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1994 grand final rewind: Big Mal gets the perfect swansong

As part of a series of fresh looks at the grand finals of yesteryear, NRL.com revisits the 1994 decider between Mal Meninga's powerful Raiders outfit and minor premiers Canterbury. 

NRL.com 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, match highlights and great moments from these memorable encounters.

Playing the final match of a decorated career, Meninga kicked off deep to the Canterbury goal line and the men in blue and white let the ball bounce. With the Canberra chasers pouring through, prop Martin Bella attempted to clean up the mess but knocked the ball on, handing Canberra the early advantage.

It took the Raiders just two minutes to make the Bulldogs pay as late call-up Paul Osborne in jersey No.46 delivered a perfect offload to David Furner for the game's opening try.

Osborne had not played first grade since round 15 and only forced his way into the side after John Lomax was suspended. His experience proved crucial in the early exchanges.

Canberra's second try came courtesy of flying winger Ken Nagas, who latched onto another brilliant Osborne offload and raced 65 metres to score. Furner's conversion made it 10-0.

The Green Machine went up a gear in the 22nd minute when Laurie Daley stormed into the backfield and evaded Bulldogs fullback Scott Wilson to post Canberra's third try.

Match Highlights: Raiders v Bulldogs

Daley went from hero to villain eight minutes later when his floating pass was intercepted by Kiwi flyer Jason Williams who scorched the turf on an 80-metre run to the line. Daryl Halligan potted the conversion for 14-6.

Canberra's classy backline then found its rhythm as Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley, Mal Meninga and Brett Mullins handled in a sweeping right-side raid to send Noa Nadruku over.

A pinpoint kick by Stuart handed Nagas his second four-pointer before Furner ripped a hole right through the middle of the Canterbury ruck and delivered a sweet offload for Jason Croker to score under the sticks as Canberra put the result beyond doubt with 25 minutes to play.

Jason Hetherington burrowed over from dummy half for a consolation try which made it 30-12 before Meninga swooped on an errant Jason Smith pass in the 63rd minute to put the exclamation mark on an emphatic Raiders triumph.

Canberra's tally of 36 points was the highest score in a grand final since Eastern Suburbs defeated St George 38-0 in 1975. 

Meninga intercepts a pass in his last game as a Raider

Play of the day

Mal Meninga's 166th and final game for the Raiders delivered the fairytale result and the skipper gave the Green Machine faithful what they craved when he took an intercept 40 metres out and galloped away to score the 74th try of his career.

Big Mal's final State of Origin series hadn't delivered the result he wanted, going down 2-1 to Daley's Blues, but there was no denying the future Immortal a third premiership as his star-studded Raiders produced a masterclass on the big stage.

With Jarrod McCracken chasing in vain and 'Fatty' Vautin screaming 'Go, big fella' in commentary, Meninga touched down and then gave a fist pump to his delighted team-mates as they embraced their leader.

Furner scores early for Canberra

Best player

In just his third season in the top grade, tireless back-rower David Furner made it three Clive Churchill Medals in nine years for the Raiders, following on from Bradley Clyde's successes in 1989 and 1991.

Furner's ball-playing skills and reliable goal kicking made him a valuable member of Tim Sheens' pack and he was in the action early on grand final day when he crossed wide out for his sixth try of the season.

Furner was rewarded for an outstanding season when he earned selection on the Kangaroo tour and he played Test matches against Great Britain and Wales.

Clyde and Laurie Daley also had big games in the decider as the Raiders ran riot.

Full Match Replay: Raiders v Bulldogs - Grand Final, 1994

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The quote

"I owe this team a grand final and it will be next year. I didn't organise the team and as a result we didn't go forward." - Canterbury skipper Terry Lamb speaking to Rugby League Week post-match and taking the blame for his team's defeat. As only champions can, Lamb delivered on his promise a year later.

The what-if moment

Three seconds. That's how long it took for Canterbury's game plan to go out the window.

Rather than catching the kick-off and working their way upfield with a solid opening set, the Bulldogs were forced to hand the ball back to Canberra with a line dropout.

For some inexplicable reason, Terry Lamb had let the kick-off bounce and poor old Martin Bella left to bend down and try and pick it up rather than taking a pass from his skipper and charging into the defensive line.

Bella spilt the ball in goal, the dropout followed and Canberra scored after just two minutes to set the tone for the day.

Williams intercepts a Daley pass

Unsung hero

Just five days shy of his 28th birthday and playing his 11th game of the season, Paul Osborne made the most of his late call-up for the suspended John Lomax.

In a sensational 28-minute opening stint, the bustling ball-player laid on his team's first two tries with crafty offloads to David Furner and Ken Nagas.

The grand final heroics would prove to be Osborne's final act in first grade as he failed to find a spot on Canberra's roster in 1995. He walked away from the game and went into the world of politics before later turning his hand to commentary with ABC Radio.

Nagas makes it a double

The following year

The Bulldogs produced a stunning September charge to come from sixth spot to claim the club's seventh premiership, taking down Manly 17-4 in the grand final.

Canberra won 20 of their 22 regular-season games to finish second and earned a week off with a 14-8 win over Brisbane in week one of the finals. In the preliminary final they had no answer to the confident Bulldogs, losing 25-6.