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1984 grand final rewind: Eels' shot at history dashed by Bulldogs

As part of a series of fresh looks at the grand finals of yesteryear, Paul Zalunardo revisits the 1984 decider in which Canterbury ended Parramatta's plans of a fourth consecutive premiership. 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.

The Eels entered the 1984 decider hoping to become just the third team to win at least four premierships in a row. They were denied by a ruthless Bulldogs outfit.

The run stopped at three and South Sydney (1925-29) and St George (1956-66) remain the only sides to win at least four in succession. 

Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Eels

The match started on a bad note for the Eels, with centre Steve Ella forced from the field in the early stages with a leg injury.

They then got a lucky break as the Bulldogs had a try disallowed on account of a Terry Lamb pass that was ruled to have gone forward by referee Kevin Roberts.

Canterbury were the more enterprising of the sides in the early exchanges, with a series of attacking raids featuring great interchanges of passing.

Eels winger Eric Grothe then dropped a simple pass with a good chance at a try looming. That prompted commentator and St George coach Roy Masters to say: "I wish he had have done that last week".

A week earlier, Grothe scored the only try as Parramatta beat the Saints 8-7 in the preliminary final.

Full Match Replay: Bulldogs v Eels - Grand Final, 1984

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The Eels opened the scoring when Michael Cronin crashed over following a clever pass from Peter Sterling. They would prove the only points of a first half that featured more enterprising play than a 4-0 score would indicate.

Once play had resumed, Mark Bugden emerged as the most unlikely of grand final heroes. 

With Eels lock Ray Price on the ground clutching at an arm injury, Bugden spotted a big gap in the defensive line and darted over to score the easiest of tries.

Chris Mortimer converted to give Canterbury a lead they would not relinquish.

Play of the day

A simple run out of dummy-half by Mark Bugden won Canterbury the grand final.

Bugden was able to get away from marker John Muggleton and evade fullback Paul Taylor on a relatively easy run to the line.

It won't appear on any "great grand final tries" packages but it is as important as any that have been scored.

Bugden scores for the Bulldogs

Best player

Peter Kelly was retrospectively awarded the Clive Churchill Medal. He was a ruthless player who made sure everyone on the opposition team knew he was out there. Only three players who started the grand final at prop (Paul Dunn, Willie Mason and Brent Kite) have claimed the top individual honour since 1986. 

The quote


Probably the shortest quote ever offered by a grand final-winning coach. It came from Canterbury coach Warren Ryan when asked which of his players most impressed him during his side's two-point win.

The what-if moment

The loss of Steve Ella to a leg injury early in the match robbed the game of one of its best attacking players. With Ella no longer a problem, the Bulldogs were able to breathe a little easier and rely on their forward pack getting the job done.

Extended Highlights: Bulldogs v Eels

Unsung hero

Darryl Brohman made a huge difference after coming on at half-time. His ability to start attacking play by utilising his array of ball-playing skills really helped the Bulldogs. There was even evidence of a kicking game as he provided a real point of difference among the Canterbury forwards.

The following year

Canterbury made it back-to-back titles with a 7-6 win over St George. Their combined winning margin over those two years was just three points.

The Eels made it as far as the preliminary final but were handed a 26-0 lesson by the Bulldogs. Parramatta went back to the drawing board and won their fourth premiership in six years in 1986.


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