O'Reilly Thwarts Junior Roos

ELEVEN years on, Tommy O?Reilly has invoked powerful memories of the 1994 Brisbane Rugby League grand final with another heroic cover tackle.

In one of his proudest moments, the once-blind playmaker helped Papua New Guinea upset the mighty Junior Kangaroos 24-16 in Darwin on Saturday.

O?Relly?s game-deciding play came three minutes from fulltime, with PNG leading just 18-16 and Brisbane Broncos youngster Steve Michaels in the clear.

At age 31 O?Reilly found enough speed in his battle-weary legs to assist winger Carney Stack in hauling in the younger Michaels, an NRL rookie full of promise.

To round out the victory, the Kumuls surged to an eight-point margin with a try to Easts Tigers under-19 player Billy Segeyaro on fulltime.

The match bore a stark resemblance to the 1994 BRL grand final, won 24-18 by Redcliffe against Wests.

On that occasion the colourful O?Reilly gave chase on Wests five-eighth Craig Bowen in the 72nd minute as the Dolphins led by a slender four points.

Bowen was put in the clear by Panthers half Barry Berrigan, but was denied a chance of stealing the game when O?Reilly surged from behind.

A penalty soon after allowed Redcliffe to extend its final winning margin to six, the Dolphins last premiership before the Queensland Cup era.

This year?s Junior Kangaroos squad would have had little recollection of that day, given most were aged eight at the time.

In his own teenage years O'Reilly underwent corrective eyesight surgery and had a synthetic lens inserted after battling cataracts.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA 24 (D Fletcher, K Peters, J Wilshere, B Segayoro tries; J Wilshere 4 goals) beat JUNIOR KANGAROOS 16 (M Lett, W Zillman, R Shortland tries; T Carney 2 goals). Venue: Richardson Park, Darwin. Crowd: 2,000.