Tingha’s touch of magic

Nathan Black­lock will al­ways be re­mem­bered for that grand fi­nal try

Rugby League Week - - The Head Bin - BY JOEL GOULD

“If a ball comes my way, I’ll catch it. If there’s a cold out there, I’ll catch that, too”

IN HIS HEART OF HEARTS, Nathan Black­lock thought he wouldn’t be on the field to score one of the great grand fi­nal tries.

The for­mer Dragon’s 75m sprint to the line in the 1999 de­cider has been re­played thou­sands of times, but the dash­ing winger thought he was go­ing to be dropped for the big dance.

He’d put in some un­char­ac­ter­is­tic shock­ers in the lead-up to the last Sun­day in Septem­ber and when coach David Waite called him aside early in grand fi­nal week, he was think­ing the worst.

“Two weeks be­fore the fi­nals series I dropped a fair few balls against the Roost­ers,” Black­lock tells RLW.

“Then I dropped a few more against the Sharks in the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal.

“I wasn’t re­laxed, I was over-think­ing things. In­stead of catch­ing the ball, I was grab­bing at it.

“So in the week be­fore the grand fi­nal David Waite called me in.

“In my head I thought I was go­ing to be dropped, and I’d have un­der­stood if I had been.

“But the coach said I was in and gave me an­other chance. For­tu­nately he re­mem­bered the good games I’d played to get us there.

“Af­ter that I said to the boys, ‘I let you down in the last few games. Now I’ve got this op­por­tu­nity, I prom­ise you if a ball comes my way, I’ll catch it. If there’s a cold out there, I’ll catch that too’. I wanted to prove my­self to the boys and make up for the last cou­ple of weeks.” He cer­tainly did that. It ex­plains why as Black­lock streaked away Ray War­ren told TV view­ers that “his con­fi­dence might have been down, but it won’t be now”.

Brett Kim­mor­ley had put a chip kick through, and it bounced up for the fly­ing winger to gather at speed on the quar­ter-line, split­ting the de­fence, even though Rob­bie Ross and Kim­mor­ley were bear­ing down on him.

“As the ball went up I thought ‘I’m re­ally go­ing to have a dig here, pin my ears back and have a go for the boys’,” Black­lock re­calls.

“I wanted to make sure I caught the ball, se­cured it and then put my body on the line. I was mov­ing 100 miles an hour and I didn’t hes­i­tate.

“I was ex­pect­ing to get hit, but then I looked up and saw no-one. I thought ‘I’m in the clear. I’ll just keep run­ning’.

“Hav­ing Trent [Bar­rett] com­ing back gave me cover and put the Storm boys off just those few inches, so they had to go around him. But the whole time I didn’t hear the crowd roar or any­thing. I was just in the zone.”

The Black­lock try gave the Dragons a 14-0 half-time lead but they fluffed their lines in the sec­ond 40 as the Storm surged back to win 20-18 courtesy of a con­tro­ver­sial late penalty try.

“Against Mel­bourne in a grand fi­nal, I knew we’d have to com­pete un­til the last minute,” Black­lock says.

“They were a team that could come back and hurt you from any­where, and they did.

“An­thony [Mun­dine] dropped the ball over the line and we had other op­por­tu­ni­ties to close it out.

“But I had a goal of play­ing first­grade rugby league and ev­ery­thing above and beyond was a bonus. I got to play in a grand fi­nal, and many of the greats haven’t.

“When you look back you think ‘what if this’ and ‘what if that’ and wish you could go back and change it.

“But it’s the lit­tle, sim­ple things that make the dif­fer­ence, be­cause this is a game of inches.

“Even now, just about ev­ery day peo­ple ask me about that try and what was go­ing through my head. I just tell him that my job was to get to the ball, se­cure it and run as fast as I could.”

I AIM TO PLEASE! Nathan Black­lock went berserk af­ter his stun­ning try in the 1999 GF against Mel­bourne — and who could blame him.

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