney clubs, to allow Canberra to build a competitive team quickly for its entry year. The Raiders could only take on board 13 imported players, the others would have to come from the local district or bush football. That had the effect of protecting the Sydney clubs from competition from Canberra for the signature of players. The disadvantage for Canberra was compounded by the rule that imported players became "locals" after three years, something available to the established clubs, but not initially the Raiders.

One of the original Canberra Raiders, winger Angel Marina recalled: "We originally got invitations from Les McIntyre and the Queanbeyan Leagues Club, all the players in the district who were any good were given an invitation to come and try out for the club." Fellow original player, fullback Steve O'Callaghan said: "I suppose 70 per cent of the players came from the [Queanbeyan] Roos or the Blues. There were some guys from West Belconnen and the other local Group 8 sides. There was a 13 import rule so that reflected on who they could get here. David Grant came down, Lloyd Martin, I think Scott Dudman. It was very difficult because they'd been exposed to that level of play and to bring everyone else up to speed, to try and reach that level was difficult".

David Grant, attracted from the Balmain Tigers, would go on to be the Canberra Raiders inaugural captain. But others were less known. Don Furner recalled: "I'd go anywhere to have a look for players. I had contacts all over the place from people I'd known over the years and I'd ring them to see if there were any good players. I'd never sign anyone up on someone else's say-so, I'd always go and watch them. In the end we picked up quite a few players like that".

One tip came from a truck driver Furner met in Brisbane. "He rang me up and said, "I've got a good player for you in Darwin'. I said 'You've got to be kidding, I could play there,'" Furner said. But he went to Darwin and came back with the signature of indigenous half Gerry De La Cruz, a player who would go down in history as the first ever try scorer for Canberra.

Still, it was extremely difficult to attract players from outside the district to the fledgling club. "Players had to be encouraged to come to this area and that was no easy task. We had to arrange accommodation and jobs. We had to pick the best of what was left because a lot of players were tied up with the top sides. It was very hard to get people to come here when they knew they were going to get belted," Furner said.

Apart from gathering a squad, other important things had to be decided – like the name and colours of the club. The Canberra Times reported the morning after the admission vote that there "have been suggestions that Canberra will be known as the Raiders and the team colours will be emerald green and white". But the original submission to the NSWRL promised that a public competition would be held to design a team jumper, complete with colours, which would not conflict with any other existing club. A competition would also be held to decide on the emblem and team name.

The jumper competition was won by Canberran Beverly Patricia Elphick (nee Taylor), selected from about 150 entries. The club colours combined the blue and gold official colours of the ACT and the colours of the first rugby league team in the district, Hall (green and white). Patricia, the wife of Don Elphick, revealed in 2019 that her husband, the ACTRL President, had been the actual designer. The famous shade of lime green was selected so as to avoid a clash with South Sydney's jersey. Don Furner later revealed that it was modelled on the green of a sofa at the Queanbeyan Leagues Club. "In Les McIntyre's office there was a lounge that was that colour and we said why not that colour there, and that's how it all began" Furner remembered. The idea for the club moniker, the Raiders, is also attributed to Don Furner, who had visited the Oakland Raiders NFL team in the United States. The concept was that Canberra would be going on raiding parties on Sydney every second weekend. The Viking emblem was designed by the NSWRL marketing department in the end.

On November 2 1981, the new club held its first training session, with 70 players in all lining up, yet Canberra was still searching for players right up until the last minute, holding an open trial on January 31, 1982 at which 90 players turned out. The Canberra Raiders team had their first trial match February 6, 1982 against Canterbury (losing 16-10) and then their first home trial at Seiffert Oval against Illawarra on February 13 (losing 12-8). An official lunch was held on February 19 to launch the club at - where else but Queanbeyan Leagues Club. It was attended by league chief Kevin Humphries, along with other league luminaries like Frank Hyde and Greg Hartley. A third trial game against Manly in Sydney rounded out the preparations (a 28-16 defeat).

By the time of that first ever official match against South Sydney in 1982, everything possible had been done to lay the foundations of a successful club in the big league.

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The Raiders led the Rabbitohs 7-5 at an early stage in the round one Redfern clash. The honour of the very first points Canberra scored went to kicker Peter McGrath - a centre who would go on to rise to the very top of rugby union administration in Australia - via a penalty goal. The first try in Raiders history was produced by halfback Gerry de la Cruz. He would later say: "It probably didn't mean as much to me at the time, but I remember when the Raiders were going into the 1989 Grand Final, there was an ad that featured it. We had about half a dozen first graders in the team who tried to tell us what it would be like, but we really had to learn for ourselves. It was great. It had always been my ambition to play first grade in the best competition in the world." De la Cruz would only play four games for the Raiders in first grade, but his place in Raiders folklore was assured that day.

The 7-5 lead over South Sydney didn't last, and the Rabbitohs ended up giving Canberra a 37-7 footballing lesson. "One lasting memory I have is Robert Simpkins running straight at me and trying to tackle him," Peter McGrath remembered. "He just kept running through and I thought, 'this is it' we're in the big league now'. That's when it dawned on me. They beat us soundly. It took us a while to adjust to the pace and intensity." Winger Steve O'Callaghan was struck by the size of the challenge facing the team. "We were despondent [after the match]. A lot of the guys from Sydney went out on the town, but I went back to the motel and didn't feel like going anywhere after that." Another veteran of the match, off the bench, was Michael Tilse, the father of 200 game Raiders prop Dane Tilse. "As a young bloke, you probably don't realise how much that game meant," Tilse later recalled. "But to be in that first game and be part of history is something special."

The first home game the next week saw the Western Suburbs Magpies come to Seiffert Oval – and 6,769 people turned out. The first home match had a carnival atmosphere. The Raiderettes made their first appearance and Fred Daly conducted the ceremonial kick off. Unfortunately, another big score was put on the new boys in the league – just two penalty goals to McGrath for the Raiders and a 33-4 defeat.

The 1982 season was marked by many heavy defeats and just four victories. But it was the start of an even bigger dream.

