Greg Alexander

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Greg Alexander
Personal information
Full name Gregory Peter Stephen Alexander
Born (1965-03-04) 4 March 1965 (age 53)
Penrith, New South Wales, Australia
Playing information
Height 180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Weight 84 kg (13 st 3 lb)
Position Halfback, Fullback, Wing
Club
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1984–94 Penrith Panthers 207 105 335 11 1090
1995–96 Auckland Warriors 37 11 8 0 60
1997–99 Penrith Panthers 31 8 8 3 51
Total 275 124 351 14 1201
Representative
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1988–91 City NSW 4 2 0 0 8
1988 President's XIII 1 1 0 0 4
1989–91 New South Wales 6 0 2 0 4
1989–90 Australia 6 4 10 0 36
1997 New South Wales (SL) 1 1 0 0 4
Source: [1][2]

Gregory Peter Stephen "Greg" Alexander (born 4 March 1965) nicknamed Brandy, is a former professional rugby league footballer of the 1980s and 1990s who has since become a radio, television commentator and noted rugby league journalist. Originally a goal-kicking half-back, in his career he played for and captained the Penrith Panthers and the Auckland Warriors clubs and also represented his country and state on several occasions. Alexander's position for the majority of his career was at half-back, however early in his career – particularly in representative sides – he was moved to fullback. It was this ability to play different positions with great success that saw Alexander make both the 1986 and the 1990 Kangaroo Tours.

Alexander actually played a test on the 1990 Tour against France on the wing, scoring a try and capping it off with a memorable gymnastics style backflip in celebration.[4] This was also his last test appearance.

Junior career[edit]

Alexander began his career at schoolboy level where he quickly established himself as a star player for his side. He attended Patrician Brothers' College, Fairfield he played for the Australian Schoolboys rugby league team in 1983.[5] He was later signed on as a junior to his local club side the Penrith Panthers.

Professional career[edit]

Penrith Panthers[edit]

Alexander made his first grade debut for the Panthers in the 1984 season as a half-back. His talent quickly became clear and by the end of the season he took out the Rookie of the Year award. The following year Greg continued his good form throughout the season tallying up 194 points (a club record at the time) and earning himself the 1985 Dally M. player of the year award. Greg continued playing with the Panthers for the next several years and become known for his unique ability to score and set up tries, his excellent attacking kicking and his solid defence.[citation needed]

At the end of the 1986 NSWRL season, he went on the 1986 Kangaroo tour, gaining selection after Parramatta winger Eric Grothe was controversially ruled out with a knee injury.[citation needed] Alexander would go on to play in 10 matches on tour with the Kangaroos, scoring 10 tries and kicking 5 goals. Alexander and test hooker Royce Simmons became the first Panthers selected for a Kangaroo Tour. 1989 saw him rise to selection for New South Wales in the 1989 State of Origin series, being one of the few Blues players regarded as playing well in a series won 3-0 by Queensland, before being selected as the first choice halfback for Australia's mid-season tour of New Zealand. After making his test debut in the 26-6 first test win against New Zealand at the Queen Elizabeth II Park in Christchurch, and playing in the 8-0 second test win at Rotorua, Alexander lost his place in the side with coach Bob Fulton preferring his 1987 premiership winning halfback from Manly-Warringah, Des Hasler, in the position for the third and final test.

During the 1989 NSWRL season, his pace and skill had made Penrith the second most dangerous attacking team in the competition behind the eventual premiers, the Canberra Raiders and Alexander was the Panthers leading try and point scorer and for much of the year led the league in try scoring – scoring ten tries in eight games at one point, eventually finishing with 15 tries from 18 games for the season.[6] Alexander would eventually finish second on the try scoring list finishing behind Canberra fullback Gary Belcher who scored 17 tries. Alexander finished ahead of other noted try scorers including Andrew Ettingshausen (Cronulla), Ricky Walford (St George) and Phil Blake (South Sydney).[7] Penrith's form saw them reach the finals for the first time since his rookie year in 1984, reaching the knockout Minor Semi-Final before ending their season with a 27–18 loss to Canberra.

With Alexander in great form at both halfback and fullback for the Panthers, the club made it to their first ever Grand Final in 1990 against the defending premiers Canberra. The Panthers went down 18–14 to the Raiders and despite a solid performance, Alexander's goal kicking let him down on the day, only kicking one of his four attempts compared to Canberra captain Mal Meninga who landed all three of his attempts. Despite his good form, Alexander was only selected to the bench for game 3 of the 1990 State of Origin series and missed selection in Australia's mid-season tests against France and New Zealand.[8]

At the end of the season he was selected for his second Kangaroo Tour as the back up fullback to Canberra and Queensland custodian Gary Belcher and went on to be selected for every game on tour, although unlike Terry Lamb who played in every game on the 1986 tour, Alexander, along with the Kangaroo's other replacements that day (David Gillespie, Des Hasler and Mark Sargent), did not get off the bench in the 14–10 second test win against Great Britain at Old Trafford that kept The Ashes series alive. He also failed to get off the bench in the third game of the tour against Wigan. Alexander was the leading point scorer for the Kangaroos on tour, playing 17 games (4 tests but selected for all 5 tests), scoring 14 tries and kicking 50 goals for a total of 156 points. The closest a teammate got in points was team captain Mal Meninga who scored 64 points (8 tries, 16 goals) from his 11 games. He scored a record 46 points in the tour match against France B (5 tries, 13 goals) in Lyon and continued that form into the first test against France 3 days later in Avignon when after coming on to replace an ill Ricky Stuart at halfback early in the game he went on to score 3 tries and kick 7/8 goals in the Kangaroos 60–4 win giving him a personal haul of 28 points.[9][10]

In the 34–10 second test win a week later at the Stade Gilbert Brutus in Perpignan, a hamstring injury ruled out Laurie Daley. This saw Dale Shearer move from the wing to the centres and Brandy was selected on the wing where he kicked 3 goals to go along with his memorable try which resulted in his gymnastics style backflip celebration. He had performed the backflip several times at training while in England (claiming it was something he had learned in gymnastics while still in school) and had wanted to do it after scoring a try in a game, but with Australia in a battle to retain The Ashes he felt the circumstances were never right. However, as the second test against the French was also the final game of the Kangaroo tour, he allowed himself the luxury of the backflip in front of the TV camera's.[11]

Alexander captained the Panthers to their maiden premiership in 1991, the Panthers reversing the result of the 1990 Grand Final with a 19–12 win over Canberra. From halfback, Alexander took control of the game in the 2nd half with his kicking game which included a 38-metre field goal to give Penrith a 13–12 lead following a Brad Izzard try under the posts which was converted by Alexander. Later a majestic sideline conversion of Royce Simmons' 2nd try of the game sealed the win for the Panthers. The Phil Gould coached Panthers never fell below 4th on the ladder for the season (Round 2) and never lost the competition lead after regaining it following Round 14 of the 22 round season. From Round 14 the Panthers only loss of the season was a 14–12 away loss to Cronulla-Sutherland in Round 20.[12]

During the season he was selected at fullback for NSW in Games I and III of the 1991 State of Origin series, only missing Game II at the Sydney Football Stadium through injury. Despite his good form for Penrith and NSW and the absence of Gary Belcher through injury, Alexander was overlooked for the first test of mid-season Trans-Tasman Test series against New Zealand in favour of boom Brisbane and Qld fullback Paul Hauff, while he also missed selection in the final two games when selectors chose Andrew Ettingshausen. With Origin halfbacks Ricky Stuart and Allan Langer also in good form (Langer played) and Des Hasler in the team as a utility reserve, Alexander was only considered a chance of playing fullback in the tests. Following the Panthers Grand Final win over Canberra, Alexander was selected for Australia's 5 game tour to Papua New Guinea but withdrew through injury.[citation needed] He recovered from injury in time to lead the Panthers to England in October for the 1991 World Club Challenge, which was lost to Wigan 21–4 at the Anfield Stadium.

1992 was a year of huge expectation for Alexander and the reigning premiers Penrith. Whilst the Panthers form was up and down at the beginning of the season, Alexander was named as captain and fullback of the City Origin side, ahead of incumbent NSW captain Benny Elias. This led to Alexander being the favourite to take over the Blues captaincy for that year's State of Origin series against Queensland.[citation needed] However, a knee injury lead to Alexander being withdrawn from the match, and Country Origin captain Laurie Daley would go on to successfully captain the NSW side to a 2–1 series win, with Alexander missing all three games due to his knee injury. Selectors stuck with Stuart at half and Ettingshausen at the back.

On 21 June 1992 his younger brother and fellow Panthers teammate Ben Alexander was killed in a car accident.[13] The tragic loss of the younger Alexander had an adverse effect on the close-knit Panthers club and the team's form dropped off in the second half of the year which saw them miss the finals. Greg Alexander missed the majority of fixtures that year, playing only 9 games for the season (including two from the bench) and following his brother's death would not return to the side until their Round 20 match against Manly-Warringah at Brookvale Oval in August. After his return he continually fell below his usual playing weight of 84 kg and ended the season ten kilograms lighter than usual.[13]

Auckland Warriors[edit]

At the end of the 1994 season after playing in just 13 games for the Panthers (mostly at fullback as the club had signed New Zealand test halfback Gary Freeman from Easts), Alexander, seeking a change and to just get away from Sydney following the death of his brother Ben in 1992, joined the Auckland Warriors, one of four new teams introduced for the 1995 season. He spent most of the first half of his first season for the Warriors at halfback, and began to recapture some of his previous form. In the latter half of the season he moved between fullback, halfback and five-eighth due the depth the Warriors had in the halves - with Gene Ngamu, Stacey Jones, Phil Blake and Frano Botica all spending some time at halfback or five-eighth. In his second season with the club, he was awarded the captaincy after Dean Bell retired, and again began the season at halfback. However, after he was injured in Round 10, New Zealand halfback Stacey Jones regained the half back role, and upon returning to the side Alexander was moved to the fullback position - where he would remain for most of the remaining season.

Return to the Panthers[edit]

Alexander eventually returned to Penrith in 1997 after his stint in New Zealand and stayed on until his retirement in 1999. His early season form for the Panthers in the new Super League competition saw him selected at halfback for his first game for NSW since 1991 in the Super League Tri-series. After starring in NSW's 38-10 win over Queensland in the first game of the series.

In total, Alexander played 228 games for the Panthers, scored 100 tries, kicked 343 goals and 14 field goals, tallying 1,100 career points for the club. To date, he is one of only seven players ever score over 100 tries and over 1,000 points for a single club in top grade Australian rugby league. The others being Terry Lamb (Canterbury-Bankstown), Ryan Girdler (Penrith), Hazem El Masri (Canterbury-Bankstown), Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos), Luke Burt (Parramatta) and Jarrod Croker (Canberra Raiders).

Life after football[edit]

After his retirement from football in 1999, Alexander embarked on a media career in both radio and television. He currently works as a host and commentator for Foxtel's Fox Sports station. He also hosts the nightly Sports Today program with John Gibbs on Sydney radio station 2UE.[14]

On 24 October 2000, he was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his rugby league achievements.[15]

On 25 June 2016, he was inducted into the Penrith Panthers hall of fame alongside Grahame Moran, Royce Simmons and Craig Gower.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Alexander is the brother-in-law of fellow former Penrith, NSW and Australian teammate Mark Geyer, and of former Penrith, Western Reds and Newcastle Second Rower, Peter Shiels, both of whom married his sisters. He is also the brother-in-law of former St. George Illawarra Dragons hooker Cameron King, who is the younger brother of his wife Tanya.[citation needed]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]