Tingha’s touch of magic
Nathan Blacklock will always be remembered for that grand final try
“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.