The try that stopped Aus­tralia

Steve Jack­son is still din­ing out on his ex­tra­time stun­ner in 1989

Rugby League Week - - League Week - BY GREG PRICHARD

“ILOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR,” Steve Jack­son tells RLW, and why wouldn’t he? It’s when his place in rugby league his­tory, as the scorer of ar­guably the great­est grand fi­nal try ever, is high­lighted and he gets to re­live it all over again.

The Can­berra prop came off the bench and beat five de­fend­ers in a mo­men­tous charge to the line to score the cru­cial try in extra-time of their fa­mous win against Bal­main in 1989. It couldn’t hap­pen to a nicer bloke, ei­ther, be­cause the 50-yearold is a great char­ac­ter.

“Oh, it’s un­be­liev­able,” he says of the recog­ni­tion he still re­ceives.

“At the time, I didn’t un­der­stand the enor­mity of it, but 27 years later and es­pe­cially now that Can­berra have done so well this sea­son, I’ve had so much at­ten­tion. In the last few weeks I’m feel­ing like a bit of a leg­end.”

Jack­son lives in Mackay and runs a Le­nard’s Chicken fran­chise, reg­u­larly talk­ing footy with cus­tomers – even Tigers fans who are still less than thrilled with him for crush­ing their dreams that day.

“Some­times I’ll get a cus­tomer come into the shop and say, ‘I hate you’,” Jack­son says. “I laugh and say, ‘You must be a Tigers fan’. I love my foot­ball, I love it more than ever.”

Jack­son sure loved it that Septem­ber day 27 years ago.

The game was locked at 14-14 af­ter 80 min­utes. Chris O’Sullivan kicked a field goal to give the Raiders a 15-14 lead, but the re­sult was still very much in the bal­ance. Then, with a few min­utes to go, Mal Meninga gath­ered a mist­imed clear­ing kick from the Tigers just beyond the op­po­si­tion 20-me­tre line and passed to Jack­son, who ran into the red zone. He looked for sup­port, but it wasn’t there, so he put the head down and went straight, beat­ing two de­fend­ers 12 me­tres out. Three more Tigers con­verged on him, but he some­how man­aged to keep go­ing and dragged them all to the line as he reached out and scored. The sta­dium erupted.

“I re­mem­ber think­ing on my way to the line, ‘Shit, I’ve run over a few peo­ple here, there’s the try­line, I can score a try in a grand fi­nal’,” he says. “Then I slapped the ball down with my left hand and looked up and a young Bill Har­ri­gan was point­ing to the spot and I couldn’t be­lieve it.

“I was winded and the boys were try­ing to hug me and all I was try­ing to do was get my breath back. I headed back and ev­ery­one was con­grat­u­lat­ing me and Gary Belcher was the last bloke to get to me.

“He said, ‘Jacko, that’s a great try you scored, but look – Mal has just missed the kick, we’re only five points in front, they could win with a con­verted try, switch on’ and that’s what I did.”

Can­berra won 19-14. Last year, the 17-16 win by North Queens­land over Bris­bane in extra-time also be­came a con­tender for great­est grand fi­nal, al­though Jack­son’s rat­ings will never change.

“Af­ter last year’s grand fi­nal peo­ple rang me and said, ‘What about that grand fi­nal?’ and I said, ‘You know what, it’s the sec­ond-best grand fi­nal I’ve ever seen,” Jack­son says. “I said, ‘If you think I’m go­ing to say it’s the best grand fi­nal af­ter all these years of free lunches, you’re kid­ding. I don’t want this ride to end’.”

HERE’S TO A LIFE­TIME OF FREE LUNCHES! Can­berra su­per-sub Steve Jack­son etches his name into grand fi­nal folk­lore.

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