Penrith's 1991 heroes see same NRL desire

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

It's the transformation of Penrith players from party boys to businessmen that gives Mark Geyer the sense of deja vu.

Thirty years after he was the hard man at the centre of Penrith's grand final revenge over Canberra, Geyer can feel it building again.

From the pain of the Panthers' 18-14 defeat to the Raiders in the 1990 decider to the jubilation of the club's first title a year later.

And after watching the current group grow from last year's disappointment, it's why he believes they are primed to take down South Sydney on Sunday night.

"These guys are all a little bit older," Geyer told AAP.

"Last year it was a little bit 'We Like to Party' by the Vengaboys.

"Now it's just let's get down and dirty. Let's get down to business.

"You can see it in their eyes, they didn't get too carried away after the preliminary final win against Melbourne."

The similarities to Penrith's maiden premiership winners of 1991 was the storyline of last year's grand final build up.

From Greg Alexander to Nathan Luai and Col Van Der Voort to Isaah Yeo, the comparisons were endless.

But according to Geyer, everyone should have been comparing last year's Panthers to their 1990 side.

And now is the time to talk about 1991.

"They were probably more like us in 1990," Geyer said.

"I don't think the 2020 Panthers gave enough of the respect to the grand final that it deserves.

"You can be told about it and how fast it will be, but then they got on the field and it was over by halftime.

"And we learned that as well.

"In 1990 we celebrated when we made the grand final. We had street parades and receptions, and we hadn't won anything yet.

"Then all of a sudden the game was upon us."

Just like Penrith's 26-0 deficit to Melbourne last year, the 1990 Panthers fell behind 12-0 to the Raiders early.

They also fought back to get within two, but were still met with a heroes' welcome on their return to the foot of the mountains.

A year later, nothing short of winning was going to be enough before Royce Simmons' fairytale farewell and famous promise to have a beer with every fan.

"I think a lot of other players realised opportunities don't come all that often," Simmons said.

"We knew our preparation had to be 100 per cent.

"We knew everyone who got on the field that day was going to play their best game of football."

Almost to a man, Penrith's 1991 winners see this year's Panthers' big-game experience - which includes six Origins for some since last year's grand final - as the key difference from last October.

That, and the same hunger and desire they felt 30 years ago.

"I keep seeing Nathan Cleary's face after Melbourne lifted the trophy last year," Geyer said.

"And that was it. He was pissed off.

"He's taken it upon himself to make sure his team gets over the line on Sunday. And once he starts, I think the rest will follow."

For Alexander, it was in the solemn post-match dressing room, before Ivan Cleary ordered players into a grand final review just weeks into the pre-season.

"I am sure that watching that again, bringing back the hurt, just reminded them after a 10-week break, that it was there," Alexander said.

"That's the motivation for 2021."

Alexander captained Penrith in 1991, taking over from Simmons as he the hooker battled injuries.

He doesn't recall the pain being spoken about among players, but it was clear what drove them.

"You have to embrace the (hurt)," Alexander said.

"Because there is no more hollow feeling in the game than losing a grand final.

"If you're lucky enough and things fall into place and you're driven enough to get there the following year, that losing feeling is still there.

"Not that you dwell on it, but it's in the back of your mind.

"It's a great motivator for the entire off-season and season the following year to drive you to get there and set the record straight."

History shows that can drive Penrith on Sunday, with six of the last seven runners-up who have made the grand final the following year reigning supreme.

It was as evident in their defence last week against Melbourne as it was when Viliame Kikau pulled off a match-winning try-saver on Storm centre Justin Olam back in round three.

"(The motivation) is part of what we feel coming into this year," Kikau said at the time.

"Some teams they reach the grand final and then the year after you just see them floating around.

"That's what we didn't want to do.

"We've set that standard last year and we're going to chase it again this year.

"Trying to go one better this year."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting