With the 2017 NRL preliminary finals a matter of hours away, it’s worth remembering arguably the most infamous post-season display of all time.
Flashback Friday relives the performance of hapless Parramatta Eels winger/fullback Paul Carige, who produced a slew of late-game clangers as the blue-and-golds capitulated in an extra-time loss against Canterbury in 1998.
A versatile back, the enigmatic Carige was a Brisbane Broncos junior and broke into first grade with 16 appearances for the Illawarra Steelers in 1996.
He signed with the Eels the following season and became a permanent member of the first-grade line-up at fullback, wing or centre, starring as the club returned to the finals for the first time in 11 years in ’97.
The enigmatic Carige played every game of Parramatta’s 1998 NRL campaign, but his career fell apart in a dramatic preliminary final against the Bulldogs.
The blue-and-golds had already coughed up an 18-2 lead with 11 minutes to go when Carige’s in-goal gaffe gave up a line dropout inside the final 30 seconds.
Carige then collected a missed field-goal attempt as the siren sounded and mystifyingly booted the ball downfield, after which Bulldogs five-eighth Craig Polla-Mounter’s long-range shot at a one-pointer fell just under the cross-bar.
The 25-year-old was unable to capitalise on his reprieve during extra-time, taking the ball over the sideline twice via diabolical errors of judgement.
“He has made some of the dumbest plays I’ve ever seen in the game of rugby league,” exasperated Eels great Peter Sterling said in commentary.
Carige could hardly be blamed for the Eels’ spectacular collapse, but he never played first grade again, heading to England to spend a season with Salford Reds and later turning out for Queensland Cup team Wynnum Manly.
The hapless youngster – who finished with 61 first-grade games to his credit – maintains a prominent place in rugby league finals folklore.