It’s the Grand Final moment that Mark Hughes reckons cost him a fortune.
The year is 1997, the Grand Final between Manly Sea Eagles and Newcastle Knights is locked up at 16-all, and time is fast running out with less than a minute on the clock.
Newcastle halfback Andrew Johns scoots down the blind side before turning a ball back inside for winger Darren Albert to streak away and score and secure the club’s first premiership.
The Knights also have a new cult hero in Albert but according to former Knights centre Hughes, it could have been an entirely different outcome if Johns had only looked to his right (the following story should be taken with tongue firmly planted in cheek).
“Joey got into dummy-half and Matthew Johns was on the open side ready for the field goal and to have the last shot at it,” Hughes told nswrl.com.au after joining other True Blues for the Hogs For The Homeless tour.
“I was right on the sideline and I was yelling and calling the ball from Joey that it was on down the blind side and I really believe that my tip-off was the stepping stone for him to achieve Immortal status.
“He takes my advice and comes down the sideline but it’s like everything is in slow motion. I’m on the sideline begging for the ball and it just wouldn’t come.
“He ends up half getting tackled and he goes on the inside to Darren Albert. I’m not sure why? He was only the fastest man in Rugby League at the time and for some reason he chose him.
“What really hurt me too was I only had one man coming across being Mark ‘Spud’ Carroll and me being much more physical and stronger and tougher at the time, I would have fended him and put the ball over the line.
“Darren Albert beautifully swans around under the posts, all the team runs in, the whole Rugby League world except for Manly supporters are rejoicing but there’s one inconsolable figure and that’s me next to the corner post.
“I was devastated. I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t me. To rub salt into the wounds Darren Albert didn’t have to pay for one alcoholic beverage for the following 10 years in Newcastle. I did some simple mathematics on that and that’s cost me $120,000.
“Joey uses every chance he gets in after dinner speaking to rib me so it’s nice to get one back on him. Maybe now if people see me, it might be nice to buy me even a middy.”