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1985 grand final rewind: Dogs defy Dragons to win third in six years

In the latest in a series of fresh looks back at the grand finals of yesteryear, revisits the 1985 grand final between Canterbury and St George. has gone into the vault to find footage of the grand finals from the pre-NRL era dating back to 1966 and will be showcasing these games, including a full replay, a mini version of each game, match highlights and great moments from these encounters.

St George, who had finished the regular season as minor premiers and entered the decider as strong favourites, started well.

Graeme Wynn made one of the few clean breaks for the match early on, before St George declared their intentions when Steve Linnane kicked from a scrum for Michael O'Connor who toed the ball ahead.

Steve Morris and Linnane would also get their hands on the ball before an errant pass saw Canterbury gain possession.

In the days when teams who fielded the ball on the full in their own in-goal area didn't get a 20m tap, Canterbury peppered Saints fullback Glenn Burgess with many a bomb.

After no-nonsense Dogs prop Peter Kelly floored Wynn with a punch after a scrum and ended up with a penalty being awarded to his own team, Canterbury kept on grinding.

Full Match Replay: Dragons v Bulldogs - Grand Final, 1985

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They opened the scoring when Peter Mortimer scored two tackles after what suspiciously looked like a forward pass went undetected.

Andrew Farrar converted and the score was 6-0.

No more points were scored until the final 10 minutes when Farrar added a field goal to give his side a 7-0 lead and more importantly, some breathing room.

Steve Morris regathered his own kick to score late on and O'Connor converted, but the day was to end in disappointment for fans of the Red V.

Peter Mortimer sneaks down the sideline

Play of the day

In a match with only two tries, it was the two men who set up Peter Mortimer's four-pointer that are worthy of praise. Rugged props Peter Tunks and Peter Kelly combined to send Mortimer on an easy run to the line during the first half.

Best player

Steve Mortimer enjoyed a superb year in 1985. After captaining NSW to victory in their first State of Origin series triumph, Mortimer won man of the match honours as he captained the Bulldogs to a premiership. Having a pack boasting the likes of Peter Kelly, Peter Tunks, Steve Folkes and Paul Langmack working for him would have made his life a lot easier.

Extended Highlights: Dragons v Bulldogs

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The quote

"We must be a bloody good side to beat a champion side like St George. To play a side like St George - it brings the best out in you and that's the reason why we performed so superbly today" - Steve Mortimer after the match.

Match Highlights: Dragons v Bulldogs

The what-if moment

"The ball was forward to Langmack". Two tackles after this correct summation of a Michael Hagan pass to Paul Langmack, Peter Mortimer scored what would prove to be the Bulldogs' only try.

The decision wasn't an easy one and there were other 50/50 calls that went the way of both teams, but if this pass had been called up it would have set the match on a different course.

Canterbury still had plenty of time to conjure points, but the nature of their play would likely have been different if scores had remained at 0-0 into the second half.

Unsung hero

Andrew Farrar was the epitome of a 1980s Canterbury player. He quietly went about his business - and that business was an uncompromising style of football where you had to match his toughness before you could think about getting the better of him.

In the '85 decider, Farrar kicked the crucial field goal that gave the Bulldogs a seven-point lead in the final stages and meant they were able to win despite Steve Morris's late piece of individual brilliance.

Bulldogs coach Warren Ryan and his players celebrate their 1985 grand final win.
Bulldogs coach Warren Ryan and his players celebrate their 1985 grand final win. ©NRL Photos

The following year

Canterbury's pursuit of a third straight premiership failed at the final hurdle when Parramatta scored a 4-2 win in a tryless grand final. Canterbury had Peter Kelly sent to the sin bin and Phil Sigsworth sent from the field during a brutal battle.

St George would miss out on making it a three-way, two-match playoff for fifth spot by one point after finishing the home and away season with a 12-12 record. A loss to Canterbury in round 25 and an 18-18 draw with Canberra in the final round proved their undoing.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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