The Raiders 1994 Grand Final triumph over the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, in which the Green Machine defeated the Minor Premiers 36-12 to send legendary captain Mal Meninga out a winner, will go down as one of the proudest moments in the club’s rich history.
To help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Grand Final, the Raiders have invited all members of both sides to a dinner this Friday for the Round 15 match against the Bulldogs at GIO Stadium Canberra.
In the lead up to the clash, Raiders media caught up with players, members and historians from that era to re-tell their memories from that fine day.
Paul, what do you remember of the 1994 season as a whole?
We'd lost Ricky at the end of 1993 when he broke his ankle so the year had ended quickly without him and as such everyone was excited heading into the 1994 season. I had missed most of the second half of the year due to a broken toe and when I'd been fit again I couldn't get back in the side as they were running so hot. It was clear to everyone that the side was going to be hard to beat. It was Mal's last year so there was a lot of emotion around that as well.
You came into the Grand Final side as a late inclusion for John Lomax, what did Tim Sheens tell you at the time and were you nervous?
It was a funny week as the judiciary hearing was on a Tuesday and then the appeal was not until Friday. I had no idea what Tim would do as both Hethro and Dave Westley had been playing great footy off the bench and everyone expected them to be picked if Johnny got suspended. I remember on the Saturday morning we had training and Tim took the big 5 of Mal, Ricky, Loz, Brad and Steve into his Coach's room and then came out and told the whole team I was starting.
I was probably more shocked than nervous and the great thing about playing in a team like that was that you only needed to do your job and the superstars turned on the magic. I enjoyed every game I got to play with those guys and in my opinion it was one of the best NRL teams ever. It was also special being able to play in Mal's last game and make a contribution.
What are your highlights from the Grand Final?
All I wanted was to do my 20 minutes or whatever Tim had in mind well and try not to stuff it up. We got the perfect start when they knocked on and it wasn't until the third set that I got my hands on the ball. I had Mal outside me so clearly the Bulldogs defenders were paying attention to him so that gave me some room for the first try.
I will be forever greatful to Tim for giving me the opportunity to play and be a part of it. The other thing I loved was having my daughter walk the lap with me and being able to share the day with the Raiders fans who were so loyal and supportive. It was a nice way to retire.
Were your two try assists the most memorable passes from your career?
They are up there obviously and I think that's because of the whole drama in the lead up and the fact it was a Grand Final helps as well. Don't ask me how they happened but it helped having Ken 'Dance' Nagus on the end of the second one. I get credited for two tries but Kenny had to run 80 metres, beat three defenders and out run the whole Bulldogs team...
Is it true that you haven’t forgiven David Furner for stealing your Clive Churchill Medal?
Actually I had been in debt to Dave for a couple of seasons. Not many people know this story, but in 92 or 93 were were playing in a game and I missed the softest tackle ever and the guy was about to score and Furnsey pulled off a miraculous try saver. We walked into the sheds at half time and as we sat down I looked very sheepishly across at him and he just shook his head at me and grinned... I needed to pull something big out to square off the ledger...
The other thing about him that makes me laugh is the first time I saw him trial for us in 1992. Tim played him at fullback and he was disgraceful... I remember giving him a hard time about how slow he was and I think he dropped three bombs and missed four tackles... Luckily he was moved into the forwards!
The thing about Dave was that I don't think I played with a tougher forward or someone who worked so hard and he deserved to play for Australia, even though it probably should've been me... He could box too and I learnt early not to spar with him so I only ever say nice things about him now!
What are you doing with yourself now?
I work in Logistics and am based in Hong Kong although I travel back to Australia as much as I can.
Did you enjoy your time in Canberra and how much are you looking forward to the reunion dinner on Friday?
I loved my time at Canberra and to be able to play footy with those guys was a dream come true. I spent 14 wonderful years in the ACT and eight of my nine kids were born there so I'll always be connected to the area.
One story still sticks out and it's from when I got elected to the Legislative Assembly. I was sitting in my empty office when my first two letters arrived. One was from Fred Daly, our Patron at the time and the other was from the great John McIntyre, the current Patron. Both men wrote to me congratulating me but JR's letter still makes me laugh. He said, 'Congratulations GFH on getting elected', then he wrote three pages complaining that there were no polling booths at Jervis Bay... I'm sure if you ask him he'll remember and probably still complain as I don't think they've done anything about it. I miss JR and am looking forward to seeing him on Friday along with the rest of the team.