First match

1982 Round 1 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 37 defeated Canberra Raiders 7 (Gerry de la Cruz try, Peter McGrath 2 goals) at Redfern Oval

Canberra Raiders: 1. Sam Vucago 2. Chris O'Grady 3. Frank Roddy 4. Peter McGrath 5. Steve O'Callaghan 6. Lloyd Martin 7. Gerry de la Cruz 8. Carl Frommel 9. John McLeod 10. Jon Hardy 11. David Grant (c) 12. Jay Hoffman 13. Jeff Simons

14. Mick Tilse 15. Scott Dudman

Coach Don Furner

Crowd: 6,929


First home match

1982 Round 2 - Western Suburbs Magpies 33 defeated Canberra Raiders 4 (Peter McGrath 2 goals) at Seiffert Oval

Canberra Raiders: 1. Sam Vucago 2. Chris O'Grady 3. Frank Roddy 4. Peter McGrath 5. Steve O'Callaghan 6. Lloyd Martin 7. Gerry de la Cruz 8. Carl Frommel 9. John McLeod 10. Jon Hardy 11. David Grant (c) 12. Jay Hoffman 13. Jeff Simons

14. Paul West 15. Scott Dudman 16. Richard Cooke

Coach Don Furner

Crowd: 6,769
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

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7. Meninga's final home game

Mal Meninga signed for the Canberra Raiders in 1986. It was a pivotal moment for the fledgling club. He was the Raiders’ first marquee signing. Having him on board was instrumental in attracting other players to the club - even a coach, Wayne Bennett. It was the start of the rise of the club to a powerhouse. It was the start of the most important phase of his own career. The events that followed - his incredible come back from four broken arms, four Grand Finals, three premierships, his rise to Queensland and Australian captain - saw him transform into an Immortal of the game.

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1994 was the final year of Mal Meninga's playing career. When the time came for him to play his final match at home, it was revealed how important the "Baron of Bruce" had become to the people of Canberra. It was Round 21. The opponent was the Western Suburbs Magpies.

A glittering formal tribute was staged at the National Convention Centre in the lead up, a sold out event attended by 1500 people in the lead up to the match. "This is your football life" was the theme, with the likes of Les McIntyre, Laurie Daley and Ricky Stuart taking to the stage to share their memories of "Big Mal". Tony Testa, a club official from Brisbane Souths, and Peter Gourley, a team mate from St Helens, were surprise guests. Ken Begg, a television newsman, summed it up.

"You have helped to bring the community together, to give it a sense of identity. You have bonded us."

Coach Tim Sheens was keen to remind his team of the job at hand. A spot in the top three - and a second bite at the cherry in the finals - was at stake for the fourth placed Raiders.

"We are not doing it for Mal this week," Sheens said in the lead up to the match. "We are doing it for the team. The emotion of the day will come afterwards, not during the game. We want to win the game first and celebrate Mal's last game second.

"Wayne Pearce went out and lost his last home game. The idea is to go out and play the way we have been. Mal doesn't have to score 10 tries. I just want him to do his job. He just has to do what he has been doing, week in and week out. He has been playing strongly and picking up one or two tries as it is. Everyone working as a team. I don't want any individualism or playing up the emotion."

What was then a record Bruce Stadium crowd of 25,253 turned out for the match. The ACT Sports Minister gave free admission to children under 15 in the non-reserved sections - and so many turned up, they were accommodated inside the fence at either end of the field on the grass. Thousands of cardboard Mal Meninga masks were handed out at the ground.

A minute's silence preceded the game in honour of the Raiders first ever captain, David Grant, who had sadly passed away the day before the game.

The Magpies were intent on spoiling the party. Led by forward Stephen Kearney, they used tactics designed to upset the Raiders free flowing football. It was reflected in the 7-2 penalty count in favour of the Raiders in the first half. But the tactics worked. At half time, the Magpies were surprise 18-14 leaders. It took the Raiders own hard nosed forwards, John Lomax and Quentin Pongia - along with a little help from half Ricky Stuart - to wrest back control. And then Canberra's attack took over.

The Raiders ran out 40-22 winners, in the end, with Brad Clyde, Jason Croker and Noa Nadruku scoring doubles. Meninga did not score a try. He came close, in the 28th minute, but he lost the ball and it went into touch. However, he was given a shot at goal, ensuring his name was on the point scoring list.

In an event filled afternoon, Laurie Daley and Ken Nagas made successful returns from injury, while Wests' replacement forward Justin Dooley was put on report for a high shot on Brett Hetherington... and was sent off in the 74th minute for a head high tackle on Brad Clyde.

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The planned post match proceedings were disrupted, as the pitch was invaded by thousands, desperate to be closer to their idol. And then came the biggest surprise of the afternoon - when a sign on the western grandstand was revealed: "The Mal Meninga Stand". He was accompanied on his lap of honour by a surging crowd of fans.

"I feel pretty proud of the fact that they came out to see my last game at Bruce and particularly the stand," Meninga said later. "That is a great honour for me. It is something I will treasure forever. It was great. I didn't expect it."



Meninga was disappointed he didn't score a four pointer.

"It was a pity I couldn't cross the try-line. I was trying pretty hard to do that all day. I was real hyped up for the game. I thought my preparation was pretty good. I dropped a couple of balls in the first half which I don't normally do. That is something I can work on."

"My major goal this year is to be a part of a premiership winning side, so we have got a long way to go. That is just one of the stepping stones. Wests, being at home, and my last game in Canberra, I guess it is pretty emotional."

More emotion, more exhilaration, would soon follow.

Round 21 1994 - Canberra Raiders 40 (B. Clyde 2, J. Croker 2, N. Nadruku 2, L. Daley, R. Wiki tries; D. Furner 3, M. Meninga goals) defeated Western Suburbs Magpies 22 (B. Costin 2, P. Smith, J. White tries; A. Leeds 3 goals) at Bruce Stadium

Canberra Raiders: 1. Brett Mullins 2. Albert Fulivai 3. Mal Meninga 4. Ruben Wiki 5. Noa Nadruku 6. Jason Croker 7. Ricky Stuart 8. Quentin Pongia 9. Steve Walters 10. John Lomax 11. Brett Hetherington 12. David Furner 13. Brad Clyde

14. Ken Nagas 15. David Westley 16. Jason Death 17. Laurie Daley

Coach Tim Sheens

Crowd: 25,253


The career of the greatest Raider

Mal Meninga is one of only 13 Immortals of the game in Australia - and the only Raiders Immortal. He is widely regarded as the club's best ever signing, the catalyst for the Raiders' golden age of the late 1980s to mid 1990s. Born in Bundaberg, Meninga joined the Raiders in 1986 and went on to play in five grand finals and win three premierships with the club. He was a colossus at centre, a barnstorming, unstoppable runner and a punishing defender. He was appointed Raiders captain in 1989 and led the team to each of its three premierships. When he retired, he had set multiple records for Australia and Queensland. He had made an unprecedented four Kangaroos Tours, captaining two, scored the most points in Test rugby league (272), captained Australia in 23 Tests, made the most appearances in State of Origin (32), and scored the most points in Origin (161). He played over 400 first class games with the Raiders and Brisbane Souths - and appeared in 11 grand finals with the two clubs. He also won two premierships in Brisbane.

