The try that stopped Australia
Steve Jackson is still dining out on his extratime stunner in 1989
“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.