Where do you start with a discussion of this incredible try?

The first point is perhaps that during 1995 and following, rugby league had undergone a period of civil war, the so-called Super League War, which literally threatened to tear the Australian game to pieces. A game which was at the pinnacle of Australian sport, basking in the glamour of Tina Turner commercials that were the envy of every other sport in the world (the songs would later be adopted in the English Premier League), inexplicably fractured under the big money advances of Rupert Murdoch.

While much of the rugby league world accepted the media promotion and cash that came with a Murdoch take-over, the Australian Rugby League dug in and the resulting conflict within the game saw the number of teams across two separate competitions balloon.

Eventually with peace reached, important strategic centres for the game such as Perth and Adelaide were sacrificed, the game’s most storied Australian club, South Sydney, were expelled from the competition and mergers were enforced upon some (largely reluctant) Sydney and New South Wales clubs.

Among those mergers, the quickest to effectively maximise the combined resources of two strong clubs was St George Illawarra – who under senior coach David Waite commenced to play a marvellous attacking style which the players clearly loved.

Amongst this internecine carnage, one of the few quality administration decisions made by the early NRL was to retain a presence in Melbourne, a fact which saw the Storm empire rapidly grow and prosper (at times in breach of the salary cap during the Brian Waldron executive era).

In this season decider, Melbourne would clash with the newly formed St George Illawarra at the just completed Sydney Olympic Stadium, which was thronged by an Australian record crowd of nearly 108,000.

One of the absolute glories of the St George Illawarra playing style was the natural and brilliant combination of indigenous players, five-eighth Anthony Mundine (yes that Mundine), and luminous winger Nathan Blacklock, whose extraordinary understanding and shared instincts were in high gear seemingly in perpetuity.

The 1999 NRL Grand Final was very much in the balance at 8-0 to St George, when Dragons’ fullback Luke Patten (who had been in spectacular form during the course of the season) was forced to leave the field injured.

Blacklock moved from wing to fullback to cover Patten’s absence, and Melbourne sensed an opportunity with the ball in the hands of Australian halfback Brett Kimmorley.

Kimmorley, a key figure in the Storm’s flat offensive style under coach Chris Anderson, executed a quality chip kick just on halfway, the ball bouncing once just outside the St George Illawarra thirty-metre line.

Storm players Kimmorley and fullback Robbie Ross bolted through the defensive line, poised to collect the ball for a Melbourne try under the posts. The only person in the stadium not on this wavelength was the gifted Blacklock, whose turbo-charged run from fullback started at around the 20-metre line.

With the exquisite timing of the best conjurers, Blacklock absorbed the ball as if by osmosis, causing the Melbourne defenders to crash into each other, and literally flew down the field in the direction of the Melbourne goal line.

So unexpected and masterly was this stroke of genius that the entire Storm defence was caught going the wrong way, and Blacklock flashed untouched under the posts for an astonishing 70 metre plus Grand Final try – celebrated by him, as was customary that season, with typical panache.

Many expected that would be the end of Melbourne, but again showing their exceptional fighting qualities, they forced their way back into the match, and would go on to win the game late on with a famously controversial penalty try to the Storm’s Craig Smith after he was fouled high in-goal in the act of scoring by the normally reliable (and scintillating) Jamie Ainscough.

The Storm’s first Grand Final win, in just their second year of competition, was thus secured and the beginning of a modern football dynasty was underway.

Year: 1999
Player: Nathan Blacklock
Score: Melbourne Storm 20 defeat St George Illawarra Dragons 18
Venue: Sydney Olympic Stadium, Homebush
Crowd: 107,999


  1. Hey Lyle,

    “…which literally threatened to tear the Australian game to pieces.” Uh, no. Metaphorically.
    “… literally flew down the field in the direction of the Melbourne goal line.” Again, no. He literally “ran”. He metaphorically “flew” That’s why we use metaphors, to not describe things literally.

    You’re welcome,

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