Eight Gutsy NRL & AFL Grand Final Performers


Brave, courageous or downright crazy.

Cooper Cronk’s bravery in Sunday’s NRL Grand Final will go down in Australian sporting folklore as one of the gutsiest individual performances of all time.

With that in mind, we have come up with eight names from various Rugby League and Aussie Rules Grand Finals that typify a gutsy performance.

Rugby League:

John Sattler  (South Sydney) – 1970

10 minutes into the 1970 NSWRL Grand Final between Souths and Manly, Sattler collapsed after being punched by his opponent John Bucknall.

Suffering a double fracture to his jaw, Sattler pleaded with his Souths teammate Mike Cleary to “Hold me up so they don’t know I’m hurt.”

Cleary begged Sattler to get off the ground and get treated but he was having none of that and played the next 77 minutes of the Grand Final nursing his jaw that was broken in three pieces.

At the half-time break, Sattler refused treatment even with Souths up 12-6.

Souths went on to win 23-12.

Sattler went to the hospital after the match, but that was after he accepted the trophy and made an acceptance speech.

Sattler’s recount of his actions in the 1970 Grand Final is some of the most stirring stuff you will ever read. 


Shane Webcke (Brisbane Broncos) – 2000

Ask a Broncos fan what tough means, and they’ll show you a picture of Shane Webcke.

Webcke injured his left arm in round 24 of the 2000 NRL season and was informed that it would take a minimum of eight weeks to heal, meaning he’d miss the Grand Final should the Broncos make it, but he was having none of that.

Training in secret during the finals, Webcke returned to the side for the prelim against Parramatta wearing a plastic armguard and helped get the Broncos a date with the Roosters in the 2000 Grand Final.

Webcke was able to back it up the following week against the Roosters with their players targeting his injured left arm but it was to no avail, with the Broncos winning the Grand Final 14-6 with his brave performance a major factor.

Sam Burgess (South Sydney) – 2014

In his own John Sattler-esque performance, Burgess fractured his cheekbone in the first tackle of the game after a head clash with Canterbury (and fellow Englishman) James Graham.

Burgess called for the trainer, but opted to stay on the ground and play the match with his right eye blackened.

He would go on to win the Clive Churchill Medal with 25 hit ups for 225 metres and 36 tackles in a famous drought-breaking premiership for the Rabbitohs.

Cooper Cronk (Sydney Roosters)  – 2018

Some are already likening Cronk’s role in the Roosters premiership win on Sunday night to the efforts of Burgess and Sattler.

With a broken shoulder, which some medical experts have likened to what someone would suffer in a car accident, Cronk played in the Grand Final and put his body on the line when he tackled Storm’s big man Nelson Asofa-Solomona in what was an act of selflessness and bravery.

Cronk was not only brave by putting his body on the line but played a vital role in guiding the Roosters to victory against his old club on Sunday night with his knowledge and guidance.

His efforts on Sunday night will now go down in Rugby League folklore.


Dermott Brereton – 1989

The man known as “The Kid” played around about two seconds of the 1989 Grand Final without injury.

Earlier in the ’89 season, Brereton had kneed Geelong’s Mark Yeates and gave him some mouthy advice as he made his way off the ground.

Come Grand Final day, Yeates had a target on Brereton’s head and went straight for him as soon as the ball was bounced to start the 1989 Grand Final.

Yeates slammed into Brereton, he tried to get back up on his feet and as soon as he did knew that some damage had been done to his ribs.

In some of the most famous vision you’ll ever see, Brereton gets himself back up, goes on to kick a goal a few minutes after his collision with Yeates and goes on to kick two more goals in one of the bravest Grand Final performances you’ll ever see.

If an incident like the Brereton/Yeates happened in 2018, the AFL’s match review panel would self combust.


Robert Dipierdomenico AKA: Dipper (Hawthorn)  – 1989

From the same epic Grand Final, the man they call “Dipper” was running back with the flight of the ball to take a mark when he bumped into Geelong’s Gary Ablett Senior.

As a result of his collision with Ablett, Dipper broke several of his ribs and punctured one of his lungs and played the rest of the Grand Final in pain but unaware of the damage.

At the end of the game, Dipper collapsed and was rushed to St.Vincents Hospital after being what many regard as one of the Hawks best on the day.

Darren Millaine (Collingwood) – 1990

“He need not even kick it, the drought is over” – Sandy Roberts

The ball was in Millaine’s possession as the final siren sounded in the 1990 Grand Final, which ended Collingwood’s famous premiership drought.

Little did people know that the man they called “Pants” played the entire finals series with a broken thumb, and relied on painkillers to get through Collingwood’s finals campaign.

The man was known for his toughness and was regarded as one of Collingwood’s greatest of all time.

He would tragically be killed in a car accident a year later.

Nigel Lappin (Brisbane) – 2003

In the preliminary final against the Swans, Lappin had broken his ribs leaving him in doubt for the Grand Final against Collingwood.

The Lions had tried to keep it under wraps going into the GF, but Jason Akermanis and his big mouth decided to let the cat out of the bag in a radio interview early that week.

The attention was on if Lappin would be selected, and he did enough at the Lions training session just before the Grand Final to warrant a spot in the side.

Fitted with special padding and with a dose of painkillers, Lappin would go on to have a best on ground performance in the Lions threepeat of 2003.

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