As a key member of the powerful St George forward pack that came so close to winning a title during the early to mid-1990s, Scott Gourley can’t help but think back to the good old days whenever the Dragons line up against the might of the Brisbane Broncos.
A veteran of 128 games for the Red V between 1989-96 – plus 45 games for Sydney Roosters before retiring – Gourley played in three losing grand final sides over the years but it was the Dragons’ consecutive losses to Brisbane in 1992 and 1993 that forever linger on the mind.
“Making those grand finals with St George – even though we didn’t win they were still a real highlight for me,” the 43-year-old told NRL.com. “We never had a team full of stars but everyone worked well together and we were all good mates. We probably weren’t expected to go as well as we did those few years. It’s a shame we didn’t win one of those grand finals but I certainly enjoyed my time there.”
While the Dragons head north to Suncorp Stadium this Saturday confident of progressing to Week 3 of the finals, back then they were on a hiding to nothing against a star-studded Brisbane side boasting the likes of Allan Langer, Glenn Lazarus, Steve Renouf, Michael Hancock, Julian O’Neill, Trevor Gillmeister, Willie Carne, Chris Johns and Kevin and Kerrod Walters.
“I think that first year (1992) we were never going to beat them but the second year I think we beat them a few times during the season,” Gourley recalled. “They were struggling a bit more the second year. I think we were probably the best side all year, then just played crap in the grand final which was disappointing – but as people say, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. It was good fun and in the long term I don’t think it makes that much difference.”
A dual international who played five Tests for the Wallabies before switching to league in 1989, Gourley was always destined to play for St George. His father, Robin, was a member of the club’s 1965 and 1966 premiership-winning sides and he still considers himself very much a Dragon despite finishing his career at Bondi Junction.
“The move to the Roosters came during the whole Super League thing and it was really a bit of a mix-up to be honest,” he explained. “At the time, I was keen to stay but I went to [the Dragons] and told them ‘the Roosters have offered me this’ but one of the blokes there – I won’t name names – told me that he didn’t think the Dragons would still be there the next year and that I should take what I could get at the time.
“That’s how it goes – and I actually found it good fun to go back and play against my friends! I suppose it wasn’t that much fun coming back to Kogarah but it didn’t matter. I enjoyed my time at the Roosters as well.
“I think that’s the main thing out of any sport you play is the memories that you have and the people that you meet. It’s not so much what you achieve as the enjoyment you get out of it.”
Still good mates with the likes of David Barnhill, Mark Coyne and Ricky Walford, Gourley admits his old club faces an uphill battle to make it back-to-back titles in 2011… but hasn’t given up on them just yet.
“I think you’ve always got a chance but they’re not playing that well,” he said. “Hopefully they can put it all together but it’s never easy going up there. The Broncos are playing pretty well. But you never know until you run out there.
“I was happy for them last year but I must admit I think the Tigers are looking good this year. I like watching them play.”
Gourley has certainly lived the good life since retiring from professional sport back in 1998. These days he spends his time at the beach or playing golf near his North Curl Curl home as he lives the life of a part-time investor.
“Pretty much since I finished playing footy, which was a fair while ago now, I’ve basically been looking after the kids,” he said of 15-year-old son Henry and daughters Celine (13) and Clementine (9).
“I’ve got a few different investments that I look after as well – just investing money in share markets and property and that sort of thing – which keeps me reasonably busy and I look after the kids the rest of the time. But the kids are all at school now so that leaves me a lot of time to play golf, surf and enjoy myself!
“I can’t complain how things have worked out. I never planned it this way but when I retired from footy my wife had a really good job and we were still quite young at that stage.
“I grew up with one of my parents looking after me so I thought it would be a good idea if our kids had a parent around as well.
“I was lucky in a way too because when I stopped playing league, I played a bit of rugby down at Manly and with that there were also a lot of invitation games around. Even now there are games every now and then. So we’d go on a few trips away, travel pretty much all around the world playing these games, which was good fun. I’m nearly coming to an end but I’ve been to Kenya and places like that. It’s been fun and keeps me pretty fit.”
And how do his investments treat him?
“Depends how the share market is going – the way it’s going at the moment I try and ignore it!” he laughed. “But I don’t day trade or anything like that. I just have a certain amount of shares and try and keep them a certain amount of time. But I did economics at University so I’ve been doing that for 20-odd years now so I enjoy it.”