Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin: The ‘hand grenade’ episode



“It was 20 years ago today” (no, I’m not talking about Sgt Pepper) that the term ‘hand grenade’ took on a sports meaning that ensured notoriety for all eternity. Was it really justified?


Every so often a particular word, description or number is used in such a way that it is never the same again. As cricket fans know, the number 99.94 is always recognised as Don Bradman’s Test batting average, while the word “aluminium” has never been the same since Dennis Lillee used an aluminium bat in a Test match. The word “underarm” has never been the same since Greg Chappell’s unsporting decision to instruct his brother Trevor to bowl an underarm delivery to virtually ensure victory on a one-day match. The word “sandpaper” is also notorious due to an act involving David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft in a 2018 Test match in South Africa.


Likewise, the term ‘hand grenade’ has never been the same since a certain act took place at the Homebush-based stadium on the night of June 7, 2000 – twenty years ago today.


Four weeks earlier, NSW appeared fortunate to win the opening clash of the State of Origin series. That was the game best remembered for Bill Harrigan sending off aggressive Queensland second-rower Gorden Tallis, who disputed two overlooked knock-ons in the lead-up to a vital NSW try.


The Blues wrapped up the series with a 28-10 win in Game 2 and, in the process, they set a record-winning margin for NSW in Origin football.


But this record lasted only a fortnight, as the Blues went on a scoring blitz in the so-called ‘dead rubber’ and inflicted a 56-16 beating on the Maroons. The 40-point margin remained NSW’s biggest in the first 40 years of Origin football. Queensland eclipsed it just over 15 years later with a 52-6 drubbing, but that’s another story!


Moreover, a lot of hysteria arose after the Blues scored one of their tries and performed what came to be known as the ‘hand grenade’ on that night in June 2000.


After scoring near the posts, Bryan Fletcher pretended that the ball was a grenade as he feigned to detonate it and then he threw it in the air while his team-mates ducked and fell to ground.


Twenty years later, the ‘hand grenade’ incident still gets talked about.


There were claims that the Blues were disrespectful, arrogant, showing off, and guilty of bad sportsmanship.


The outcry from north of the border was hysterical, and largely remains so to this day.


Now, I’m not here to add weight to those sentiments or continue to rehash what has already been said about the ‘hand grenade’.


Before I go any further, let me make it abundantly clear that I’m a Queenslander through and through, and was not particularly amused when I saw the ‘hand grenade’ being performed.


Nor did I think it was worth focusing on.


Really, why does it even matter?


Did it even matter at the time? I sure never thought so.


If anything, the Queenslanders sounded like bad losers, yet they claimed that the Blues were bad sports.


Sounds a bit two-faced to me, I’m afraid.


Even as a Queenslander, I’ve always thought this outrage was completely unjustifiable. I’ve often felt that I’m on my own with this one.


It was a rare time that I was embarrassed by the way my fellow Queenslanders were carrying on about something so trivial.


Surely there is worse behaviour than a pantomime.

Some behaviour is not acceptable in any era. But the ‘hand grenade’? Please.


NSW gave Queensland a hiding in that particular match and, really, what is the point of making a big deal about the way that the Blues celebrated one of their tries?

Was the ‘hand grenade’ really that more demoralising than losing by a big margin?


All that had to be said to any Queensland player, official or supporter was: “Look at the scoreboard. How about you worry about trying to win the game instead?”


With that, the outrage and hysteria ought to be dismissed.


After 20 years, it’s about time.


Twenty years ago I don’t reckon the ‘hand grenade’ warranted any attention whatsoever.


Surely the problems in the world (of late) should put things in perspective.


Liam Hauser is the author of State of Origin 40 Years (Sydney: Gelding Street Press, 2020) which was released last week. A review will appear on this site soon. Liam is also the author of 5 other titles on rugby league and 3 books on cricket.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Liam Hauser

A Queenslander through and through, Liam went out of his comfort zone as he had a thoroughly worthwhile time in Tumut and Gundagai from 2008 to 2016 before enjoying a year in Gunnedah. His strongest sporting interests are State of Origin, Sheffield Shield, Test cricket and the NRL. His sporting CV doesn’t have many highlights, although he once top-scored in a warehouse cricket match with 54 not out at number 10, and shared in an unbroken last wicket stand of 83 with the number 11 who scored an undefeated 52. Liam has written books including State of Origin 40 Years, A Century of Cricket Tests, A History of Test Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Rugby League, and The Great Grand Finals: Rugby League's Greatest Contests. Also a huge fan of Electric Light Orchestra.


  1. Yes, the reaction at the time was over the top. But when your team has just been belted by such a score and such a margin, I suppose the emotions are a bit raw and you’re likely to overreact. It might be an interesting exercise if you could view side-by-side footage at the end of the match discussed here and the scenes after Game 3 of 2015, won by Queensland 52-6, to compare/contrast the reactions of both teams as well as the TV, print and online commentary.

  2. Liam
    Gosh is that 20 years ago !!!! was put a young dad or pup back then
    As a Qld resident of some years and yet a “rusted on” Blues fan ( go the Junee diesels) through thick and thin !! I have often thought that the post try celebration from that hazy cold night in Sydney had a touch of arrogance about it. To me it became the pivot by which the idea of winning (particularly origin ) became comical and lost some of it s lustre rather than through sheer hard work and training. I’m sure Gus Gould would have been cringing !!
    Simple human psychology should tell you that if you wanted motivation for getting back to the purpose of winning a game particularly an Origin game look no further than the actions of the NSW players rather than the scoreboard.
    No doubt the Maroons could use that moment of disrespect ( in such a tough game) as a perfect point of motivation which when Queensland were dominating through the last 20 years or so… except for the last couple of years … would remind them never to get cocky or arrogant when they won series after series . Queensland through pure motivation and emotion made their own luck but it did help to have Slater, Smith, Thurston, Lockyer, Petro, Webke, et al. just to name a few as the rump of your team. Matty Bowen’s Intercept, Locky swooping on a loose carry were as a result of continual pressure motivated by Billy Moore’s Queenslander cry
    The Blues just Doing the hand grenade just didn’t sit right with me and yet was a social reflection of the era of post try celebrations era? – with its group photos, ten pin bowling etc
    What we now see in the NFL with celebrations after a touchdown have become a touch politically correct which as a sidelight is interesting as you can be fined or suspended in the NFL for using a prop or being unsportsmanlike in your celebration so where do you draw the line?

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