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Brave n Bold Grand Final Moments That Created NRL Legends

Sponsored by Kraken Black Spiced Rum
Sponsored by Kraken Black Spiced Rum
Brave n Bold Grand Final Moments That Created NRL Legends

It's no secret that Grand Finals can get a tad cagey every now and then.

Nerves.

Pressure.

Desperation.

It's enough to make you sweat just watching it from home.

With just 80 minutes of footy separating the teams from ultimate glory, a historic victory often rests

on the shoulders of a single player to step up to the plate when they're needed most.

Here, we take a look back at some of the boldest and bravest moments from NRL Grand Finals past which ultimately forged the legends we know today.

So crack open a refreshing Kraken Premix while feasting your eyes upon these game-winning moments ahead of the finale itself this weekend.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going and these individuals are no different.

Cooper Cronk, 2018 Grand Final

Club doctors described his injuries as the sort "usually seen in car crash victims". Ahead of the 2019 Grand Final between the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm, scans revealed that veteran halfback Cooper Cronk had sustained a 15cm fracture in his scapula. The injury required immediate surgery and looked destined to rule him out of the big dance. Still in a sling at the eleventh hour, the Chooks were unsure whether he was going to play. But somehow, miraculously, when both teams ran out onto the field to begin the game, a bloke donning the number 23 jumper was there with them - it was Cronk.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Playing through the excruciating pain barrier, Cronk orchestrated an emphatic 21-6 demolition job on his former side. While he barely touched the ball, his leadership and communication singlehandedly drove the Tri-Colours to one of their most memorable Premierships in recent years. "I've never seen a guy as mentally strong as Cooper Cronk," head coach Trent Robinson said. "What this guy had to do this week to get there was incredible." But perhaps the best piece of praise came when Robinson said that Cronk's brave efforts had earned him "legend status". He wasn't wrong.

Out of all the Premierships he's won, it'd be hard to argue that this one wasn't perhaps Cronk's most satisfying. It also created one of the most iconic rugby league images of all-time, where a visibly exhausted Cronk was snapped while being comforted pitch side by his coach at full-time.

Scott Sattler, 2003 Grand Final

Try-saving tackles don't come much better than this. In 2003, Scott Sattler produced a last-ditch, try-saver which has now etched its place in rugby league folklore.

The Penrith Panthers side bracing to lock horns with the back-to-back chasing Roosters were the feel-good story that year. When it came to grinding out results with sheer tenacity and show of heart, look no further than the 2003 Panthers. And one player who personified their determination and body-on-the-line mentality was Sattler.

With the score between the Panthers and Roosters locked at 6-6, the stalemate looked like it was about to be broken when Chooks great and former Premiership-winning Panther Brad Fittler scooped up a loose ball and offloaded to Todd Byrne on the wing. The Tri-Colours speedster had nothing but green grass and the try line in sight as Penrith desperately tried to scramble back into position after coughing up the ball. Byrne, renowned for his blistering pace, pinned his ears back and headed for the try line. Seeing the danger, Panthers lock Sattler immediately got on his bike and gave chase. Making up an incredible amount of ground, Sattler somehow managed to catch up to Byrne, although the job was far from done. With inch-perfect precision and well-timed technique, Sattler wrapped Byrne up and dragged him into touch. When you think about bold plays which turned the tide of a game, this classic moment instantly springs to mind. Legendary stuff.

Credit: NRL
Credit: NRL

Johnathan Thurstson, 2015 NRL Grand Final

We knew Thurston was a showman, but he well and truly kept us all on the edge of our seats during the 2015 finale. While it was a happy ending for Thurston and the North Queensland Cowboys, it didn't always look like it was going to pan out that way.

In the dying embers of the game, Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt bagged a last-gasp try in the corner to level the scoring against the Brisbane Broncos. With just 18 seconds left on the clock, talismanic leader Thurston had the opportunity to earn a coveted premiership ring for his team with a game-winning conversion. Just inches from the sideline, the kick itself was at the tightest of angles - but if anyone could slot it, it was JT. Although this time, his curling kick rattled off the framework and dropped dead on the ANZ Stadium turf.

The game wasn't over. For most, the feeling of missing a golden opportunity to be the hero would be enough to make you curl over and give up. But for Thurston, it lit a fire deep inside. Soldiering on through extra time, Thurston lead his team on a charge down the field and eventually found himself within striking range for a golden point field goal. Cool, calm and collected, he slotted the ball effortlessly through the posts to win the North Queensland Cowboys their maiden premiership in the most emphatic of fashions. Nail beds were bitten and hair (or at least what was left of it) was pulled out, but the Cowboys ended up getting the job done - and there was one man at the centre of it all.

What is it they say? 'Zero to hero'? Yep, sounds about right.


Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The Infamous 'Six Again' Call, 2019 Grand Final

Now, we know exactly what you're thinking. This play didn't exactly create an NRL legend per say, but rather a villain instead. Although you have to admit, when assessing 'bold' plays in the great game of rugby league, this moment has to be in the conversation. At the time, it sparked outrage and sent NRL fans - not just Canberra supporters - into a frenzy. But even now, two years on, it is still widely regarded as one of the most controversial calls we've ever seen. So sorry Raiders fans, this one is staying on the list.

When a looping kick went high into the sky, Roosters fullback James Tedesco looked destined to take it in the bread basket with ease. But before Tedesco could make a catch, a bunch of Raiders players contested him for the ball. The Steeden then ricocheted off in the direction of Canberra's chasing pack and landed in the hands of Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson. Referee Ben Cummins, making a clear gesture on his head, then signalled for 'six again'. The Raiders, under the impression they still had plenty more tackles up their sleeve to bag a try, made a desperate attempt to bulldozer over courtesy of star five-eighth Jack Wighton. The No.6 jinked his way through recovering Roosters defenders before eventually being wrapped up by Cooper Cronk. A faint voice repeating "still last, still last" could be heard in the distance while Wighton dodged past the Chooks. But by then, it was too late. Before Wighton could even get up and play the ball, the referee had already called a changeover - much to the confusion of the Canberra Raiders.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

At full-time, the post-mortem began and all fingers were immediately pointed at the match officials. Roosters coach Trent Robinson batted off questions from reporters and former players alike, urging viewers to applaud his team's hard-fought victory rather than focus on one single moment. But if we're being honest, how could we not discuss it? The messy incident has continued to be a talking point over the past few seasons. Was it a bold call? Yes, it was. Was it a controversial one too? You bet.

Notable Mentions:

Benji Marshall's flick pass (2005)

Sam Burgess' fractured eye socket and cheekbone (2014)

Andrew Johns' shortside pass to Darren Albert

Steve Menzies scores in his final NRL game (2008)

So as we lead into this year's NRL Grand Final, grab yourself a refreshing Kraken & Dry or Kraken & Cola, available at all good retailers, to enjoy while you watch the game.

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Topics: Rugby League, nrl, Australia

Max Sherry
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