Gary Belcher in action for Canberra in the 1980s.
Gary Belcher in action for Canberra in the 1980s. Getty Images

Belcher says '89 Raiders would be successful today

GARY Belcher was part of one of the most talent-laden sides of the 1980s and says all of them would be successful in the modern era.

Belcher was a key part of the Canberra Raiders outfit which won the 1989 grand final against Balmain.

Also in that team was the likes of Mal Meininga, Ricky Stuart, Bradley Clyde, Glenn Lazarus, John 'Chicka' Ferguson, Steve and Kevin Walters and Laurie Daley.

Those were some of the best players to have played rugby league and Belcher said the team coached by now Australian mentor Tim Sheens would do just as well now.

"I don't think there would be one player out of that side who would not be successful today," the now 55-year-old Belcher said.

"Every one of them had special skills and talents.

"I have got some fantastic mates from other clubs but there is nothing like the bond you get from winning a grand final together and we won a couple while I was at the Raiders and it still feels pretty special when you talk about it."

In that grand final the Raiders had gone down 12-2 to the Tigers at half-time.

Belcher scored a try to get Canberra back in the game before Ferguson somehow sneaked over in the dying seconds to set up extra time during which Steve Jackson scored the winning touchdown to ensure a 18-14 Raiders success.

Belcher has clear memories of the game that a number of experts call the greatest decider ever played.

"People still talk about it in that way," he recalled.

"My memories are very good.

"It was the first grand final that went into extra time, we were the first club from outside of Sydney to win it, the first team from outside the top three to win it.

"So there was a lot of things we had to do right.

"Leading into the finals we were behind the eight ball.

"There was a tour mid-year to New Zealand, myself Mal Meninga and Brad Clyde went on that and while we were away the Raiders lost all three games.

"We came back knowing we had to win every game to make the finals and we did.

"It was nine games straight all up, so that was a bit of a feat in itself."

Belcher said that not too much had changed since the 1980s but was glad of one thing that had.

"It probably wasn't too much different from today," he recalled.

"It was a bit less sanitised.

"We had hard men and when there was a bit of a rivalry between clubs you kind of knew that in the first five minutes there was probably going to be a bit of a stink on.

"I am not so sure I want to see the mullets and the moustaches and at one point I had both. I don't know how I stayed married.

"They were good old days and I was happy to be a part of it.

"I just wish sometimes that we could have had the pay packet the players today get."

News Corp Australia

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