2024 Magic Round: 1994 Grand Final Celebrated 30 Years On

2024 is the 30th anniversary of the 1994 NSWRL Grand Final between the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the Canberra Raiders. It was the last grand final under the New South Wales Rugby League banner and Canberra’s last premiership in a three-title run from 1989 (and also their most recent premiership).

In 1994, the Bulldogs were minor premiers with an 18-4 record. They won nine straight from rounds 3 to 11, five straight from rounds 14 to 18, and four straight from Round 20 to the major semi-final. Daryl Halligan had an incredible season – scoring 270 points (12 tries, 110 goals, two field goals). His goalkicking percentage of 82.71% meant Canterbury’s tries were usually worth six points. Jason Williams was the next best try scorer with 11.

Embed from Getty Images

Canberra finished third with a 17-5 record. The Raiders won nine straight (from Round 15) to secure a double chance – not losing again until the major semi-final. Eventual Clive Churchill Medallist David Furner finished with 196 points (six tries, 86 goals), while Brett Mullins scored 22 tries in 24 games: his four in a huge win over Newcastle is one of the magic moments of 1990s rugby league. It was also the farewell season for Mal Meninga, with over 25,000 packing Bruce Stadium for his final home game (with the Raiders comfortably beating Western Suburbs). Though the Raiders’ NSW contingent spoiled Mal’s farewell Origin series, with the Blues winning 2-1.

Embed from Getty Images

Canterbury and Canberra split their regular season clashes: Canterbury won 17-12 on Easter Monday at Belmore (Round 4), and Canberra won 36-6 at Bruce (Round 19).

The final five system meant the Bulldogs only had to win the major semi-final: which they did in an extra time thriller against Canberra (19-18). The Raiders beat the luckless North Sydney Bears twice: in the major preliminary semi-final (26-12) and the preliminary final (22-9). It was a controversial prelim, with John Lomax’s send-off giving an unexpected grand final hero the opening he needed…

The grand final shaped as a classic infront of over 42,000 at the SFS, but it was an anti-climax. Martin Bella knocked on from the kick-off and Canberra made them pay. Paul Osborne – replacing Lomax – entered Raiders folklore with a hand in Canberra’s early tries as the Raiders led 18-6 at half-time. Meninga capped his farewell game in Australia with an intercept try as the Raiders won 36-12, with Ken Nagas scoring two tries and Furner winning the Churchill.

Embed from Getty Images

The Bulldogs quickly rebounded, winning the 1995 Australian Rugby League premiership. While Canberra and Manly Warringah dominated the regular season, the “Sydney Bulldogs” went on a six-game run to win the premiership. Finishing sixth in the regular season, they beat St George in the qualifying final, Canberra in the preliminary final, and Manly in the grand final. Canterbury have played in four grand finals since (1998, 2004, 2012, 2014), winning the 2004 NRL premiership against the Sydney Roosters. Though they haven’t made the finals since 2016 and claimed the 2021 wooden spoon. Phil ‘Gus’ Gould’s arrival in 2021 helped turn the club around, bringing in Cameron Ciraldo and working hard on Canterbury’s junior pathways (the Bulldogs won the 2023 Jersey Flegg premiership). Their bright start to 2024 suggests things are finally clicking, with their big stars Matt Burton, Josh Addo-Carr, and Villiame Kikau beginning to gel.

Embed from Getty Images

It’s been a much leaner time for Canberra. The Super League (1997) preliminary final loss was the end of the “Green Machine” era, and the Raiders went into a long rebuilding phase. While they were regular finalists, they didn’t make another preliminary final until 2016. Canberra blew a golden opportunity to break their premiership drought in 2019 – controversially losing the grand final to the Roosters, though they made another preliminary final in 2020 (a heavy loss to Melbourne after a redemptive semi-final win over the Roosters). Canberra is in rebuilding mode now, with a number of experienced players retiring/moving, and younger players like Ethan Strange and Chevy Stewart blooded into first grade.

Embed from Getty Images

The Raiders will commemorate their 30th anniversary with the 1994 premiership side reuniting for Magic Round. While the club has released 1994 retro merchandise, they’re unlikely to wear a commemorative jersey for the Magic Round game. Though, considering Canberra’s horrible record in one-off jerseys, it’s probably a good thing.

Embed from Getty Images

Subscribe to our weekly tips

We'll send you our weekly predictions once they're posted to NothingButLeague!

No spam, you can cancel at any time.

Other Articles

Leave a Reply

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Translate »