Raiders record: 1986-1994, 166 games, 74 tries, 283 goals, two field goals, 864 points
160 games at centre, three in the second row, two at five eighth, one off the bench
Three premierships, five grand finals, 19 finals games, 18 at centre, one at five eighth
Golden Boot 1990, Best Player in the World
Rugby League Week Player of the Year 1990
Dally M Centre of the Year 1990, 1991
Dally M Captain of the Year 1994
Raiders Players' Player 1991
Raiders Best Player 1990
Fourth most points for the club - 864 (74T, 283G, 2FG), 1986-1994
Sixth most tries for the club - 74, 1986-1994
Most points in a match for the club - 38 (5T, 9G) V Easts, Bruce Stadium, August 22, 1993, also ranks third
Only player to score five tries for the club - against the Roosters, Bruce Stadium, April 15, 1990
Equal third most goals for the club - nine against the Roosters, Bruce Stadium, April 15, 1990
Equal tenth most tries in a season for the club - 17, 1990
Eighth most points in a season for the club - 212 (17T, 72G), 1990
Australian Team of the Century, 2008
Queensland Team of the Century, 2008
NRL Immortal
NRL Hall of Fame
Raiders Hall of Fame

Representative record*: 1986-1994 Australia, 34 games, including 11 World Cup games
1986-1994 Queensland, 19 games
1988 Australian President's XIII, against Great Britain Lions, Queanbeyan
1990-1994 Australian captain
* Excludes representative appearances from other clubs
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40 Years - 40 Moments

Post by greeneyed »

6. A third straight Grand Final

1991. It was the year of the Canberra Raiders’ salary cap storm, the year when the nation’s capital hung on news of Ricky’s groin injury, the year Gary Coyne scored four in a final. And the year the Green Machine qualified for its third straight Grand Final. Ricky’s injury was not the only one causing disruption. It was remarkable that Canberra was able to progress to the premiership decider, even though it was not be be back to back to back premierships.



One of the highlights was a 20-0 defeat of the eventual premiers, the Penrith Panthers at home in Round 11. The Raiders fielded a team of young players, with the ranks severely thinned by representative duties. Graham "Buck" Rogers coached during the week, while Tim Sheens was with the Blues in State of Origin camp. Jason Gregory, Steve Stone, Alex Corvo and Brett Boyd made their first grade debuts. Inexperienced players like Michael Twigg and Jason Croker also featured. These Raiders were truly green. The Panthers too were denied their representative players, but featured an experienced line up and Penrith were expected to account easily for Canberra.

Canberra's cause was helped by the dismissal of the Panthers' hooker Darren Tuite for an elbow, 15 minutes into the match. But the performance of the young players had the Raiders crowd giving standing ovations. Steve Stone made 25 tackles and 18 hit ups, Alex Corvo made 36 punishing tackles and Jason Gregory was heavily involved. The 18 year old Brett Boyd made 41 tackles and was constantly dangerous with dummy half runs. Sheens wanted to take no credit after the match: "Talk to Buck. This belongs to him and the players. He prepared the Canberra team today."

Then in Round 20, the sixth placed Raiders sounded a warning against the third placed Western Suburbs Magpies. It was Canberra's most comprehensive performance of the season, a 36-8 win at home - described by coach Tim Sheens as one of the best he's been involved with. Brad Clyde had the perfect game, awarded a rare 10 rating by Rugby League Week. He often handled three or four times in a set, hitting the line and throwing beautiful, sometimes magical, offloads. And then he backed up and tackled. Meninga, Daley, Walters and Stuart were not far behind. The Magpies were in the match at half time, but buckled under the pressure of the Raiders' attack in the second half.

There were plenty of highlights. A Meninga try scored from one of those magical Brad Clyde passes. A chip and chase from Ricky Stuart for a try. A tackle from Laurie Daley on Graeme Wynn to save a try. A 30 metre run from Darren Fritz to set up a Jason Croker try. For the first time in 1991, Canberra had climbed to the edge of the top five - a share of equal fifth place.

The Raiders had to win the last four matches of the regular season to just make the top five. In the first week of the finals, the beat the Magpies, 22-8. A four try haul for workhorse second rower Gary Coyne was a highlight of the next clash with the Sea Eagles. Four for a forward. It was an unlikely record for a finals match.

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"When I scored my fourth try we were all just bloody astounded I'd gone over four times. It's something that will always be with me" Coyne recalled later.

The fourth try was a cunning tap move from Mal Meninga, who feigned a penalty goal attempt, but then took the quick tap.

"Mal and I were the only ones who knew what was going on, and everybody else, including our guys, thought we were going to take the two points... But there I was again going over for the try. Manly were just blowing up, they got conned a big one on that play."

It was a 34-26 victory for the Green Machine in an epic.

In the Grand Final qualifier, the North Sydney Bears went to a 12-0 lead after just 17 minutes. The hapless Bears were hoping for their first Grand Final appearance since 1943. Surely they could not be denied. But they were. Minutes later, Ricky Stuart threw a 30 metre pass to Brad Clyde who tore away for a four pointer. Then the Raiders launched a 75 metre attacking move, which put Paul Martin over the line. And shortly after, when Martin scored the second of his three tries, Canberra had turned a 12-0 deficit to a 16-12 lead, in less than 15 minutes.

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Daley, Meninga, Clyde and Stuart had been instrumental. Daley left the field early in the second half with a hamstring injury, but Canberra powered on, scoring three more tries. Ricky Stuart played in spite of an ongoing groin injury and suffering acute tonsillitis 24 hours before the game. The team was becoming a little frayed, due to injury. But this match ended in an emphatic 30-14 victory for Canberra. It meant there would be another meeting with the Penrith Panthers on Grand Final Day.

Prime Minister Bob Hawke, the Raiders No. 1 supporter, was in the stands. "[They're] one of the most talented sporting sides in any football code in Australia. It makes me feel very happy to say I'm their lucky charm, but it's not my lucky charm - it's just a tremendously talented team," he said.

Canberra had qualified for their third Grand Final in a row and their fourth Grand Final in five years. While a third successive premiership was not to be, Canberra was well on its way to becoming the team of the 90's.



