'I will stab you!'
Peter Ryan had some unusual motivation for Tonie Carroll in ’98
BRONCOS LEGEND Peter Ryan says the 1998 grand final win against the Bulldogs was “the day Tonie Carroll became a man” – but he adds “it was also the day Peter Ryan nearly became a murderer”.
Ryan was in a grumpy mood on the sidelines as the decider unfolded, having been suspended for a shot on Melbourne’s Brett Kimmorley in the preliminary final. At half-time he had steam coming out his ears.
Carroll, known as “Tunza”, had stepped into the starting line-up at Ryan’s expense but was poor in the first half. As the players sat in the dressing sheds with the Broncos trailing 12-10, out the corner of Ryan’s eyes he saw the gleam of trainer Tony “Springer” Spencer’s scissor collection. He knew exactly what to do next. “He’d taken my spot, but Tunza was playing like a busted arse in the first half,” Ryan recalls.
“So I said to him at half-time, ‘I will come on the field with Springer’s scissors and stab you if you don’t play like the man you can be in the second half’. I was spitting chips and he could tell I was annoyed.
“He went back out, scored a try and was destroying people physically. He bashed people. He carried like a demon and everything he touched turned to gold.
“What I said about the scissors might not have caused him to play like that, but it may have been a little instigator of it.
“I reckon that game was the making of Tonie Carroll. That was when he turned into a man and played like he wasn’t a boy anymore.”
Ryan reckons Carroll wasn’t always the hard enforcer we came to know and admire.
“I remember a game pre-1998 at North Sydney Oval and Tunza gets on the field and then I turn around and Tunza is on the ground, getting stretchered off,” Ryan fumes.
“I thought, ‘This can’t be good, Tunza’s gone’. But 20 minutes later I turn around and he’s back beside me on the field again. I said, ‘What are you doing back here, you weak bastard?’ All the boys had been out there working their arses off because we had to do twice as much while he wasn’t out there.
“But after that 1998 grand final he was just dominant, and not getting pushed around by his opponents or his teammates.”
RLW spoke to Ryan a decade later when he was defensive coach at the Broncos. Carroll was one of his favourite players and someone he often talked up deluxe.
“I loved him because he could do anything,” Ryan grins.
“He made me look like a child. He hit like a freight train and technically he was one of the best defenders. But the only time he would do anything is if he had confidence under his belt, so we’d always pump up his tyres.”
Punters would know Carroll as one of the toughest enforcers the game’s seen. Ironically, he inherited Ryan’s mantle as one of the best tacklers in rugby league.
There’s a photo of the post-1998 grand final celebrations with the Broncos team, and Ryan is in it.
But earlier in the day he was feeling as bad as a certain Canterbury forward.
“I was gutted,” Ryan says. “Canterbury’s Barry Ward was suspended for the same game and we met in the tunnel at half-time. “I said, ‘How are you going?’ and he said, ‘Just like you, shithouse’. But if you’d played one game or every game of the season, at the Broncos you were still made to feel part of it, and that’s why I got in that photo.
“I remember Ben Walker had played nearly every game that year but missed the grand final and didn’t want to get in the photo. But I said, ‘These things are few and far between. Andrew Ettingshausen played over 300 games and didn’t win a grand final. You deserve to be in this photo, even if you played one game’.”
“Tunza was playing like a busted arse in the first half”
CUTTING COMMENTS Peter Ryan (circled, above) may have been suspended for the ’98 GF but he still played a crucial role in firing up “Tunza” Carroll (inset, left).