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Legend Q&A: Glenn Lazarus

If Glenn Lazarus has a pool room like The Castle's Darryl Kerrigan, it has several extensions.

Few players have experienced such success across such a grand career.

Five premierships in 13 seasons, and "The Brick with Eyes" remains the only player to win titles at three clubs, playing key roles in the inaugural premierships at Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne.

In a superb representative career he represented Australia 29 times and claimed player of the tour honours on the 1990 and 1994 Kangaroos tours, while his 22 appearances for NSW formed the backbone of a dominant Blues decade.

A Hall of Fame member and often mentioned in wider debates around Immortal induction, Queanbeyan-born Lazarus relives an incredible career with

Legend Q&A: Glenn Lazarus

How did you first come into grade at Canberra?

I was a late bloomer, I didn't play first grade until I was about 23 years old. I played first grade in the local comp with my junior side - Queanbeyan Blues - and I got a letter in about 1985 from the Raiders asking me trial for what was then their under 21s side.

I made it but twisted my ankle walking the dog a few days before playing in the grand final that year. I still remember being in the dressing rooms of the SCG and John McIntyre walked in and he graded six or eight of us for the next level, but I didn't think I'd be asked to come back the next season with Canberra.

Glenn Lazarus relaxes after the 1990 grand final win.
Glenn Lazarus relaxes after the 1990 grand final win. ©NRL Photos

But he rang me later on and signed me for $1000 for the 1987 season, and I ended up getting a debut late in the year under Wayne Bennett and Don Furner. In those days you had to pay for your polo shirts and tracksuits from the club, and I reckon I ended up owing the club on that first deal before getting an upgrade.

Given you didn't debut until 23, did you ever think a first-grade career had passed you by and look at other options?

Absolutely not. And to this day I've never known what I would be doing if I hadn't made a career out of rugby league.

I was detailing cars for a company in Queanbeyan when I got that first letter from the Raiders, my boss at the time was a keen footy fan and would watch me play for Queanbeyan, and he pushed me to give it a real crack.

I honestly don't know what I'd be doing if it hadn't come off.

Glenn Lazarus is tackled by Broncos teammate Andrew Gee during the 1996 State of Origin series.
Glenn Lazarus is tackled by Broncos teammate Andrew Gee during the 1996 State of Origin series. ©NRL Photos

What effect did the 1989 grand final win have on you and Canberra as a whole?

That was such a special side, and it was really the emergence of Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley as what I think is still the game's best combination or halves pairing that made it.

They were able to unleash that backline of Mal Meninga, Chicka Ferguson and Gary Belcher, and the fact there were so many young local guys who came through the Canberra District Rugby League made it so special.

Glenn Lazarus is crunched by the Panthers in the 1991 grand final.
Glenn Lazarus is crunched by the Panthers in the 1991 grand final. ©NRL Photos

We came from fourth in that finals series and just kept building, and obviously managed to upset a Balmain team that was just full of rep stars.

As local juniors bringing back Canberra's first premiership was something unique and special.

We flew home on chartered plane, the fire brigade turned out and were spraying hoses around, I had never seen anything like it. I think Canberra as a city became a better place and happier place to live in off the back of the premiership, the town bought into the team so much.

And of course we then end up in the nightclub upstairs from the Leagues Club until all hours and Laurie Daley drops the trophy off the back of the ute.

Grand Finals Moments: 1989 Steve Jackson Try

Why did you make the move to Brisbane in 1992 and how did you handle the pressure that came with it?

That was one of the hardest decisions of my life but it was something I felt I needed to do. I had lived in Canberra all my life and needed the change. Having Wayne [Bennett] as coach in Brisbane got me over the line. And then when I got up there I did more interviews in one day than I had in five years at the Raiders.

I knew I was under a fair bit of pressure. The media had been talking up how this star-studded Broncos side hadn't played in grand finals because they didn't have a 'world class' front-rower and all that.

Glenn Lazarus and Allan Langer after the Broncos' first title in 1992.
Glenn Lazarus and Allan Langer after the Broncos' first title in 1992. ©NRL Photos

But it was a wonderful club to come into and we dominated that year and St George put up a great fight in the grand final before we were able to get away with it in the end.

There was a lot of relief for me in winning that first Broncos grand final, it felt like it justified the move and the faith of Wayne in bringing me to the club.

Then coming back to Brisbane with the trophy, driving back from the airport into town was just lined with people all night and it was another very special moment.

