RUGBY LEAGUE’S TOP FIVE GRAND FINAL LAST-MINUTE PLAYS IN THE PAST THREE DECADES
1989 – Canberra 19 Balmain 14
In one of the all-time great games, Balmain led Canberra into the final minute before Raiders five-eighth Chris O’Sullivan bombed for Laurie Daley. The Raiders centre batted the ball back to ageing winger John “Chicka” Ferguson, who stepped inside past three defenders to dive over. Mal Meninga nailed the conversion to lock the decider at 14-14 after 80 minutes. The Raiders then first took the lead through a Chris O’Sullivan field goal, before interchange forward Steve Jackson put the icing on the cake when he carried two defenders over the line in the final minutes to claim Canberra’s first title.
1997 – Newcastle 22 Manly 16
Rugby league needed a saviour, and Newcastle delivered in the form of Darren Albert. After a year in which the game was torn apart by the Super League war, defending premiers Manly looked set for a second straight title. The Knights levelled the score with five minutes remaining, before a charged down field goal gave Newcastle one last crack on the siren. Andrew Johns went from dummy-half, passed inside to Albert, and the rest is history. Newcastle had claimed their first title.
2004 – Canterbury 16 Sydney Roosters 13
Canterbury gave up an early deficit in the highly-anticipated clash between the two arch-rivals, but fought back to a three-point lead in the dying stages at a wet ANZ Stadium. After a short, final-minute Brad Fittler kick from inside his own half was regathered by Ryan Cross, the Roosters shifted right to Michael Crocker. He found open space 30 metres out, before a last-ditch tackle from Andrew Ryan brought him to the ground and forced the ball loose with seconds remaining.
2015 – North Queensland 17 Brisbane 16
Johnathan Thurston had done everything imaginable in rugby league, except guide his Cowboys to a title. Enter the 2015 decider. Down by four and as the siren blasted in background, Thurston had the poise to hold the ball as he circled defenders, before finding Michael Morgan who flicked it on to Kyle Feldt who scored in the corner. Thurston missed the conversion, but neatly slotted over the field goal in golden point to claim the Cowboys’ first title.
2016 – Cronulla 14 Melbourne 12
Never has a club been forced to work so hard for their first premiership. After 50 seasons of pain, the Sharks had to overcome the all-conquering Storm in the decider. Despite dominating the first half, Cronulla only led by two when the Storm were tackled on the halfway line with 15 seconds to play. They first spread it right, then left, then right again as they threatened to break through, before Ricky Leutele brought down Marika Koroibete seven metres out and the Sharks finally had their silverware.