Extract from The Milk, the book about 1989

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Gerry De La Cruz
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Extract from The Milk, the book about 1989

Post by coogee50 »

G'day all

Still out hocking my book about 40 years of the Canberra Raiders - TheMilkbook.com. And if you've thus far resisted purchase, nothing but full respect this end, even if it hurts, must be said. Ha. No it doesn't. But I would particularly like you - yes, you, in particular - to purchase it because I reckon you would like it. And thus would offer as a tease this Extract in three parts about the greatest grand final ever played in any sport ever, the one and only, the legend that was ... 1989.

Also - stay tuned about a pre-match function in Brisbane for Magic Round May 15. Working out details with the Admin of this crackerjack forum, and the pub, and a Raiders Old Boy TBA.

In the meantime, please enjoy ... 1989.

Chapter 4 - 1989

Canberra Raiders 19 defeated Balmain Tigers 12
Sydney Football Stadium
Sunday, September 24, 1989

They say that when Les McIntyre was feeling a little down in his dotage, he’d slip the tape of the 1989 grand final into the VHS player and cheer himself up. His wife Elsie would be drawn to watch, too, for such were the memories from those wonderful days. And over a cup of tea and a Milk Arrowroot biscuit they’d live them again, and again, all that great stuff, those very good times, bathing their souls like balm.

McIntyre was a Canberra Raiders man from day dot. Indeed before that. He was a Queanbeyan Blues man when they won the grand final in 1932. Thirty years after that he created the Queanbeyan Leagues Club in a little shop on Monaro Street. He built the clubhouse. When it burned down in ’72 he put the beer taps and pokies in a tent on the bowling green and the club made $750,000 profit. He lobbied Kevin Humphreys and the NSWRFL. He brought politicians Ros Kelly and Fred Daly along for the ride. Les McIntyre, effectively, begat Canberra Raiders as Adam did Eve, and later Cain and Abel, and Moses, possibly.

The man nearest to McIntyre in terms of old boy stature is the club’s first coach, Don Furner. In 13 seasons he coached those same Queanbeyan Blues to 10 premierships. He coached Eastern Suburbs to the 1972 NSWRFL Grand Final. He played for Australia on a Kangaroo Tour as a replacement for Norm Provan. And if you played for the Canberra Raiders in the ‘80s, safe to say Don Furner had a hand in bringing you in.

So, yes – the two old boys were fathers of the footy club. And in the sheds after the grand final in ’89 - and that’s all you need to call it, ‘’89’ – Ricky Stuart said that the pair were beaming like proud dads at a wedding. Eyes glistening. Permanent, dopey grins. For their baby, all grown up, had won the Winfield Cup.

How bloody good.

The thing about ’89, though – one of them, this one – is that it’s been done near to death. Well, not death. Put the game on the YouTube and Raiders fans of the time will, true story, just as Les did, enjoy again and again that same mad action.

Yet what good and fresh angles are there? It is, as the song goes, simply the best. I tried joking with a colleague on Facebook that it is the greatest grand final, so great that it transcends subjectivity. That it doesn’t matter your opinion – ‘89 is subjectively and objectively, and in all other ways, the greatest grand final the game has ever seen.

Old mate wrote: “Can’t we all just like what we like?”

Well of course we bloody can, this is not the inaptly-named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Yet, like much discourse on social media, it is all our faults, my man rather missed the subtle nuance of the jape. But stuff it. Not even joking: the ’89 grand final is the greatest grand final rugby league has ever seen. And if you have an opinion otherwise, it is wrong.

Yes, yes, yes – cool your jets, oh Pedants of the Night. I know opinions can’t be wrong by dint of them being opinions. You’d soon as argue for the best band or sunrise or banana (I am a fan of the tangy north Queensland Lady Finger, for instance, and will pay overs for them at Harris Farm).

But in the case of the ’89 grand final and its primacy over all other grand finals, your opinion can be wrong if it differs from to mine. Sorry-not-bloody-sorry. For that’s how good ’89 was – it is beyond and above subjectivity. It is the best. And that is just it. Fact, new par.

And not just rugby league. In the 1989 Victorian Football League Grand Final Gary Ablett kicked nine goals and was the Norm Smith Medallist in a game Geelong (21.12. 138) lost to Hawthorn (21.18. 144). And Australian Rules types talk of it with awe still today.

Not as good as the Raiders in ‘89.

There has not been a Super Bowl, FA Cup Final, FIFA World Cup final, Bundesliga Cup or Nippon Series Game 7 that comes close. Thirteen-year- old chess prodigy Bobby Fischer beat Donald Byrne in the ‘Game of the Century’ in 1956 and that was very good. In 1980, with Cold War tensions high, a team of amateur American ice hockey players beat the five-time Olympic champions the USSR 4-3 in the ‘Miracle on Ice’.