1991 Minor Semi Final - Canberra Raiders 34 (Gary Coyne 4, Gary Belcher, Mark Bell tries, Mal Meninga 3, Matthew Wood 2 goals) defeated Manly Sea Eagles 26 (Kevin Iro 2, Owen Cunningham, Frank Stokes tries, Matthew Ridge 5 goals) at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Canberra Raiders: 1. Gary Belcher 2. Paul Martin 3. Mal Meninga (C) 4. Mark Bell 5. Matthew Wood 6. Laurie Daley 7. Ricky Stuart 8. Brent Todd 9. Steve Walters 10. Glenn Lazarus 11. David Barnhill 12. Gary Coyne 13. Brad Clyde

14. Darren Fritz 15. Darrell McDonald 16. Jason Gregory 17. Brett Boyd 16

Coach Tim Sheens

Crowd: 34,807


1991 Preliminary Final - Canberra Raiders 30 (Paul Martin 3, Mal Meninga, Matthew Wood, Brad Clyde tries, Mal Meninga 2, Matthew Wood goals) defeated North Sydney Bears 14 (Paul Conlon, John McArthur tries, Daryl Halligan 3 goals) at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Canberra Raiders: 1. Gary Belcher 2. Paul Martin 3. Mal Meninga 4. Mark Bell 5. Matthew Wood 6. Laurie Daley 7. Ricky Stuart 8. Brent Todd 9. Steve Walters 10. Glenn Lazarus 11. David Barnhill 12. Gary Coyne 13. Brad Clyde

14. Darren Fritz 15. Brett Boyd 16. Michael Twigg 17. Scott Gale

Coach Tim Sheens

Crowd: 39,665

1991 Grand Final - Penrith Panthers 19 (Royce Simmons 2, Brad Izzard tries, Greg Alexander 3 goals) defeated Canberra Raiders 12 (Matthew Wood 2 tries, Mal Meninga 1 goal) at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Canberra Raiders: 1. Gary Belcher 2. Paul Martin 3. Mal Meninga 4. Mark Bell 5. Matthew Wood 6. Laurie Daley 7. Ricky Stuart 8. Brent Todd 9. Steve Walters 10. Glenn Lazarus 11. David Barnhill 12. Gary Coyne 13. Brad Clyde

40. Darren Fritz 19. Michael Twigg 16. Scott Gale

Coach Tim Sheens

Crowd: 41,815
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

Post by greeneyed »

5. Raiders charge to their first Grand Final

Canberra made the semi finals for the first time in 1987 - under the guidance of co-coaches Don Furner and Wayne Bennett. The Raiders dropped out of the top five just once that season, after a three game losing streak between Rounds 9 and 11. Three games out from the finals, the Raiders were running fifth, but a three game winning streak saw the Green Machine finish in third - earning a crucial "second bite at the cherry" in the finals.

In Round 25, the Raiders travelled to Sydney for a clash with the Rabbitohs - a match billed as a farewell to Redfern Oval for South Sydney. In 1988, the Rabbitohs planned to move their home to the new Sydney Football Stadium. But the Raiders spoiled the farewell party for the 18.572 home crowd, burying the Rabbitohs 26-2 in a five tries to nil thrashing.

In the final match of the regular season, Roosters coach Arthur Beetson controversially rested a number of key players - as his team had already secured second place on the ladder. Many pundits suggested the Roosters were also deliberately "playing" the Raiders into third - as they preferred to face them in Week 1 of the finals. The Raiders won 22-18 at Henson - setting up a rematch the next week with the outfit from Sydney's eastern suburbs.



And despite losing the major preliminary semi-final against the Roosters, the Raiders left a trail of destruction in subsequent matches on the way to the Grand Final.

The minor semi final against the Rabbitohs started in sensational fashion, with Canberra targeting Souths' winger Steve Mavin with high balls and kicks. Three tries were conceded by Mavin and he was hooked after 16 minutes by Souths coach George Piggins. Mavin was so shattered he showered and left the ground, with the match still in progress.

It was 16-0 after 16 minutes and 28-2 after 31 minutes, with wave after wave of lime green attack producing an avalanche of tries. Sam Backo rampaged in the forwards, while Peter Jackson, Gary Belcher, Ivan Henjak and Chris O’Sullivan were outstanding in the backs. It ended at 46-12, eight tries to two. The Rabbitohs plan to run at Canberra's little men - Henjak, O'Sullivan and Walters - had failed. And George Piggins was forced to concede the Raiders' pack was "the best in the competition".

The Raiders again met the Roosters in the Preliminary Final - for the third time in a month. Mal Meninga made a heroic comeback, the arm he had broken covered in a huge arm guard. He wore jersey 21, the only jersey that would fit him, and ended up playing 64 minutes - after a week of speculation as to whether he would be fit. Meninga produced one of the most memorable moments in Raiders history when he smashed his way right over the top of Roosters forward, David Trewhella, to score a try - leaving Trewhella in a hole in the ground, snoozing.



The attack from Canberra was devastating, and the Raiders secured the victory in a 13 minute flurry in the second half, when Canberra was trailing 18-14, but surged to a 32-18 lead. The Roosters took the lead four times in the match, and the Raiders came back every time - winning 32-24.

"We just weren't going to be denied," captain Dean Lance said later. As [co-coach] Wayne [Bennett] said the other day, if the plane crashed at Goulburn, we'd walk to the SCG and still do our job."

Canberra had made the decider for the first time, after just six seasons in the competition.

It was a hot, hot day at the Sydney Cricket Ground for the premiership decider. It was the last Grand Final to be played at the SCG, with the finals to be played at the new Sydney Football Stadium next door, from 1988. The atmosphere was thick.

The Raiders were well in the match at half time, trailing 6-0 - after a Cliff Lyons try in the 26th minute. But the second half got off to a bad start, with Michael O'Connor kicking a penalty goal for the Sea Eagles, after just one minute. Gary Belcher was penalised for a shepherd when running the ball off the Raiders' own line. A Meninga penalty goal five minutes into the second half put the Raiders on the scoreboard. But an O'Connor penalty goal, followed by an O'Connor try, gave the Sea Eagles a 16-2 lead. Many thought O'Connor was offside in scoring the try. That mattered not. It sewed up the game for the minor premiers. Chris O'Sullivan scored the only try for the Raiders with just over 10 minutes remaining. The Sea Eagles only scored two tries to one, but they had many more opportunities than the Raiders. They deserved their victory.

The fairy tale was over. But Canberra and the Raiders were now inextricably bound. The Green Machine had cast a lasting spell over the national capital.



Fairytale run to the decider

1987 Minor Semi Final – Canberra Raiders 46 (Chris O'Sullivan 2, Sam Backo, Gary Belcher, Ashley Gilbert, Ivan Henjak, Chris Kinna, Steve Walters tries, Gary Belcher 7 goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 12.

Canberra Raiders: 1. Gary Belcher 2. Chris Kinna 3. Ivan Henjak 4. Peter Jackson 5. Matthew Corkery 6. Chris O'Sullivan 7. Kevin Walters 8. Dean Lance (c) 9. Gary Coyne 10. Ashley Gilbert 11. Sam Backo 12. Steve Walters 13. Brent Todd

17. Les Morrisey 14. Phil Carey 22. Rowan Brennan 23. Glenn Lazarus

Coaches Don Furner and Wayne Bennett

Crowd: 24,744


1987 Preliminary Final – Canberra Raiders 32 (Gary Coyne 2, Peter Jackson, Matthew Corkery, Ashley Gilbert, Mal Meninga tries, Mal Meninga 2, Gary Belcher 2 goals) defeated Eastern Suburbs Roosters 24.

