Yesterday's Rugby League grand final showed, through an ordinary
looking bloke called Royce Simmons, how there is nothing quite as cut and dried
At the Penrith Leagues Club last night, Simmons was buying drinks for the
people of Sydney's west. He was the happiest hooker.
Tim Webster, ground announcer at the Football Stadium, had said: "Ladies
and gentlemen, you wouldn't be any other human being in our State today than
And Roycie - all football fans and Penrith people call him Roycie - said
he didn't know what to say but added: "I hope to have a schooner with everyone
of youse tonight sometime."
Exactly one year ago, after Canberra had beaten Penrith in the 1990 grand
final, Simmons's wife had to take him away from the club at 4am. He had been
sitting outside, staring into space, speechless with the void of defeat.
Yesterday, however, Penrith beat Canberra 19-12. Simmons, who rarely
scores tries, scored the first and last of the match. His beloved Panthers used
to be disparaged as "the chocolate soldiers". Now they had won their first
competition, after 25 years of trying. What's more, they had won in his very
last match, after 12 seasons in this toughest of sports.
Roycie thus became part of sporting history. He also demonstrated the
cut-and-dried nature of sport: players take from it either tremendous fulfilment
or tremendous disappointment.
It was disappointment time yesterday for Tim Sheens, the Canberra coach.
He had played 258 games for Penrith, some alongside Simmons in the front row. He
had then coached Penrith, and Simmons.
Late yesterday he went to shake Roycie's hand. "He's in very good
spirits,"said the losing coach.
So the game had something wonderfully democratic about it, a conflict
between good and bad, between winning and losing, in which a good guy like
Simmons could finish first.
Sheens said his team did not have the petrol to get where it wanted in the
second half, yet had played, through the season, some of the best football this
competition had seen. So it had.
Mr Ken Arthurson, chairman of the Australian Rugby League, said it was
good for Penrith to win because the win made history.
Most league officials would also be grateful to Penrith because a Canberra
victory would have been a tarnished triumph. Having broken the salary cap
rules, it would have been said that 1991 marked the first time a club had
officially bought a premiership.
Yet the season will be remembered for the courage and flair of the Raiders
in winning seven consecutive sudden-death games to reach yesterday's decider.
Simmons began his assault on the Raiders in the seventh minute. An
unfashionable man in these days of big, fast, athletic players, he shuffled and
squirmed past tacklers for the first try.
Canberra hit back through two tries to winger Matthew Wood. The first came
from a kick by Ricky Stuart, who has Australia's most famous groin, the second
a class act by Stuart, Laurie Daley, Mal Meninga and Bradley Clyde.
Canberra led 12-6 at half-time. Only twice in the last 15 years had teams
come from behind at half-time to win a grand final.
Penrith's coach, Phil "Gus" Gould, told his charges at half-time that they
deserved to win. "Gus lifted our heads," captain Greg Alexander said later.
"He's a genius."
Alexander, Greg Barwick, Mark Geyer, Brad Fittler and Brad Izzard combined
to even things up with only 11 minutes left.
Then, with seven minutes to go, Alexander thought creatively. In sport,
this can simply mean there is no particular virtue in doing things the way they
have always been done. He booted a field goal from 38 metres out.
Geyer, villain and hero, sealed it with four minutes left. A villain when
sent off for an illegal tackle, he became a hero by plucking Gary Belcher's
clearing kick from the air and passing to Simmons for the final try.
* Herald readers in the Penrith area can pick up a souvenir Panther Power
poster free from their newsagent today. One poster per paper, while stocks