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Jubilant Panthers captain Royce Simmons.

As part of a series of fresh looks at the grand finals of yesteryear, revisits the 1991 decider between the star-studded Raiders and a Penrith side chasing a maiden title. 

The Panthers won their first premiership with arguably their all-time favourite son bowing out a two-try hero. has gone into the vault to find footage of the grand finals from the pre-NRL era dating back to 1966 and is showcasing these games, including a full replay, match highlights and great moments from these memorable encounters.

Royce Simmons – who would go on to promise to have a beer with every Panthers fan – played a starring role in his last match for the club.

Canberra, who entered the '91 season seeking a third straight premiership, finished the home and away season in fourth spot, seven points adrift of minor premiers Penrith.

Tim Sheens' men won three elimination finals to reach the big game while Penrith had to play just one finals fixture under the final-five format that gave a huge boost to the minor premiers.

In the first 40 minutes of a match refereed by Bill Harrigan at the Sydney Football Stadium, Canberra looked the goods despite conceding the first try.

Simmons started his spectacular day by bullocking his way over from 10 metres out. The fact he was able to shrug off Glenn Lazarus makes his four-pointer all the more impressive.

Extended Highlights: Panthers v Raiders

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Canberra's first try included a fortuitous bounce from a Ricky Stuart kick. Penrith winger Paul Smith was befuddled by the bounce off the ball and Raiders winger Matthew Wood was on hand to score.

In a classic match-up, a young Brad Fittler then cut down a rampaging Mal Meninga with a great low tackle after the Raiders had benefited from another lucky bounce of the ball.

Fittler got Meninga to the ground on the halfway line, but the future Immortal had nobody in front of him.

What wasn't helping Canberra to this point was a series of kicks at goal from Meninga that didn't even threaten the target. He would later be replaced as kicker by Wood.

There was nothing lucky about Canberra's next try – it was all class.

After a sweeping movement to the right on the previous tackle, the Raiders used the superb long-passing games of Gary Belcher, Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley to catch Penrith out on the opposite touchline.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Raiders

Bradley Clyde then made the decisive run and sent Wood over for his second of the day. At half-time, Canberra led 12-6.

Despite some highly entertaining play from both sides, there would be no more points until replacement Brad Izzard scored with 11 minutes to go.

Izzard's try rivalled Wood's second in the first half in terms of brilliant lead-up work.

With the scores level at 12-12, Alexander kicked a field goal from 40m out to give his side their second lead of the day. This time they'd keep it.

The final try, which featured some inspired play from Geyer and a strong finish from Simmons after a short dropout from a desperate Canberra side backfired, started the celebrations.

Bradley Clyde in open space is a thing of beauty

Play of the day

The try scored by Izzard with 11 minutes remains was a thing of beauty.

After Fittler and Alexander set the play up, fullback Greg Barwick steamed onto the ball before offloading to Geyer.

Geyer then produced a superb pass which saw him get his arm around the back of Canberra No.9 Steve Walters and into the waiting arms of Fittler.

Fittler took over, quickly sizing up the situation and getting the ball to Izzard who still had some work to do. 

That try got the Panthers back onto level terms. The rest is history.

Panthers v Raiders - Grand Final, 1991

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Best player

No disrespect to Bradley Clyde, but if the award was voted on at full-time instead of at a far more practical period of late in the second half, surely Simmons would have got the gong.

Clyde was his usual brilliant self in this match, but Simmons' influence, as well as his two tries – is hard to overlook.

Simmons left the game with a stellar career to his name. Ten Tests for Australia and the same number of State of Origin appearances for NSW came on top of his 238 matches for the Panthers.

The quote

"I see MG coming onto the ball like a mad bull. He catches the ball above his head, goes through the line. I just happened to be here ... MG then gives me the ball ... I'm behind the defensive line. There's only Gary Belcher, [and] Gary is back on the line. I had little to do but put the ball over the line." – Simmons recalls the match-sealing try to Channel Nine.

The what-if moment

Penrith winger Graham Mackay saved the day by tackling Canberra winger Paul Martin with the line open following another great backline move from The Green Machine late in the first half. If Mackay hadn't prevented the try, Canberra would have led by double figures at the break.

Instead, the tackle from the man who played one Test and made four State of Origin appearances kept his side in with a shout.

Paul Clarke, Paul Dunn, Paul Smith and Graham Mackay with Panthers fans.
Paul Clarke, Paul Dunn, Paul Smith and Graham Mackay with Panthers fans. ©

Unsung hero

Such was the impact Paul Clarke had for Penrith in 1991, he finished the year by winning a grand final and being voted the club's "best and fairest". Claiming such an award over the likes of Alexander, Fittler, Geyer and Simmons says it all.

After playing just nine matches across his final two years (1988-89) at Balmain, Clarke played 20 or more first grade games in each of the four years he spent at Penrith.

The following year

Neither side made the finals.

The Panthers were understandably rocked by the tragic death of Ben Alexander (the younger brother of Greg) in a car accident in June. A non-playing reserve in the 1991 grand final team, Ben played 36 first-grade games for Penrith prior to his death.

Canberra finished 1992 in 12th position, winning just 10 of their 22 matches. Two years later then would win another premiership.

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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