Canberra Raiders: 1. Gary Belcher 2. Chris Kinna 4. Peter Jackson 21. Mal Meninga 5. Matthew Corkery 6. Chris O'Sullivan 3. Ivan Henjak 8. Dean Lance (c) 9. Gary Coyne 10. Ashley Gilbert 11. Sam Backo 12. Steve Walters 13. Brent Todd

16. Terry Regan 7. Kevin Walters 22. Rowan Brennan 23. Glenn Lazarus

Coaches Don Furner and Wayne Bennett

Crowd: 26,790


1987 Grand Final – Manly Sea Eagles 18 defeated Canberra Raiders 8 (Chris O'Sullivan try, Gary Belcher, Mal Meninga goals).

Canberra Raiders: 1. Gary Belcher 2. Chris Kinna 3. Peter Jackson 4. Mal Meninga 5. Matthew Corkery 6. Chris O'Sullivan 7. Ivan Henjak 8. Dean Lance (c) 9. Ashley Gilbert 10. Gary Coyne 11. Sam Backo 12. Steve Walters 13. Brent Todd

14. Kevin Walters 15. Terry Regan

Coaches Don Furner and Wayne Bennett

Crowd: 50,201
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

Post by greeneyed »

4. Raiders qualify for first Grand Final in 25 years

It was the greatest sporting moment that had ever taken place in Canberra. When Josh Papalii crossed under the posts, it was a moment of pure joy, of the sort never seen before at Canberra Stadium. There were some tense minutes remaining in the match. But then, finally, it was beyond any doubt. The Raiders had qualified for their sixth Grand Final, after a wait of 25 years. The scenes of pure emotion in the crowd at full time were unprecedented.

The 2019 Preliminary Final was the very first to be played in Canberra. The Raiders had qualified after beating the minor premier, the Melbourne Storm, in Bleak City. The opponents were the South Sydney Rabbitohs. It was not a pretty game. Jarrod Croker scored early, but the Rabbitohs struck back through Dane Gagai, 10 minutes before the break.

A Jack Wighton try in the 45th minute delivered a 10-6 lead for the Green Machine. As the second half wore on, it repeatedly seemed that the Rabbitohs would crack the game open. With 10 minutes remaining, the Raiders still clinging to a four point lead, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was sent to the sin bin. He had chased down Adam Reynolds - who had intercepted and made a huge break down field. The ball came free in the tackle and Nicoll-Klokstad was ruled to have stripped it. Most Raiders fans feared the worst. The Rabbitohs had come from behind to win in Week 2 of the finals, after the sin binning of Manly's Jake Trbojevic. However, it proved to be a turning point for the Raiders. The 12 men lifted - and when Josh Papalii scored under the posts in the 74th minute, the Raiders had locked up a Grand Final berth. The Rabbitohs would go on to score a late try, but it proved to be scant consolation. It was a 16-10 victory for the home team, a match they had simply refused to lose.



The Raiders' defence was extraordinary, but so too was the crowd. It was like a pulsating, surging beast. It erupted when Papalii scored and broke into spontaneous Viking Claps as the final minutes ticked down. After the siren sounded, long term mascot Tony Wood ripped off his Victor the Viking mask, in a show of emotion that was mirrored in the stands. Another Viking Clap, led by Sia Soliola, resounded in the aftermath.

There were more extraordinary scenes in the lead up to the Grand Final. Grand Final training was opened to members, the team and the Viking Horn were farewelled from the national capital, and the Grand Final squad was presented to an adoring crowd in Martin Place.

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It culminated on 6 October, when the supporters in lime took over Homebush, took over Sydney. There was a Viking Clap no one could ever forget. And the Raiders showed all the characteristics which got them to the Grand Final. They were resilient, composed, united and tough. Their defence was outstanding. The were the better team for most of the match. However, fortune didn't smile on the Green Machine in some key moments. The Roosters took their opportunities in a controversial match. The manner of the loss was the most heart-breaking thing. A refereeing blunder, with the scores level and 10 minutes remaining, was the turning point.

Both of the Roosters' tries in the Grand Final had an element of good fortune about them. The first, early in the match, followed a Raiders charge down of a Roosters' kick. The ball then came in contact with a Roosters trainer, who had little excuse to be there. The Roosters were awarded a scrum feed as the incident happened in the Raiders' own half. The advantage given to the "attacking" team instead of the team that had created an advantage. The call was technically correct, but the incident showed that the rule was a dud. Sam Verrills scored soon after.

The Roosters' second, decisive try, came after what some described as the "worst call in rugby league history". After a Canberra bomb to the Roosters' red zone, referee Ben Cummins called "six again". He ruled the Roosters touched the ball, before being recovered by the Raiders. Jack Wighton acted on the call... but Cummins' assistants told him to change the call. The Roosters had not touched the ball, they claimed, so it was still the last tackle. As Wighton said later:

"It's big, mate, it's massive. I saw it mate, it would have been on the toe or I would have thrown the ball if it was not that instruction. I heard the Roosters boys saying I had to give the ball over and I thought they were trying to trick me. I told my forward, Emre [Guler], to hold the ball because it was six again, then he threw it to me and I definitely wasn't passing it because I knew it was six again. It was a massive moment in the game."

The ball was turned over to the Roosters, and James Tedesco scored two plays later.



Both incidents led the NRL to later make changes to the rules. Too late for the Raiders. But there was also no denying the Raiders had their opportunities to win. With Cooper Cronk in the sin bin, in the second half, Joey Leilua simply had to pass to Jordan Rapana and the Raiders would have scored. Somehow, the Roosters held on during that 10 minute period. When it was all over, it was 14-8 in favour of the Sydney outfit. Jack Wighton won the Clive Churchill Medal, judged the best on the ground, in a losing team.

The Raiders had come "oh so close" to a fourth premiership - and the Raiders fans were still left bursting with pride.

2019 Preliminary Final - Canberra Raiders 16 (Jarrod Croker, Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii tries, Jarrod Croker 2 goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 10 (Dane Gagai, Campbell Graham tries, Adam Reynolds 1 goal) at Canberra Stadium.

Canberra Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker (c) 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Sia Soliola 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine

14. Bailey Simonsson 15. Emre Guler 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Dunamis Lui

Coach Ricky Stuart

Crowd: 26,567

2019 Grand Final - Sydney Roosters 14 (Sam Verrills, James Tedesco tries, Latrell Mitchell 3 goals) defeated Canberra Raiders 8 (Jack Wighton try, Jarrod Croker 2 goals) at Stadium Australia.