And all that stuff is top stuff and you are free to believe it’s all really very good.

But ’89 **** on them all.

Sorry-not-sorry! I’ll go to the grave on it. This is the hill I will defend with scimitar and lance and horseman’s pick before laying down to die upon – the 1989 NSWRL Grand Final is the greatest decider there has ever been. It’s on its own in the pantheon.

Any code. Any sport. Any country. Amen. New par.

Such was the speed and skill of the Canberra Raiders backline circa 1988 onwards, their forward pack was under-rated, even scorned. Glenn Lazarus was raw, Steve Walters finding his feet, and Bradley Clyde a baby at 18. And their tough little backrowers, Gary Coyne and Dean Lance, weren’t rated. But that pair were the glue.

“We were never credited,” Coyne told Fox Sports. “We were always told we were the weak link ... we didn’t believe it for a second.”

Canterbury Bulldogs suffered no such slights. The premiers in ’84, ’85 and ’88 were known as, ominously, and it was a cracking handle, ‘The Dogs of War’. And each time they rumbled onto the field it was like they should be heralded by many great horns, for here they come, the Dogs of War...

Their forward packs included a cavalcade of international bruisers including Paul Dunn, Peter Tunks, Steve Folkes, David “Cement” Gillespie and crazy Paul Langmack. Go through the old Big League programs, the Bulldogs reserve grade teams would sport, on any given Sunday, such names as Darryl Brohman, Phil Gould, Mark Bugden, Joe Thomas, Brian Battese, Peter Kelly, Billy Johnstone and Jim Leis. Andrew Farrar and Chris Mortimer were backs. The little one was Terry Lamb! My but they were hard bastards.

And so! This feared mob of bouncers and brawlers arrived at Seiffert Oval in round 5 of 1989 as premiers and benchmark for rugged rugby league in the NSWRL, to face a home side without Mal Meninga or Gary Belcher that was 2-from- 4.

And Canberra carved them up.

Kevin Walters played fullback. Ivan Henjak was in the centres. They’d barely have weighed 150kg between them. And on the back of hard-charging forwards who offloaded and set their backs free, Laurie Daley went gangbusters. Watch it on the YouTube:

It’s high-skilled, high speed, hot potato footy. And the Dogs were flogged 34-4.

A week later against Illawarra Steelers at Seiffert again, Meninga came back as a fresh reserve (in glistening clean jumper No.50) from another broken arm. First touch he took off out of dummy-half and bullocked up field, apparently strong as ever. He setup tries. He kicked goals. He looked a force of nature who’d been cooped up too long.

In five games at Seiffert Oval the Raiders amassed 185 points while conceding 32 points in games against Gold Coast (24-0), Canterbury (34-4), Illawarra (44-8), St George (42-4) and Parramatta (41-16). In between that run they beat Manly 12-10 at Brookvale.

It was the time of Bradley Clyde. He could run like a centre-three-quarter with the No.13 on his back. He scored tries, he’d hit the ball from 40m out and stand up the fullback. It was like the Raiders had an extra outside back. He could play outside Meninga. There’d never been one like him. Wayne Pearce was like lock forward version 1.0.

State of Origin slowed them up, as did a mid-season, 3-week, 3 Test tour of New Zealand in which several stars were away. And there followed three losses on the trot to top-5 aspirants Balmain (18-12), Cronulla (22-16) and the rock- hard South Sydney Rabbitohs (22-12). There was a 27-6 belting of Brisbane Broncos in front of 18,272 fans at Seiffert Oval as a fillip.

But with five rounds to go, Canberra sat precariously in 7th. They couldn’t lose another game.

They flew west for the first ever Sydney premiership match played in Perth. The WACA ground’s deep in-goals were expected to favour Ricky Stuart’s kicking game while fleet-footed Raiders backs would surely scorch the earth on the hard and fast surface against severely under-strength Bulldogs.

The opposite happened. Canterbury led 14-6 at half-time before two tries to Laurie Daley saw the Raiders level with 20 minute to go. Then, four minutes to play, Ivan Henjak, who’d become a ‘super-sub’ since Stuart’s ascension in the 7, tore up the middle. He scooted through the tired Dogs ‘D’ and found Meninga, flying. The big unit, all controlled power and balance, a souped-up Humvee, found 20-year-old Matthew Wood who iced a try that began 70 metres hence.

“That doesn’t happen,” Stuart told Fox Sports, “we don’t win the ’89 grand final.”

Next week: Part 2: The Sydney snub that pumped up the Raiders.

Wanna by The Milk? By The Milk! www.themilkbook.com
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