The fast-paced, pressure-cooker nature of rugby league dictates that mistakes and errors of judgement are merely part of the game. But some gaffes – whether they cost a team two competition points or not – are so bizarre and regrettable that they have become ingrained in the code’s folklore.
Unfortunately, hapless players such as Max Mannix are remembered almost solely for one clanger, but as the legendary Terry Lamb showed, the all-time greats can absolutely blow it on occasion. This edition of the CBS Top 5 remembers the greatest blunders of rugby league’s televised era.
5. Adam O’Neill
The son of former Test cricketer Norm O’Neill, South Sydney winger Adam O’Neill quickly gained a reputation as a fiery customer. His short fuse did not stop him from representing City Firsts and the President’s XIII in 1988, but it cost the Rabbitohs a competition point later that season. Souths were tied 12-all with Cronulla at the SFS in the dying moments of the Round 16 clash when O’Neill was held on his own 20-metre line, before reacting wildly to the tackle of Sharks prop Craig Dimond. O’Neill was penalised and Cronulla winger Sean Watson calmly slotted the match-winning penalty goal after the siren.
4. Luke Phillips
Valuable Sydney Roosters custodian Luke Phillips produced one of the most lamentable howlers witnessed in an NRL finals match. With his side trailing Parramatta 10-8 just after halftime in the 2000 qualifying final, Phillips spilled a deep kick by the Eels. But instead of cleaning up the scraps, he ran past the ball in exasperation, seemingly expecting a scrum to be packed. Eels centre David Vaealiki played to the whistle and toed the ball through to score an easy try, setting the underdogs on course for a 32-8 boilover. Phillips bounced back to play a brilliant hand in the Roosters’ grand final loss to Brisbane three weeks later, and won a premiership with the club in 2002.
3. Terry Lamb
Canterbury legend Terry Lamb kicked the most poorly timed field goal of all time late in a 1992 clash with Newcastle. He struck the ball sweetly from 40 metres out and it went straight down the middle – the only problem was the Bulldogs were two points behind at the time. A sheepish Lamb admitted after the match he thought the scores were tied, with his miscalculation allowing the Knights to hang on for a 12-11 win.
2. Max Mannix
Speedy winger Max Mannix played 24 games for Canterbury and Illawarra, but his name is synonymous with one unfortunate gaffe. Canterbury led fellow contenders St George 8-4 in a 1984 clash when Mick Potter sliced through. The Bulldogs fullback’s pass found Mannix – playing in his second first grade game – who set off on a thrilling 60-metre run to the tryline, outpacing the cover defence. But as Mannix dived and stretched out his arms to score, the ball flew out of his hands. Luckily for the rookie, the Bulldogs clung to their four-point lead, but footage of the incident is routinely wheeled out when memorable clangers are mentioned.
1. Martin Kennedy
Trailing 22-0 during the first half of an early-season 2010 clash with Canterbury, the Sydney Roosters finally got on the board just before the half-hour mark. But any hopes of a miracle comeback were dashed by front-row tyro Martin Kennedy from the ensuing kick-off. Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce collected the ball on his own line and popped a regulation pass to his charging prop, but the young Queenslander tripped and the ball ricocheted off his head. Bulldogs pivot Ben Roberts scooped up the loose ball and shifted it to centre Josh Morris, who evaded three defenders –including Kennedy – to dot down for the third of his four tries in the 60-14 walloping.