Anthony Mundine is back in the news with arguably his most outlandish statement yet, declaring that he is keen to become the oldest player in premiership history and make an NRL return at the age of 42.
The controversial boxing champion said he will have to approach the Dragons about a comeback to the club he walked out on 17 years ago, but he sounds genuinely confident about being able to pull off the seemingly impossible. This despite the fact the Saints have Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt entrenched as their halves from 2018 onwards.
Anthony Mundine wants rematch with Danny Green – and a return to the NRL https://t.co/87vyhop2tk Make the ball from pig skin leather.
— Danny Greenhalgh (@Whitedingo001) May 3, 2017
But love him or hate him – and most go with the latter option – Mundine undoubtedly ranks with Australia’s most gifted sportsmen. As a rugby league player, he never really got his dues; partly due to his outrageous, self-promoting public statements, and partly due to the fact he sensationally spurned his club and code at the age of 24.
Mundine was also – perhaps unfairly – tarred with the ‘enigmatic’ brush, a by-product of being one of the most electrifying and unique talents the game has ever seen, but not being able to produce that genius every single week. Similarly gifted one-of-a-kind players like Cliff Lyons, Benji Marshall and Shaun Johnson have had to wear the unkind during their careers, too.
For Throwback Thursday, we take you back to ‘The Man’s’ last great day as an NRL star – the 1999 preliminary final.
The St George Illawarra Dragons, sixth after the premiership proper, went into the clash with minor premiers Cronulla as underdogs, and the long-suffering Sharks appeared headed to the grand final after a David Peachey solo try gave them an 8-0 halftime lead.
But Mundine, a Super League premiership-winner during his sole 1997 season with Brisbane, produced one of the greatest individual halves in finals history after the break. He showed brute strength to power over from close range to put the Dragons on the board in the 44th minute, before giving the Saints their first lead 10 minutes later, brilliantly plucking a deft Nathan Brown chip kick from Peachey’s clutches to dot down.
The Indigenous five-eighth then handled twice in a movement that saw Luke Patten score, pushing the Dragons out to an 18-8 advantage. Mundine capped a mind-blowing display by showcasing his electrifying pace; from a standing start, he left two Sharks defenders grasping at air before running around Peachey, sealing a 24-8 triumph.
Of course, Mundine had a howler in the following week’s grand final showdown with Melbourne, bombing a certain try that could have wrapped up the match with the Saints leading 14-2. The Storm came home with a wet sail to snatch the premiership 20-18, while the outspoken, controversial Mundine quit two months into the 2000 NRL campaign to pursue a boxing career.
For many, it was a relief to see the motor-mouthed Mundine depart, but one of the modern era’s great entertainers had exited before the full extent of his rugby league ability had been realised.
ANTHONY MUNDINE CAREER OVERVIEW
St George (1993-96, ’98): 83 games – 37 tries, 3 goals, 2 field goals (156 points)
Brisbane (1997): 11 games – 3 tries (12 points)
St George Illawarra (1999-2000): 33 games – 19 tries (76 points)
FIRST GRADE TOTAL: 127 games – 59 tries, 3 goals, 2 field goals (240 points)
City Origin (1996): 1 game – 0 points.
New South Wales (1999): 3 games – 1 try (4 points)