Spotting his rival, Ricky Stuart, caught in a gridlock situation 10
metres upfield, Penrith captain Greg Alexander, in his own words, "just went for
it"- selecting from a variety of options the field goal stab that carried the
Panthers to Rugby League history yesterday.
Six minutes and 50 seconds remained on the clock. Canberra's Stuart could
only watch in dismay as the ball sailed flat and low and straight - and over the
black dot at the Randwick end.
Television replays clearly showed Stuart's dilemma. The Canberra half,
sensing what was on, found his progress blocked by a skyscraper named Mark
Geyer, with no hope of pressuring Alexander.
It was that vignette, amid all the moments of drama and controversy
punctuating the 1991 grand final, which summed up how the premiership was won
"It was a snap decision," said Alexander of the field goal that made the
score 13-12. "My first thought was to kick deep, to the in-goal. When I sensed
Ricky Stuart was not chasing up hard, I just went for it."
The grand final will be remembered as Royce Simmons's game, providing a
sporting fairytale almost beyond belief. I imagine the judges for the Clive
Churchill medal would have changed their votes and gone for Simmons if asked to
vote 16 minutes later than they were.
But how right that a moment of raw instinct, so characteristic of skipper
Alexander, gave Penrith the platform for their win. Only then did the
try-scoring demon Simmons deliver the killing blow.
Much of "Brandy" Alexander's genius over the season has come from
deep-down lightning flashes of inspiration which I'm sure even he can't explain.
Yesterday's field goal, after the Penrith skipper had glanced right before
choosing the perfect option of the drop kick, was a memorable example -
the"natural" at work.
Later, Alexander had a message for his detractors: "Whoever thinks that I
personally and Penrith can't handle pressure - they've choked on their words
The season went 40 minutes too long for valiant Canberra yesterday.
Dragging injured players, and especially two champion halves, whose kick and
running was nowhere near full throttle, the Raiders succumbed to Penrith's
brilliant second half.
The half-time words of coach Phil Gould, reinforced by Simmons's emotional
support, sent out a Panther team which became an irresistible force as the
second half unfolded.
Any one of half-a-dozen moments could have been the "game-breaker" as the
* Graham Mackay's tackle on Paul Martin near the line close to half-time.
It was 12-6 then; at 18-6 the match might have been out of reach.
* Bill Harrigan's decision not to sin-bin John Cartwright close to
half-time for what seemed deliberate stealing-the-ball.
* The disallowing of the Paul Smith "try" and the sin-binning of Mark
* The "no penalty" decision after Laurie Daley had seemingly nicked the
ball from Brad Izzard right on the line.
* Mal Meninga's mighty tackle on Greg Barwick inches short of the line.
* Brad Fittler's burst on to Geyer's inspired pass to send Izzard away
for the try that tied it all up.
* The spectacular finale - Scott Gale's short line drop-out and Geyer's
charge on to the ball with no fear for life or limb. Simmons somehow getting
there to back up and score the try.
All of it added up to a grand final to remember for years, although
referee Bill Harrigan may look back on the game with some discomfort.
"Now we're someone," declared hero Simmons at the end.
Indeed the Panthers are, winners of the 50th grand final and the 10th
Winfield Cup in their 25th year of premiership life.
The symmetry was perfect.