Tuesday 28 September 2021

Rugby League History: Five Grand Finals in a row for Glenn Lazarus

Published September 28, 2021 
Between 1989 and 1993, Glenn Lazarus played in five consecutive Grand Finals - a record unmatched during the Winfield Cup Era of 1982-95.
He won Premierships in 1989 and 1990 with the Canberra Raiders, was runner-up in 1991 as Canberra just fell short of a three-peat, and then after signing with the Brisbane Broncos, won back to back Premierships in 1992 and 1993.
Lazarus in the 1989 Grand Final against Balmain - won 19-14 by the Raiders.
Lazarus in the 1990 Grand Final against Penrith - won 18-14 by the Raiders.
Lazarus in the 1991 Grand Final against Penrith - the Raiders lost 19-12.
Lazarus in the 1992 Grand Final against St George - won 28-8 by the Broncos.
Lazarus in the 1993 Grand Final against St George - won 14-6 by the Broncos.
Lazarus started at prop in all five Grand Finals, and played the 1991 decider with a sternum injury that would have kept him out of almost any other match.
What is telling about Lazarus is if you asked someone who watched him play in the four Grand Finals he played without a serious injury, they would have trouble picking his best performance from amongst them. He was immense in all four Premiership wins and despite missing Royce Simmons one on one for the opening try of the 1991 Grand Final, his effort and ability to play through pain in that game was courageous.
He actually came very close to playing in six Grand Finals in his first seven seasons, as he had made his debut for the Raiders late in 1987 as a 21 year old (featuring in two semi-finals), and sat on the bench unused for the Grand Final Canberra lost to Manly.
Lazarus standing with his teammates after the 1987 Grand Final against Manly - the Raiders lost 18-8 and he never saw action on the field.
Only one other player* has played in four straight Grand Finals during the Winfield Cup era - do you know who it is?

Answer below.

The next best consecutive Grand Final streak for an individual player in the Winfield Cup era sits at four in a row, dominated unsurprisingly by a host of Parramatta, Canterbury and Canberra players. 
All three teams made at least three Grand Finals in a row during the Winfield Cup era, and although Parramatta won the 1981 Grand Final it is technically not in the designated era that we are addressing here (mainly as this content is for The Winfield Cup Facebook page which celebrates everything from 1982-95).
All three clubs also made Grand Finals four times in a five year span in the era - Canterbury 1984-85-86 and 1988, Parramatta 1982-83-84 and 1986, Canberra 1987 and 1989-90-91.
But no one player was able to match Glenn Lazarus for consecutive Grand Finals in this wonderful era of Rugby League, and this is true even if you include the 1981 Grand Final for those Parramatta players who would have had streaks of four in a row.
Lazarus would miss the 1997 Super League Grand Final due to injury in his last year at the Broncos. But after signing with the Melbourne Storm in 1998, he would retire from Rugby League by playing in his sixth Grand Final in 1999 as the Storm defeated those poor Dragons 20-18.
This gave Lazarus the most enviable Grand Final record of five Premierships in six Grand Finals across his 254 game career. And with a bit of luck on the selection/injury front he might have played in EIGHT in his thirteen season run in First Grade.
He also had a wonderful representative career with NSW City, NSW Country, NSW and Australia but more on that another time.
What a remarkable Grand Final legacy from the Brick with Eyes, unquestionably the best front rower I've seen play Rugby League from the Winfield Cup era onwards. 
📊 The player with four consecutive Grand Finals during the Winfield Cup era was David Barnhill.
The second rower began his career at Canberra and appeared the 1990 Grand Final off the bench and then started in the 1991 Grand Final. At the end of 1991 he signed with St George and started in back to back Grand Final losses in 1992 and 1993. 
*This consecutive Grand Final stat is correct as we understand it via Rugby League Project for the Winfield Cup Era of 1982-95, but we could have interpreted the data wrong and are happy to be corrected.
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