A coupla kicks that changed Canberra Raiders history

Ahhh, the good old days. The more things have changed, the more Chris O'Sullivan wished they'd stayed the same.

The former Canberra Raiders half isn't a fan of the modern game. Doesn't watch it any more. Doesn't like what it's become. The way it's played.

Raiders half Chris O'Sullivan longs for the way the game used to be. Photo: Craig Golding

Raiders half Chris O'Sullivan longs for the way the game used to be. Photo: Craig Golding

Liked the way it was. Back when he was playing for the mighty Green Machine. Winning back-to-back premierships wearing the No.6 on his back alongside current Canberra coach Ricky Stuart.

He tried to watch the other week, when he blew the Viking horn before a Raiders game. He tried.

But he did enjoy being around the modern crop. Talking footy. Passing on some wisdom to Sam Williams. Hoping they can emulate what he achieved 30 years ago, when the Green Machine stormed to their maiden premiership.

He knows they've started well. Their four wins from five has them sitting near the top of the NRL table, ahead of their clash against the Brisbane Broncos at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

It's a field O'Sullivan knows well, having played about a quarter of his career there after the Raiders' switch from Seiffert Oval.

O'Sullivan was one of the first 14 inductees into the Raiders hall of fame earlier this year. The 202-game's career coming to a close a couple of years after the back-to-back triumph.

"I did speak to them the other night, but I didn't watch them play," he said.

"I was giving them a little bit of advice. I think Sam kicks the ball a bit. I said to him, 'Well don't kick it if you can't compete for it. Just remember that'.

"But I wish them all the best. Because they've changed [the game] so much you lose a bit of interest and become disappointed."

The structure. The kicking to corners and playing the percentages. The death of the shoulder charge. And the chip and chase. Not taking advantage of the scrum. The lack of competition at the scrum and the play-the-ball.

These all stick in O'Sullivan's craw.

But that doesn't mean the modern players aren't good footballers. Just thinks the old game couldn't have been that bad. With a coupla rich kids fighting to control it.

Is this the look that shaped the Canberra Raiders? Chris O'Sullivan, Gary Belcher and Mal Meninga following the 1987 grand final loss.

Is this the look that shaped the Canberra Raiders? Chris O'Sullivan, Gary Belcher and Mal Meninga following the 1987 grand final loss.

"I don't watch the game anymore. I haven't watched a full game in I don't know how long now," O'Sullivan said.

"I'm just so disappointed in it and how it's gone ... the game was played like that for 80 years, what gives them the right to change the game?

"And we made it successful. We had two of the richest men in the world fighting over it.

"I'm not saying there's not good footballers running around there, a lot of skills, it's just the type of football."

Thinks more could be done for the country. Thinks the old Amco Cup would help showcase the talent in the bush and bring back interest to the game in the outback.

For those that don't know, the Amco Cup was a mid-week, knockout comp that ran during the 70s and 80s.

"I would make the NRL teams play against the NSW and Queensland cups and have a knockout competition," O'Sullivan said.

"Then people would realise some of these kids running around in the bush are just as good as some of them in the Sydney league.

"Then they would get better sponsorship out in the country and it wouldn't die like it is everywhere ... there's no status."

These days O'Sullivan's a designer builder. Has four sons.

Things are a bit quicker than back in the day. Trips to the "Sydney madness" took four or five hours back then.

But that doesn't mean they weren't fun.

O'Sullivan's a foundation Raider. His debut in round four, 1982. Back when they struggled and played through to see the club grow into a powerhouse.

"To be honest the first five years of the Raiders was probably the best part of my life," he said.

"We had so much fun. So much fun.

"Even though we had success on the back end, the first five years were something special.

O'Sullivan scores a try during the 1989 season. Photo: Graham Tidy

O'Sullivan scores a try during the 1989 season. Photo: Graham Tidy

"Just for different reasons. Obviously the football, but the players in general.

"It wasn't about money. It was about some getting a second chance. A lot of young blokes getting a shot at the big-time footy.

"It was just all about playing football. Nothing else. You know what I mean."

What about that football? After the fun years. On the back end when the success did come.

There was that game. The grand final. The greatest of all time. When the Green Machine steamrolled over the top of Balmain.

We know about THAT try. You know, Steve Jackson carrying Tigers on his back to seal the game. It's why O'Sullivan now calls Jackson "One". "One bloody try".

But before that. That was the time for O'Sullivan to shine.

Before Jackson exploded and wrote his name into a thousand free lunches, the five-eighth's boot produced a coupla kicks for the ages.

It was his bomb that went skyward in the dying seconds of regulation time. His bomb that was batted back and ended up in "Chicka" Ferguson's arms. His bomb that led to the Chicka-Chicka shake and the game-levelling try.

Extra-time here we come.

Then it was his field goal that put Canberra in front for the first time. Two minutes into what's become the golden period, but what was then the start of the Raiders' golden period.

It was something he practiced a bit. Wasn't bad at it. Called a different play at first. Then changed his mind and had a crack off the back of a scrum.

O'Sullivan, right, with Victor the Viking, fellow '89 premiership player Steve Jackson and Alan Tongue. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

O'Sullivan, right, with Victor the Viking, fellow '89 premiership player Steve Jackson and Alan Tongue. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

"Obviously kicking the field goal [is my biggest memory of the grand final]," O'Sullivan said. "But I joke around now, 'You've got to watch the last 10 minutes. I think somebody broke the line to get us up there in the first place.

"'Then somebody put up a bomb to even us up. And then someone put a field goal up to win the game'.

"So I go, 'I wonder who had a bigger influence on the game than anyone else?'

"Sometimes with all the stars in the team a bloke who organises and calls the shots gets overlooked a little bit."