17 September 2018
The final countdown
This Saturday’s NRL Preliminary Final between the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs will be a fitting farewell to Allianz Stadium, which has provided the stage for so many memorable moments in rugby league.
It’s been 30 years since the venue broke ground in 1988. Bob Hawke was the then Prime Minister, Home and Away aired its first season, Nintendo just released the first Game Boy, floppy disks were a thing and Australia was about to receive access to the internet for the very first time.
Rugby league was largely an amateur game, played by garbos, truck drivers and milkmen on weekends to help pay the bills. You could bring a slab of beer into the game, with many of the food and beverage facilities, corporate suites and broadcast requirements retrofit into the venue as the sports business grew over the years.
The Newcastle Knights and Brisbane Broncos played their first season in the NSWRL, Arthur Beetson was the coach of Sydney Roosters and rugby league had just moved next door to its shiny new home after a longstanding romance with the SCG.
It seems an eternity ago that the likes of Mario Fenech, Ricky Stewart and Wally Lewis were running around at the SFS, which also hosted 14 State of Origin matches and 11 grand finals. Then there was the Super League War in 1995 and the formation of what millennials simply call the NRL.
The SFS has been home to some of the most magical moments in the game, from Darren Albert’s match winning try in 1997 to the heroics Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s 50 metre intercept in the Roosters’ qualifying final in 2010.
Fast forward to 2018 and fans are busy talking about ‘The Bunker’, million dollar deals and the new state-of-the-art stadium which will serve rugby league fans well into the 21st century.
On the eve of a farewell finals series, Around the Grounds has compiled some of the game’s best moments, facts and figures to celebrate three decades of rugby league history at the SFS.
TOP FIVE MOMENTS
1997 Grand Final, Newcastle v Manly: There has been no more poignant moment in modern rugby league than Darren Albert’s try seven seconds from fulltime to give the Knights their first premiership. It signalled the end of the Super League War, healed a divided code and gave birth to Immortal Andrew Johns and one of his greatest off-field moments involving Silverchair’s Daniel Johns.
1989 Grand Final, Canberra v Balmain: “Do you know how many free lunches and free dinners I've got because of that try?” Canberra reserve forward Steve Jackson was the improbable hero of the greatest grand final ever played, scoring a decisive try off a slalom-style run deep into extra time. He would go onto play Origin for Queensland, but his career would never reach the heights of 1989.
1991 Grand Final, Penrith v Canberra: Royce Simmons vowed to have a beer with everyone in Penrith after scoring two tries, including the match-winner in a 19-12 victory over Canberra. To put the achievement into context, Simmons scored 15 tries in an 11-year career, with the performance securing the Panthers’ first title and the end of his hard fought 237-game career.
2010 Qualifying Final, Roosters v Wests Tigers: The Tigers lead 15-14, have a scrum feed, 32 seconds left to play. They couldn’t possibly lose, could they? Three miracles ensued; a push at the scrum by front-rower Frank-Paul Nuuausala, a Braith Anasta field goal and a 50-metre Shaun Kenny-Dowall intercept led the Roosters to a remarkable victory at the SFS.
1998 Qualifying Final, Bulldogs v Parramatta: Epic meltdown or classic comeback? It depends on what side of the rivalry you sit. Parramatta led 18-2 with 10 minutes to go as they battled the Bulldogs for a place in the grand final. Craig Polla-Mounter, Rod Silva and Willie Talau all scored, with Daryl Halligan kicking the final two goals to send the Bulldogs on their way to a 32-20 extra time win.
RUGBY LEAGUE IN NUMBERS
Number of Club games: 669
Number of Finals: 126
Number of Grand Finals (incl Honour roll): 11
Number of minutes played (club level): 53,927
Number of minutes played (rep level): 2,646
Number of Origin games: 14
Number of Tests: 14
Number of RLWC games: 4
Number of World Club Challenge games: 1
Number of World Sevens events: 8
Number of City v Country games: 4
Total crowd attendance: 12 million
Most games (Anthony Minichiello): 157
Most tries (Anthony Minichiello): 77
Most points (Craig Fitzgibbon): 860
Most wins (Luke Ricketson): 102
Most points in a game (Hazen El Masri): 1T, 11G
Most tries in a game (Nigel Vagana): 5T, R4 (2002)
Biggest win (Sydney City def. Souths): 62-0, R6 (1996)
Highest score (Roosters def. Cowboys): 64-30, R13 (2007)