'I will stab you!'

Peter Ryan had some un­usual mo­ti­va­tion for Tonie Car­roll in ’98

Rugby League Week - - News - BY JOEL GOULD

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).

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