Anthony Mundine has proven his ‘human headline’ qualities again this week, first proclaiming that Aussie boxing world champion Jeff Horn is only flavour of the month because he’s white, then knocking out Tommy Browne for a spectacular second-round win.
Eager for a shot at Horn’s title, the 42-year-old appears to have put his outlandish comeback plans with the St George Illawarra Dragons on the back-burner for now.
— Nine News Queensland (@9NewsQueensland) January 17, 2018
Anthony Mundine clears way for Jeff Horn bout after second-round knockout of Tommy Brownehttps://t.co/lZCDhCrsHh
— The Daily Telegraph (@dailytelegraph) January 17, 2018
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 tag 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)