Too many needles to remember: The last Tiger to break pain barrier
By Adam Pengilly
September 5, 2019 — 5.35pm
Wests Tigers grand final hero Pat Richards had so many pain-killing injections before the 2005 decider he insists he couldn’t feel his foot while scoring one of the most memorable tries in NRL history as his old teammate Robbie Farah closes in on his own miracle.
Richards, who famously scored the try which cemented Benji Marshall’s legacy after an unbelievable flick pass, has contacted Farah to wish him the best as the No.9 tries to recover from a broken leg in time for the Tigers’ top eight shootout against the Sharks.
It could potentially be the last game of Farah’s career, with the Tigers set to be without Moses Mbye who was ruled out on Thursday evening with a hip flexor tear.
His former teammate Richards was the last Tiger to be the subject of such intense injury scrutiny after he was carried from the field in the joint venture’s preliminary final win 14 years ago against the Dragons, fearing he had broken an ankle.
Subsequent x-rays cleared him of a fracture, but regardless Richards was given virtually no hope of featuring in the grand final eight days later and thought he had played his last game for the club.
He had signed to join Super League powerhouse Wigan the following year, but eventually returned to Australia to finish his career with the Tigers in 2014-15.
The winger ended up playing in the 2005 grand final with the aid of at least five pain-killing injections in his ankle before kick-off - topped up with extra injections at half-time. He was only diagnosed with further cartilage damage in his knee on grand final eve when he tried to run for the first time in the Tigers’ final training session.
Asked about the painkillers needed to feature in the grand final, Richards said: "I had the same amount the day before. It probably would have been about five or six and a couple in the knee. [The doctor] pretty much injected all over the ankle.
"I don’t think it would have happened if I had another coach or another doctor. They wanted to do everything they could to get me on the field. Sheensy [Tim Sheens] gave me right until the last minute and he trusted his players.
"I spoke to Sheensy the day before the grand final] and he said, ‘how is it?’ I said, ‘good to go’. He said, ‘righto, get in there with the boys’. That was about it. I don’t think that would happen in this day. It was incredible to be a part of.
"[But] as I was running [in the grand final] I couldn’t feel anything. It was like running on memory because I couldn’t feel my foot hit the ground. A lot of people now only talk about the grand final try I was involved in, but they didn’t realise I couldn’t feel my foot at the same time.
“I don’t think I did anything else for the whole game. It was basically that try. But it was really sore after that. I had another couple [of needles] at half-time and it just got worse and worse.”
Richards admitted he didn’t even know Marshall’s pass had been a behind-the-back special until almost two days after the decider. He flew out for a holiday in the United States after a week of celebrations and immediately cursed not taking crutches given how limited his movement was.
Farah, 35, was given almost no hope of playing any further part in the Tigers’ campaign after fracturing his tibia less than a month ago, but has remarkably returned to training this week. He took part in a closed doors session on Thursday.
His pain threshold will be tested like never before if he does run out in front of a sold out Leichhardt Oval for a match which will decide the final spot in the top eight.
“Once you’re in the moment you don’t think about the injury, you just play,” Richards said. “I’ve already texted him and wished him all the best. Hopefully he can get through. The team comes first and whatever is best for the team is what Robbie is all about and that’s what the Tigers are about this year too.”