Canberra Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker (c) 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Sia Soliola 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine

14. Bailey Simonsson 15. Emre Guler 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Dunamis Lui

Coach Ricky Stuart

Crowd: 82,922
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

Post by greeneyed »

3. Raiders go back to back

The Canberra Raiders were looking for back-to-back premierships in 1990, after their fairytale first grand final victory in 1989. Penrith were looking for their first title. The Green Machine had a remarkable season, finishing minor premiers and featuring in all three grades on grand final day. The Raiders won the President's Cup, with a team featuring Brett Mullins, Jason Croker and David Boyle.



The Raiders were controversially defeated in reserves in extra time. The match was six all at the end of 80 minutes. The Broncos scored a try six minutes into extra time, which should have been disallowed. Brisbane captain Ray Herring kicked at the ball in the ruck as fullback Paul Beath attempted to play it just a few metres from Canberra's own line. Herring was not standing square at the ruck, and it should have been a penalty to Canberra. Instead Herring took the rebound and scored. A Broncos penalty goal two minutes from time sealed the 14-6 Brisbane win.



The Panthers felt the delayed start to the first grade Grand Final unsettled their young team - and Penrith coach Phil Gould later claimed they were "owed an apology" by the league.

Penrith started the match strongly, but Canberra quickly took control. A break to Gary Belcher and a long cut out pass by Ricky Stuart set up the first try for John Ferguson, and then an incisive run from Ricky Stuart set up a Laurie Daley try under the posts.

"Canberra – they’re too hot, they’re too strong" came the famous call from the commentary box. It was 12-0 and it appeared as if the Raiders could overwhelm Penrith.

However, the Panthers fought back. A try to Brad Fittler just before half time, was followed by another to Paul Smith just after the break, and Penrith trailed by just two.

The match hung in the balance for much of the second half, with Ricky Stuart’s masterful kicking game critical to the Raiders maintaining their hold on the lead.

Then just five minutes from the end, the Raiders scored a spectacular try – Meninga and Daley barnstorming in attack, and Matthew Wood finishing with the four points.

The match belonged to Canberra, despite a last minute try from Greg Alexander through a tap close to the line.

And as the hooter sounded, the Canberra Times posters emerged: "WE DID IT! AGAIN!" It was a different feeling to the ecstasy of 1989. It was almost a sense of relief, of all the expectations being met. It was how it was meant to be.



The backs had shone in the match, but the victory had been just as much about the forwards and the defence.

"There is going to be a lot said about the way we attacked out there today," coach Tim Sheens said after the match. "But I was just as happy with the way we defended. Both last week when we beat Brisbane, and this week, the defence blotted out the opposition's key players."

"It was much tougher than last year," prop Brent Todd reflected. "You only have to look at the blokes in the pack to see the scars, everybody had shed blood. A lot of people may not appreciate our forwards - but our backs do."

It was the last match for club legends, Dean Lance and John Ferguson. It was fitting that the sprightly 36 year old winger, known as "Chicka", scored in the match. Ricky Stuart was Clive Churchill medalist for his towering performance.

Meninga, Belcher, Daley, Lazarus - and Stuart, were named for Australia for the Kangaroo Tour after the match. "It is the fulfilment of a goal. I went out there to play the game of my life today because it was the grand final and we were after the premiership. But being named in the squad is certainly a huge thrill," Stuart said.

The greatness of this Green Machine team – minor premiers and premiers – was now firmly written in the record books.

Careers of two greats

John Ferguson: John "Chicka" Ferguson joined the Raiders after playing with the Newtown Jets (74 games, 1981-1983) and the Eastern Suburbs Roosters (32 games, 1984-1985). He was already 31 years old - and had played one grand final with the Jets (1981), as well as for Australia and New South Wales. He had also won Dally M Winger of the Year in 1985. However, he was about to enter the most successful phase of his football career. Ferguson was an exciting stepper and quick. He almost always broke the first tackle. The Raiders fans loved him, and he was the only player whose nickname was regularly chanted by the crowd. He missed the Raiders' first ever finals campaign in 1987, having suffered an ACL injury early in the season. But he was as good as ever, when he returned to the field in 1988. That year, he was the competition's top try scorer of 1988 and the Dally M Winger of the Year. That set a new club record for most tries in a season (20). In the 1989 grand final, Ferguson scored the dramatic try in the final stages which forced extra time - with the team going on to win the club's first premiership. He retired as a true club legend, after the club won the 1990 grand final against the Panthers.

Raiders record: 1986-1990, 94 games, 50 tries, 200 points
94 games on the wing
Two premierships, two grand finals, nine finals games, all on the wing
Dally M Winger of the Year 1988
Dally M Top Tryscorer of the Year 1988 - 20 tries
Raiders Most Consistent Player 1988
Oldest player for the club - 36 years and 70 days in 1990
Eighth most tries in a season for the club - 20 in 1988
Scored four tries in match against the Gold Coast Giants, Seiffert Oval, April 17, 1988
Indigenous Team of the Century, 2008, on the bench
Raiders Hall of Fame

Representative record*: 1988-1989 New South Wales, five games
1988-1989 NSW Country, two games
* Excludes representative appearances from other clubs

Dean Lance: Before coming to the Raiders, Dean Lance played 40 first grade games - at centre or five eighth - for the Newtown Jets over two seasons (1982-1983). He played most of his games in green at lock - including the 1987 and 1990 grand finals. However, he mostly played in the second row in his two premiership seasons, including the club's first grand final victory in 1989. He played at lock in the 1990 winning grand final, after Brad Clyde was ruled out late in the season with an ACL. Lance was not a big forward, but he was mobile and tough - and he sure could tackle. He'll long be remembered for his big hit on Steve Roach in the 1989 premiership decider. He was appointed captain of the Raiders in 1986. And while the captaincy was passed to Mal Meninga during the 1989 season, he was still seen as a leader of the club. When accepting the Clive Churchill Medal that year, Brad Clyde made an amusing slip up, thanking Lance, lauding him as "a great captain". But even if he was no longer officially the captain, he was a great leader of the team. Fittingly, Lance was invited by Meninga to lift the 1989 premiership trophy jointly, after it was presented.

