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1980 grand final rewind: Gearin's try for the ages ices Bulldogs title

As part of a series of fresh looks at the grand finals of yesteryear, revisits the 1980 decider between Ted Glossop's exuberant Canterbury side packed with stars named Mortimer and Hughes, and Royce Ayliffe's Roosters. 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.

Dubbed 'The Entertainers', the Canterbury side which went all the way in 1980 to deliver the club its third premiership featured the three Mortimer brothers and the three Hughes boys.

Steve, Peter and Chris Mortimer joined forces with Graeme, Mark and Garry Hughes to create a special piece of rugby league history as a brash young Canterbury side charged from eighth at the halfway point of the season to win 13 of their last 15 games and take the title.

Canterbury arrived at a sun-drenched SCG on September 27, 1980 brimming with confidence after beating Easts 13-7 in the major semi-final a fortnight earlier to earn a week off and they made the perfect start when sharp shooter Steve Gearin landed an early penalty goal after Roosters forward Des O'Reilly was pinged for a swinging arm.

Extended Highlights: Bulldogs v Roosters

Easts threatened to hit back soon after when winger David Michael found himself in open space on the right touchline before a copybook cover tackle from Steve Mortimer cut him down.

Canterbury's slick attack clicked in the 25th minute when Chris Anderson finished off superb lead-up work by fullback Greg Brentnall and Chris Mortimer to score next to the posts. Gearin's conversion made it 7-0.

Ken Wright landed a pair of penalty goals to get the Roosters back to 7-4 and that's how the teams went to the break.

Gearin continued to put the boot into Easts in the second term, landing three more superbly struck penalty goals, while Brentnall's booming boot ensured the Bulldogs controlled field position.

With the game pretty much in their keeping at 13-4, Cantebury entered their nomination for one of the greatest grand final tries ever scored when Steve Mortimer swept the ball left to Garry Hughes who found his brother Graeme who put Brentnall into a hole.

The fullback got within 40 metres of the tryline and then launched a high ball for Gearin to chase ... and chase he did! 

With Roosters duo Kevin Hastings and David Michael tracking back to contest the ball it was Gearin who kept his eyes intently focused on the ball and caught it on the full to slide in for the sealer.

And just for good measure he piloted his sixth goal of the day to put the exclamation mark on the 18-4 win.

Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Roosters

Play of the day

When talk turns to memorable grand final tries the likes of Pat Richards in 2005 off the Benji flick and Kyle Feldt in 2015 off the Michael Morgan flick spring to mind. And then there's Steve Jackson's herculean extra-time effort for Canberra in 1989 and Bob McCarthy's famous intercept try for the Bunnies in 1967.

And Steve Gearin's thrilling effort to catch the Brentnall bomb on the full in the 1980 decider sits comfortably alongside all of those.

Coach Ted Glossop's reaction said it all as he clapped his hands and smiled broadly at the exhilarating try his young side had produced to cap a sensational win.

"That is as good a try as you'll ever see," said legendary commentator Rex Mossop, and few could argue.

Gearin with a take for the ages

Best player

Steve Gearin was named man of the match and will always be remembered for his famous try and pinpoint goal kicking under the intense pressure of a grand final.

One of only four players in Canterbury's history to score more than 1000 career points, Gearin scored 63 tries in 131 games in blue and white as well as landing 405 goals.

In the fowards the platform was laid by Steve Folkes, Geoff Robinson, Graeme Hughes and skipper George Peponis as they went toe to toe with Royce Ayliffe, John Harvey and John Lang.

The quote

"When I went to the Belmore Leagues Club later for the celebrations I couldn't get in through the front door there were that many people there. They actually lifted me up in the air and handed me all the way up the stair case to the auditorium. It was the only way I could get in. It was an amazing feeling." - Canterbury skipper George Peponis speaking in 2020, recalling the euphoria of grand final night.

The what-if moment

Had the Roosters been able to cross early in the match things could have been vastly different, and when centre Kerry Boustead put David Michael away on the right wing they seemed certain to score but Steve Mortimer had other ideas, chopping the speedster down with a copybook cover tackle which became his trademark during a distinguished career.

Chris Anderson scores for Canterbury

Unsung hero

Garry Hughes was a no-frills five-eighth who was the perfect link man between his crafty No.7 Steve Mortimer and brilliant backline stars like Gearin, Brentnall and Peter Mortimer.

Hughes spent a decade at Cantebury from the mid-70s to the mid-80s and his deft passing and kicking game made him a crowd favourite at Belmore.

Always understated but always happy to get his hands dirty when required, Hughes had a great understanding with back-row brother Graeme and the pair had plenty of highlight reel moments for The Entertainers.

Full Match Replay: Bulldogs v Roosters - Grand Final, 1980

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The following year

Canterbury suffered an alarming slump, winning just eight games and finishing 10th, while the Roosters surged to the minor premiership.

Come finals time and the Bob Fulton-coached Easts went out in straight sets to Parramatta and Newtown.


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