I missed out on the All Blacks and Rugby League came knocking. It was the Tina Turner era, it was simply the best.
We just started to get a lot of rugby league sort of on the TV, Friday nights, Sunday afternoons in New Zealand. Matthew Ridge had gone to Manly, John Galagaher had gone to Leeds, it was the start of a little bit of the outside backs crossing over. Unfortunately enough for me, Steve Martin from the North Sydney Bears actually came over to look at a guy called Paul Simmonson who was an All Black to Japan the year before in 1989. I played that day for Waikato against Otago, the next Sunday morning I'm having a chat with him in the hotel room about possibly playing for the North Sydney Bears.
Moving to Norths straight up for me was quite a good fit really. I came across with Paul Simonson. Back then you only had two on the interchange bench and sometimes they werent used either. Then you had a bench full of players who played in reserve grade. North Sydney Oval, the beautiful pitch it was, Percy's Tavern across on the corner. It was a real iconic setting. North Sydney had recruited really well with Peter Jackson, Mario Fenech from Souths, it was a team on the rise. Billy Moore, Gary Larson, Gavin Jones, Martin was the halfback, Les Kiss, there was a host of names. They were a team starting to build quite nicely. Not that I really knew a lot about them, but the thing I struggled with was the really the physical nature of the game in terms of gym work. I came across here in just under 90kgs and basically couldn't lift 60kgs on the bench press in the gym.
I had three years at the Bears and we... In 1991 in my first year with the Bears, we played Penrith in the Final. I didn't kick well, they beat us and go to the Grand Final. That would've been the first time if we won that game, that North Sydney had been in the Grand Final since 1921 or 1922. So, it was quite a moment, but that's the way it goes. You recover and you get going and you get back on track.
From Bears to Berries
At the end of 1993, North Sydney had a change of coach. Peter Louie, coached. And sort of pretty much at the end of the year he tapped me on the shoulder, even though I had a year to go on my contract and said I wasn't really in his school of thought. He wanted wingers who ducked out of dummy half quickly and made some yards. For me, I was a finisher and a goal kicked. So we agreed if I found a home, I'd go somewhere else. And they had Jason Taylor arriving at Norths as well, so I could see the wall and the picture had been painted for me to move on. Had a few problems getting out of here, but Bullfrog quickly got on the phone. I came over and met Peter Moore and Chris Anderson before I left for the UK Tour with the Kiwis. Quite a long tour too, nearly two months there in the UK. So I didn't actually arrive at Canterbury till mid January. Well one thing I will say about Canterbury is that even though I had agreed with terms with Bullfrog before I had left, at Christmas time my wife was home with the kids. I'm in the UK and all of sudden the kids Christmas presents turned up from Canterbury and I hadn't even played there and officially hadn't signed. So I thought the touch... It was Bullfrog, Alan Nelson, it was Punchy, I supposed Lynne Anderson or someone would've juried that ok Darryl's going to be here next year, we better sort his kids out with some Christmas presents this year and stuff and that. All of a sudden they rock up at my doorstep while I'm away in the UK and my wife is ringing me going " We just got Christmas presents." And it's like "What!? How cool is that?" Then I'm thinking, I'm at the right place.
The House Bullfrog Built
Canterbury through Chris Anderson had come back to coach. They built a really good squad, Jimmy Dymock from Wests had come, some of the juniors coming through, Dean Pay was one that was just starting to hit his straps. They also grabbed Darren Britt up front with guys like Mark Brokenshire, even Marty Bella had been recruited. And plenty of talent out the back with the Smith brothers.
So 1994 coming from Norths, had a good year at Norths who played finals that year even though we bowed out. 1994 wow, we're the minor premiers here at Canterbury and things were flowing nice. I think after the kicked field goal against Canberra in that game, we had a week off after that because you got a week off into the grand final back then with 5 team semis. I thought it didn't really serve any purpose for us really, it sort of took a bit of steam out of us. And Canberra of course, the team they were, to be fair we never really looked like it come grand final day. But that sowed the seeds for 95, it made us hungry. Yeah, luckily 94, you never knock back a grand final, it wasn't to be. Then 1995 was our year.
Super League Wars & 1995 Grand Final Jubilation
The Super League thing, the divide, a line drawn. When you cross onto the football field with a group of guys and you play week-in and week-out, it doesn't really matter who is going where next year because it's all about the next 80 minutes. For me 1995 and winning the comp was more about the football and what had been built in 1994. Terrific group of guys who spent a lot of time together and that was part of what was 'the way'.