Raiders record: 1984-1990, 160 games, two tries, eight points
108 games at lock, 43 in the second row, three at centre, two at hooker, one at five eighth, three off the bench
Two premierships, three grand finals, 13 finals games, eight at lock, five in the second row
Raiders Players' Player 1990
Raiders Clubman of the Year 1984, 1988
Raiders Hall of Fame

Representative record: Nil

1990 Grand Final Day

1990 Presidents Cup Grand Final - Canberra Raiders 16 (Jason Death, David Boyle tries, Gavin Price-Jones 3 goals, Jason Gregory 2 field goals) defeated St George Dragons 12 (Troy Hodges, Jeremy Donougher tries, Ian Herron 2 goals) at Sydney Football Stadium

Canberra Raiders: 27. Gavin Price-Jones 28. Darrell McDonald 29. Brett Mullins 30. David Boyle 31. Jason Croker 32. Jason Gregory 33. Anthony Herring 39. Jason Death 38. Steve Stone (C) 37. Peter Field 36. Darren Fritz 35. Brett Boyd 34. Matthew Baker

Reserves: Tom Rolls, Brett Goldspink, Brett Gibson, Roger Kenworthy, Luke Goodwin

Coach Mick Doyle


1990 Reserve Grade Grand Final - Brisbane Broncos 14 (Darren Plowman, Ray Herring tries, Craig Teevan 3 goals) defeated Canberra Raiders 6 (Chris Kinna try, Mark Bell goal) at Sydney Football Stadium

Canberra Raiders: 14. Paul Beath 15. Brett Atkins 16. Mark Bell 17. Stuart Stanton 18. Chris Kinna 19. Michael Twigg 20. Craig Bellamy (C) 26. David Barnhill 25. Mark Lowry 24. Alex Corvo 23. Craig Breen 22. Wayne Collins 21. David Woods

Reserves: Steve Mills, Paul Jones, Ashley Gilbert

Coach Graham "Buck" Rogers


1990 Grand Final – Canberra Raiders 18 (John Ferguson, Laurie Daley, Matthew Wood tries, Mal Meninga 3 goals) defeated Penrith Panthers (Greg Alexander, Brad Fittler, Paul Smith tries, Greg Alexander 1 goal) 14

Canberra Raiders: 1. Gary Belcher 2. Paul Martin 3. Mal Meninga 4. Laurie Daley 5. John Ferguson 6. Chris O'Sullivan 7. Ricky Stuart 8. Brent Todd 9. Steve Walters 10. Glenn Lazarus 11. Nigel Gaffey 12. Gary Coyne 13. Dean Lance

14. Matthew Wood 15. Phil Carey 16. David Barnhill 17. Craig Bellamy

Coach Tim Sheens

Crowd: 41,535
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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

Post by greeneyed »

2. A third premiership… and Meninga goes out a winner

The Canberra Raiders kicked off and Martin Bella knocked on. The Raiders looked like they would win the 1994 decider from the outset.

The heroes: Paul Osborne and Mal Meninga.

Paul Osborne played 51 games with the Canberra Raiders, but he made no bigger impact than in the 51st.





Osborne joined the Raiders in 1992 from the Dragons, but had not made a big impression. In 1994, he broke his foot and, due to a combination of injury and poor form he played limited first grade matches. He was scheduled to depart the Raiders at the end of the year, to play rugby league in England.

However, prop John Lomax, the Raiders' player of the year in 1994, was sent off in the Raiders' preliminary final win over North Sydney and was suspended from the Grand Final against the Bulldogs. And instead of getting on a plane, Osborne was recalled for one last match for Canberra. He'd not played first grade since Round 15, but he went on to play the match of his life, on the most important day of the year.

Osborne wore 46 on his back and started the match on fire, setting up two tries with amazing offloads - and setting the Raiders on their way to a third premiership.

"I hadn't played in a long time, I'd been out of first grade for months," he said later.

"I'd broken my foot earlier in the season and by the time I was back they were winning and I couldn't get into first grade. Then Johnny got sent off in the finals and I was the only one cheering.

"It wasn't until training on Saturday morning when super coach Sheens told me I was playing. I went home, I had to find my gear, I didn't know where my shorts were, I didn't know if they still fit me.

"The reason I wore number 46 was because it was the only one that would fit me. I tried them all on - 37, 38 ... (trainer) Bryan Hider's going, "Geez, we haven't got many more left, what are you going to play in?"

As he missed his flight to England, his arrangement to play in the northern hemisphere was terminated - and he did not play another first class rugby league game. It was a grand farewell.



Mal Meninga, already a legend, and playing his last game on Australian soil – capped the magnificent Raiders victory with a 30 metre intercept try, 17 minutes from the end of the match. His celebratory gesture after that try was later captured in bronze, in the statue adorning the entry to the Mal Meninga Grandstand at Canberra Stadium.

Meninga reflected later: "Out of all the Grand Finals I played in, 1994 was the most comprehensive. Each member of the team played to their potential that day, and that's why we won so well. Everyone prepared as if the game was going to go down to the wire."

He denied it was a fairy tale finish. "Fairy tales are about winning in the dying seconds. When you win comfortably without any pressure, that's not what fairy tales are supposed to be. But in the end we won the premiership, so I can't complain, can I?."

"I think I said after the game, when someone asked me, 'Well it was anti-climatic because I was willing to get the ball with 30 seconds to go, run the length of the field and score the winning try'. That's what I was willing to do, so that when the final hooter went the Raiders were in front by a point. That's the way everyone on our team approached it and because of that mentality, we won pretty well."



Meninga and Osborne were two heroes for Canberra that day, but it was a team for the ages right across the park. The Bulldogs had been minor premiers and had qualified first for the Grand Final, beating the Raiders by one point, 19-18, in an extra time epic. David Furner was Clive Churchill medalist for player of the match. But the likes of Daley, Stuart, Croker, Walters, Clyde and Mullins were all magnificent in the dominant performance against the Bulldogs on Grand Final day.

1994 Grand Final – Raiders 36 (Ken Nagas 2, Noa Nadruku, David Furner, Laurie Daley, Jason Croker, Mal Meninga tries, David Furner 4 goals) defeated Bulldogs 12 (Jason Hetherington, Jason Williams tries, Darryl Halligan 2 goals) at the Sydney Football Stadium

Canberra Raiders: 1. Brett Mullins 2. Ken Nagas 3. Mal Meninga 4. Ruben Wiki 5. Noa Nadruku 6. Laurie Daley 7. Ricky Stuart 8. Quentin Pongia 9. Steve Walters 10. Paul Osborne 11. Jason Croker 12. David Furner 13. Brad Clyde

14. Brett Hetherington 15. David Westley

Coach Tim Sheens

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Re: 40 Years - 40 Moments

Post by greeneyed »

1. The greatest grand final of all time

Sunday, 24 September, 1989.

The Grand Final, the Canberra Raiders against the Balmain Tigers.

Canberra required a winning streak of eight matches to make it to the premiership decider. It started in Round 18, with the Raiders running in seventh place on the ladder. Back then, Canberra needed to finish in the top five to make the finals. Canberra defeated the Roosters 14-10 at Seiffert, before recording a big 42-18 win over the Gold Coast Giants at Tweed Heads. They survived another must win match at the WACA in Perth against the Bulldogs - and then disposed of the Illawarra Steelers in the Raiders' very final premiership match played at a muddy Seiffert Oval. A big win over the Dragons at Kogarah in the final round ensured that Canberra finished fourth - on points differential.



In the finals, the Green Machine swept aside the Sharks, Panthers and then the minor premiers, the Rabbitohs, before facing the Tigers… in what is still today the greatest Grand Final of all time.

It was a match marked by many small, remarkable moments. One after another they came, and many seemed like they’d be the decisive turning point. The tone was set in the 7th minute when Dean Lance took on Balmain's best prop, Steve "Blocker" Roach. He stopped the huge man dead, a ball and all crunching tackle, lifting the spirits of the Green Machine and inspiring his fellow forwards. Commentator Graeme Hughes could only shout, "Hammered by Lance!"

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"I don't think I realised the significance it would have. I don't think the tackle hurt either of us, but I remember everyone saying how good it was for the team. Balmain had started to get on a bit of a roll and it turned the game a bit," Lance recalled later.

The look on Roach's face when he stood belied the claim the tackle had not hurt.

The Raiders trailed the Tigers 12-2 at half-time, despite being being the better team for much of the first half. It was almost an insurmountable lead in a Grand Final. The Tigers’ first try was the result of a lucky intercept to James Grant. However their second, just before the break, was amazing. Andy Currier launched a huge bomb from deep in the Tigers’ own half. The bounce was horrible, and Gary Belcher could do nothing. It fell effortlessly into the hands of James Grant, who offloaded to Currier. Big second rower Paul Sironen was backing up and he charged over the line from 20 metres out.

That try was a heart breaker, but Canberra ground their way back into the match in the second half, Gary Belcher finally getting over the line with 20 minutes remaining. Balmain had more than one opportunity to win the match. A desperate Mal Meninga ankle tap stopped Michael Neill from scoring. It felled him just metres from the line and with no defence in front of him. Wayne Pearce knocked on just as the Tigers had an overlap, the try line beckoning. A penalty goal to Currier gave Balmain a 14-8 lead. And then a Ben Elias a field goal attempt, which would have taken the Tigers' lead to more than a converted try, thudded into the cross bar and bounced away.



With two minutes left on the clock, Chris O'Sullivan signalled behind his back for the bomb at dummy half, and he hoisted it high. It was a big, cross field kick. The ball was grabbed by Laurie Daley, who threw an overhead pass to John Ferguson. "Chicka " then stepped and jinked his way to the try line in trademark fashion. He seemingly took the most difficult route, but planted it close to the posts, making it easier for Mal Meninga to convert. The Meninga goal sent the game into extra time. 14-14 at the end of 80 minutes.

Chris O'Sullivan potted a field goal in the 82nd minute and Canberra seemed to have all the momentum. 15-14.

And then came one of the most iconic moments in Raiders' history. Andy Currier fumbled a kick and Mal Meninga pounced. He passed to "no name" replacement forward Steve Jackson, 25 metres from the line. He somehow pushed off defender after defender, and crashed over.

Ian Maurice produced the most memorable commentary in Canberra Raiders, if not rugby league, history.

"He's there! Try! Try! Steve Jackson reached out and scored what will win the premiership for the Canberra Raiders! I didn't think there was any way he was going to make that. But he did. What strength! What power! What a Grand Final! What a premiership!"

Jackson had joined the Raiders from Mackay in 1987, but played only 16 first grade games. His last game in green was the 1989 decider.

"I was one of eight fresh reserves and only four got a run. I didn’t even get to go to the grand final breakfast because they did not set out enough plates so I stayed at the TraveLodge with the strappers and rubbers," Jackson recalled later.

"When my chance came with three minutes to go in extra time I knew exactly what the situation of the game was. It was first tackle and Mal gave me the ball. I was not even thinking about passing the ball. I just didn’t want to make a mistake. I started running and I did a bit of a pirouette. If I gave Steve Walters the ball he would have scored under the sticks."

"My mindset was that I just go, not risk a mistake. I just kept my head down and someone hit me from behind and straightened me up. I remember seeing that try line. It happens so quickly when you watch it but in my mind it happened so slowly. I thought ‘I am going to score a try in a grand final!’ I slapped it down with my left hand."

After the match it was tears from Mal Meninga. "I can't believe it. This is the greatest ever thing that has happened to me in football. Unbelievable... Beats playing for Australia, beats playing for Queensland, this is what it's all about, winning the Grand Final."



The Raiders had become the first team from fourth or fifth to win the premiership, and the first team from outside Sydney to take the crown. Nothing will ever match the feeling of that first premiership for the Canberra Raiders. In part, because it was the first. In part, because of the hurdles that had to be jumped. Because of the extraordinary twists and turns and the extraordinary standard of football played in that final match. But also because of the scenes of joy that followed in the national capital. Many say the match gave the city of Canberra a soul. It didn’t. It was always there. But perhaps the match revealed the city’s soul to Australia. And to Canberrans themselves.

Nine in a row

Round 18 - Canberra Raiders 14 defeated Eastern Suburbs Roosters 10 at Seiffert Oval
Round 19 - Canberra Raiders 42 defeated Gold Coast Giants 18 at Seagulls
Round 20 - Canberra Raiders 18 defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 14 at the WACA
Round 21 - Canberra Raiders 16 defeated Illawarra Steelers 6 at Seiffert Oval
Round 22 - Canberra Raiders 30 defeated St George Dragons 16 at Kogarah Oval
Minor Preliminary Final - Canberra Raiders 31 defeated Cronulla Sharks 10 at the Sydney Football Stadium
Minor Semi Final - Canberra Raiders 27 defeated Penrith Panthers 18 at the Sydney Football Stadium
Preliminary Final - Canberra Raiders 32 defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 16 at the Sydney Football Stadium
Grand Final - Canberra Raiders 19 defeated Balmain Tigers 14 at the Sydney Football Stadium

The Raiders went on to win their opening two official clashes of 1990, establishing the club's record of 11 wins in a row. That streak was matched over the 1994-95 seasons, but it has never been bettered.

1989 Grand Final - Canberra Raiders 19 (Gary Belcher, John Ferguson, Steve Jackson tries, Mal Meninga 3 goals, Chris O'Sullivan field goal) defeated Balmain Tigers 14 (James Grant, Paul Sironen tries, Andy Currier 3 goals) at the Sydney Football Stadium

Canberra Raiders: 1. Gary Belcher 2. Matthew Wood 3. Mal Meninga 4. Laurie Daley 5. John Ferguson 6. Chris O'Sullivan 7. Ricky Stuart 8. Glenn Lazarus 9. Steve Walters 10. Brent Todd 11. Dean Lance 12. Gary Coyne 13. Brad Clyde

15. Paul Martin 20. Steve Jackson 22. Kevin Walters

Coach Tim Sheens

Crowd 40,500
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