Gearin try still haunts Roosters
It is one of the most famous Grand Final tries of all time, but for Eastern Suburbs players Gary Warnecke and Ken Wright, the footage of Canterbury’s Steve Gearin catching the up and under kick and scoring in the 1980 decider is a permanent reminder of what could have been.
Every year Gearin’s try is replayed to the point it has been etched into Rugby League folkore, but for the Roosters, it serves as a constant reminder that they saved their worst performance for Rugby League’s showcase game and ultimately lost 18-4.
Warnecke who played 58 games for the Roosters between 1980-84 says the Gearin memory is one that history won’t let him forget - even 33 years later.
“They keep showing that bloody Steve Gearin try,” Warnecke laments to NRL.com, half in jest, half in regret.
“So it stays in your system and you keep getting reminded about it, it never leaves you.
“Ken and I played together in the 1980 Grand Final, it is one you want to forget.
“[The thing I remember] most about that game was it wasn’t one of our best games. It was unfortunate to get to the Grand Final and play so badly. But it’s all done on the day and whoever stands up on the day takes the victory.”
Warnecke and former teammate Wright played against each other from the age of 10, before playing together in junior representative teams travelling to Tamworth and Illawarra. A few years later they were playing first grade for Eastern Suburbs and on the verge of winning Rugby League’s ultimate prize.
The Bulldogs would go on with Parramatta to become the two dominant sides of the '80s, while It would take another 22 years before the Roosters could finally lift the trophy, when Brad Fittler's side defeated the Warriors 30-8.
While Warnecke, Wright and Eastern Suburbs missed out on glory in 1980, their friendship had been cemented from a young age through Rugby League - a game they say has changed dramatically in recent times.
“At the time the Eastern Suburbs used to pick a rep side and we used to go to Tamworth or Illawarra together and Gary and I did those trips together as youngsters,” Wright recalled.
“As kids you don’t often know guys on the other team, but we did in those days and all of a sudden we were playing together at the Roosters.
“There are no comparisons to our side to the ones that play now. They are bigger, faster, full-time athletes, it is quite different now.”
Warnecke continued the story.
“We only trained twice a week; Tuesday and Thursday nights and then we played on the Sunday,” he said.
“We were battling with two jobs and everything else that is involved in life, so we spent a bit of time together as mates, but we had a lot of other things we needed to do - make money and stuff like that.
“I have fantastic memories of Rugby League. It has been such a huge part of my life.”
The Roosters clash with the Bulldogs on Friday night at Allianz Stadium, a game Wright and Warnecke both have strong views on.
Gary Warnecke on Roosters v Bulldogs
“The Roosters have been improving since the start of the competition. Going into this week, Canterbury are a bit underdone and they will be keen for a victory; the Roosters coming off a loss will be looking to get their competition back on track. It will be an interesting clash.
"I’ll be at the game on Friday night and cheering the boys on."
Ken Wright on Roosters chances in 2013.
“The Roosters are on a bit of a rebuild, they have done quite well. I thought it would have taken a bit longer - they have a new coach, four new pretty good players. James Maloney has been a big signing for them, of course Sonny Bill Williams and Michael Jennings have been great. I think it takes a while, they have three wins from five which is pretty good.
“The Bulldogs will be desperate, they have had one from five, they are going to be desperate, it is a tough call.
“I think the Roosters will be in the finals definitely, but the Grand Final... with the Storm, South Sydney and Manly, it is their first year with a few key players, sometimes it takes more than one year as we found out in 1980 to get there.
"It will be even tougher to get to the Grand Final and win."