Replays showed he hadn’t even hit him. In the context of the match, which had resembled a bar-room brawl at times, with smaller players leaping into the air to whack the heads of larger opponents, it was a dreadful call.
The volcanic Geyer had been bubbling all game, determined to avenge the previous year’s grand final loss, also against the Raiders.
When he branded Weekes a “cheat”, Harrigan sent him from the field.
“You’re off!” Harrigan barked.
“I’m f—ing what?!” Geyer screamed.
“For 10 minutes.”
“It went from tears of sorrow to tears of joy in the space of a few seconds,” Geyer recalls. “I just thought they didn’t want us to win this comp.”
Simmons felt the air being sucked right out of his team as Geyer stormed from the field. He knew there was only one way to inflate them with confidence again.
“We went from scoring a legal try – and I still to this day don’t know why it wasn’t given – to this real flat spot, a man down against one of the best teams in history,” Simmons recalls. “The next few tackles I made were in anger, to lift the side. And I went a bit close to a couple of chins.”
For the next four tackles, Simmons threw his nuggety little forearm at anyone wearing a lime green jersey who came into his field of vision.
“Keep going,” Harrigan warned, “and you’ll be sent off next.”
That would’ve been a tragedy.
Before the match, and then at half-time, Penrith coach Phil Gould had made Simmons the focus of his oratory. This was Simmons’ last match. Do it for him.
“Someone must’ve been cutting a lot of onions at the SFS that day because there was a lot of tears,” Geyer laughs.
As Geyer stalked the dressing-room after being sin-binned, Gould sent a message down via one of the trainers.
“Tell him not to feel sorry for himself because he can still help us win it,” Gould instructed.
When Geyer returned, with the Raiders still leading 12-6, he set about winning the grand final for Simmons.
Much like Balmain in 1989, though, for much of the second half it didn’t seem like it was meant to be.
Replacement Brad Izzard looked certain to score – only for Laurie Daley to strip the ball from his grasp over the line.
Fullback Greg Barwick was over the line soon after – only for Mal Meninga to pick him up and rag doll him back into the field of play with another try-saving tackle.
Then came the moment that turned the tide Penrith’s way.
From a set move in the middle of the field, near halfway, Geyer broke into open space and unfurled a miracle round-the-corner pass to the flat-topped centre Brad Fittler, who then produced his own special pass inside for Izzard to race away and score.
Captain Greg Alexander’s conversion levelled the scores before he landed a field goal to push the Panthers ahead.
With time burning away, Canberra attempted a short drop-out, Geyer latched onto it, stormed at the line, stood in the tackle like the Statue of Liberty, arm raised, and passed to Simmons, the slowest winger in the world, who scored in the corner.
Alexander iced the conversion from out wide to seal the win.
If you’ve got the time, you could do worse than watch a replay of the 1991 grand final; a throwback to the days when rugby league wasn’t strangled by predictable block plays, wrestling techniques and video referees.
The comparisons between the Panthers of 1991 to those of 2021 are too delicious to ignore, with both coming off grand final losses the year before.
Geyer certainly reckons it smells like ’91.
“They’re smarting, they’re filthy, they’ve come back this year looking better than last,” he says. “In 1991, we started with intent and this year’s side has done the same. There’s a great sprinkling of local juniors, like we had. Our halfback [Alexander] was the best in the comp, their halfback [Nathan Cleary] is the best in the comp …”
Then the great MG roars with laughter.
“There you go!” he says. “Maybe there is still more to write about that 1991 grand final!”
Sharks weary of Morris push
The Sharks are growing tired of the public push to extend the contract of coach John Morris after just four rounds. That much was clear by the authority premiership-winning captain Paul Gallen was given to speak about the matter on 100% Footy on Monday night.
“This is a hard one for me to be involved in because I’ve got a personal relationship with John and dedicated my whole life to the Cronulla Sharks,” Gallen said.
“The chairman of the Sharks rang me about an hour ago before the show and explained to me they feel as a board they have done so much work off the field to get the club in a good spot financially.
“They’ve obviously had issues in the past with what happened with ASADA and the salary cap situation. What they feel is they have put the club in a position to be a top-four club. Now their concern is, ‘Is John Morris the coach to take them to be a top-four team year, in year out like the Roosters, like the Melbourne Storm?’ They don’t know whether he’s the answer or not and they’re waiting to see.”
The Sharks remain in dialogue with Craig Bellamy about joining them as a coaching director.
Even though people are sceptical about Bellamy’s real motives, he’s assured the Sharks he wouldn’t be talking to them if his interest wasn’t genuine.
Vale Tommy Raudonikis
Nobody lives forever. The problem is when it comes to people like Tommy Raudonikis, you just think they will.
Raudonikis, 70, lost a long battle with ill health on Wednesday morning.
This from Roy Masters – his old Wests coach and our beloved Herald columnist – was heartbreaking: “Finally, blood cancer conspired with 30 years of testicular cancer, a quadruple bypass, cancer of the neck and throat and enduring back and shoulder pain to do what gang tackles of British, French and New Zealand players could not”.
There’s been an avalanche of tributes, many them around his toughness and sense of fun. Oh, to have written some of the tales from NSW camp when he was coach. Perhaps not.
I’ve heard many Tommy yarns from Roy over the years but one of my favourites comes from legendary boxing trainer Johnny Lewis, who first met Raudonikis at Newtown in the early 1980s.
One day, Raudonikis turned up for a Saturday morning boxing session without any sleep from the night before.
“He spewed for the whole hour, all the way down the front of his shirt,” Lewis once told me. “But he never stopped.”
Did he get any on you, Johnny?
“I was pretty quick with the pads back in those days, son,” he replied.
“I personally think the NRL has gone too far in trying to speed up the game too much and that’s what’s creating a lot of misfortune in the game at the moment.” – Injured Dragons captain Ben Hunt breaks ranks and criticises the NRL’s rule-change-a-thon.
Australia’s women’s team extended its winning streak to 22 with a six-wicket victory over New Zealand, overtaking Ricky Ponting’s 2003 men’s side for the longest run of victories in any form of international cricket. They then extended the streak to 23 on Wednesday, and are odds on to make it 24 on Saturday. Bravo to them..
The way South Sydney have cranked up the spin to justify their appalling treatment of captain Adam Reynolds has angered many club legends. The latest about a two-year deal is more guff. A one-year deal with an option for a second in the club’s favour is not a two-year deal.
IT’S A BIG WEEKEND FOR … all concerned at Royal Randwick on Saturday for the first day of The Championships. The most intriguing race is the TJ Smith, in which James McDonald will try to pilot Nature Strip to successive wins.
IT’S AN EVEN BIGGER WEEKEND FOR … Queenslander Cameron Smith, who created US Masters history last year when he shot four rounds in the 60s. He’s at the juicy odds of $31 to win this year’s tournament at Augusta National.
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.