Each week NEIL CADIGAN will look back on some of the most eventful games and most famous names in the club’s 70-year history and bring them back to life.
It’s an infamous moment Eels fans in their 50s-plus will never forget … and Neville Glover can never escape. But the 61-year-old retired police prosecutor has learned to live with it.
Dateline: September 18, 1976. Parramatta were in their first grand final, against arch-rivals Manly, at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Twelves minutes to go, with Manly leading 11-10, the Eels decided to run the ball instead of putting up a John Peard bomb. The ball swings to the right, centre John Moran draws last Manly defender – English international Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton – and throws the ball to right winger Glover five metres from the try-line with no defender in front of him.
Oh no. Glover had overrun the ball, which landed high on his left armpit, and he puts it down.
Two minutes later Manly scored their fourth penalty goal from a scrum penalty (the differential penalty rule was not introduced until 1981) and despite scoring two tries to one, a deflated Parramatta went down 13-10.
Not only did that moment see that part of the SCG coined ‘Glover’s Corner’ for many years and shatter a legion of Eels fans who had despaired a lack of glory for decades, it temporarily shattered the local junior from Seven Hills who was two months past his 21st birthday.
He has more than learned to live with the moment, but says with a wry grin it made him, well more infamous than famous. Despite later becoming an international and being chosen in the Eels ‘Legends’ team of champions, it is what he is most remembered for.
The man known by teammates as ‘Nifty’, who debuted as a 19-year-old centre (his position in all his junior days) in his first season of senior football the year before, recalls the moment:
“I hadn’t seen the ball very often that day because we’d stuck to a successful formula with John Peard bombs. We’d play our six and a bomb up, then do it again.
“It wasn’t a perfect pass but at the end of the day I was a first-grade footballer and … sometimes I think to myself I should have caught it, but I was going too fast for it; I overran the pass from ‘Lazy’ [Moran].
“I was shattered then of course, but I had to learn to live with it. I can’t take it back.
“But what people forget is it was 11-10 to Manly at the time and Peardy would have had to convert to avoid the game going into extra-time, as Graham Eadie kicked another penalty goal from a scrum to make it 13-10 a couple of minutes later [tries were worth three points then].”
He was back at the SCG on that grand final day a year later though, ironically against Manly, and starred in an 11-9 victory by a side captained by halfback Graham Murray and including, ironically, Moran (off the bench). All three Parramatta grades made it to the grand final for the first of two times (repeated in 1981) but the under-23s lost and first grade drew.
“It took me a long while to get on track; I started ’77 in reserve grade because I virtually lost my confidence and I think the coach Terry Fearnley lost confidence in me.
“I ended up playing in the reserve grade grand final, ironically against Manly. Our coach Len Stacker [obviously worried about Neville’s potential mental demons] called me aside before the game and said ‘listen, the bottom line is this – you’re a first-grade player playing in reserve grade but this is your team now; forget about any other team; this is your team and this is your game’.”
Glover was one of the Eels’ best that day.
“The one thing I’m proud of is that I fought my way back,” he says.
“After the grand final I trained all through the off-season … and I wasn’t a good trainer I tell you; I was in the Eric Grothe category. But in ’78 I was fitter than I’d ever been and I was picked to play for Australia.”
Glover played two Tests against the Kiwis that year, scoring two tries on debut in a 38-7 win at Lang Park. He remained at the club until 1981 where he played some first grade under Jack Gibson, before ending his time with the club in another reserve grade grand final, before spending two seasons with Penrith and another four on the NSW South Coast.
He was chosen, on the wing with Eric Grothe (snr), in the Eels ‘Legends’ team in 2002 after playing 121 first grade games in blue and gold (scoring 54 tries).
Did ‘Nifty’ ever get some extreme ‘heat’ from frustrated Eels fans over the years.
“Yeah, the next year we went out to Narrabri and we were at the RSL club when a guy came up and was having a real go at me and both our tempers flared. Mick Cronin, who’d just joined the club, stepped in between us as he knew it was about to get physical and quietly said to him ‘I suggest you leave’. The guy got kicked out by security.
“It was hard. It was the first grand final we’d been in and I was held responsible for not winning. And I accept people’s emotions. But I was shattered as much as they were.”
Glover has lived for many years on the Central Coast, served 29 years as a senior prosecutor in the NSW Police before retiring last year and is a selfless worker for charity and Men of League Foundation, travelling many kilometres at his own expense to help raise funds, act as auctioneer or a guest speaker for many causes that come his way.
And each time the 1976 grand final comes up … and he never deflects the subject.