Glenn Lazarus on the charge for Australia in 1992.
Glenn Lazarus on the charge for Australia in 1992. ©NRL Photos

You played in six grand finals and won five of them, and only missed out on Brisbane's 1997 Super League title through injury. Which was the best club side you played in?

I think either the 1990 season with the Raiders or that 1992 Broncos outfit. In 1990 we were back-to-back premiers, NSW won the Origin and I went on a Kangaroos tour and got married all in the one year, achievement-wise that was just huge.

And the talent in that Raiders backline was just phenomenal.

The Brisbane side in '92 was similar and we played in the Sevens final losing to Wigan and the Panasonic Cup final to Illawarra, before winning the minor premiership by six points and winning the club's first title. We won Origin with NSW, a Test series with Australia and I think NSW Country won for the first time too, which I was pretty proud of too.

Glenn Lazarus confronts the Steelers in 1995.
Glenn Lazarus confronts the Steelers in 1995. ©NRL Photos

Brisbane players signed en masse with Super League and you were among them. But did anyone try and lure you to the ARL?

I remember talking to Bozo (Manly and Australian coach Bob Fulton) about it on the 94 Kangaroos tour, and he was seeing this is probably going to be a reality and we'd love to bring you over to Manly.

Then when we got home Kevvy Walters and I went crabbing for a few days up at Donnybrook, we weren't answering phone calls or anything but on the way back home we heard a bit of news on the radio that Super League was firing up.

The next day we're at John Ribot's house as a team and most of us signed there and then. But Bozo rang and said 'don't worry about the contract', he didn't seem to think that was an issue.

We're meeting him and James Packer at Brisbane airport with mindblowing money, but in the end we all stuck together and stayed with the Broncos and Super League.

You won another title with Brisbane before finishing up at yet another new and growing club as Melbourne's inaugural captain. How did you bring together a team of mostly NRL journeymen in AFL heartland?

I had reached my peak as a player and was on the slide a little bit with an ankle injury, but I've ended up in Melbourne with guys from everywhere - Sydney, the Western Reds, a few Kiwis, Brett Kimmorley and Scott Hill from the Hunter Mariners - it was a real mixed bag.

We knew straight away we had to win games and instil a winning games, because people just weren't going to turn up and watch or give you any consideration if you weren't successful.

Glenn Lazarus is stretchered off for Brisbane in 1997 after breaking his leg.
Glenn Lazarus is stretchered off for Brisbane in 1997 after breaking his leg. ©NRL Photos

Our first home game wasn't until round 4 in 1998 against Norths Bears but we had started the year with three away wins. I remember catching the train into the MCG from Ivanhoe, it was public transport to the game in those days, and I've walked over the hill and there were thousands of people everywhere and I think the game might have even been delayed to get them all into Olympic Park.

That told me we had something special, a very passionate fanbase that Melbourne still has to this day.

We used to do things a bit differently too, we started doing laps of honour to acknowledge our fans which I'd never done before, and we'd have a post-match beer at the old dog track with fans. It was access fans couldn't get in AFL but it was pretty popular, having a beer with a player an hour after he'd just played.

Glenn Lazarus says farewell after Melbourne's 1999 grand final win.
Glenn Lazarus says farewell after Melbourne's 1999 grand final win. ©NRL Photos

And you finished your career cartwheeling away with yet another premiership.

In 1999 we really didn't hit the finals in that good a form and the Dragons thumped us in week one of the finals.

I remember thinking as we came off that it was my last game because the way the finals series was back then, we could have been eliminated.

But we survived and got two more weeks against Canterbury and the Eels, and in both games we ended up trailing by 10 points or something in each.

Against the Bulldogs, Sticky Stuart was their halfback by this point, he's kicked across field, Matt Geyer's caught it and gone 100 metres and won the game.

I still don't mention that to Ricky.

In those finals we learnt the lessons about hanging tough in those games and that came out in the grand final.

Emotions were high for me given it was going to be my last game and it was such a big occasion for such a young club and all of a sudden we were down 14-0.

From there it was one of the more eventful 40 minutes of my career, and afterwards it was just disbelief.

We had been touted as wooden spooners a year earlier, and then we were premiers. I'd been watching Choc Mundine and Nathan Blacklock doing their backflips all year and knew I couldn’t do one, but managed to get out a cartwheel to try and put that incredible feeling into action.

Full Match Replay: Storm v Dragons - Grand Final, 1999

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