Simon Dwyer about that tackle on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves because it was the hit of a lifetime
August 21, 2020
Ten years after the hit of a lifetime, Simon Dwyer wants to be remembered for that legendary tackle on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves — not the shocking injury that forced him to retire at just 22.
Ten years on they still ask Simon Dwyer about that tackle on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves — and rightly so, because it was the hit of a lifetime.
The legendary Wests Tigers-Sydney Roosters qualifying final in 2010 is one of the finest games in the history of rugby league, filled with iconic moments like Braith Anasta’s clutch full-time field goal and Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s golden-point intercept try.
But there’s no talking about that game without mentioning Dywer’s bonerattler on Waerea-Hargreaves, so much so fans still ask him about it today.
“That’s pretty much what I’m known for these days, they all say ‘what about that hit on Hargreaves’, it’s a good feeling,” Dwyer said.
“I love it, because it means I’m not forgotten. I made my mark in rugby league.”
Dwyer’s time at the top was tragically cut short less than 12 months after the shot when a freak nerve injury in his shoulder forced him into early retirement at 22.
“He was brutal. His defence was always brutal, he trained hard and he had such a good physique for a young kid,” said Liam Fulton, who was next to Dwyer in the defensive line at the time of the Waerea-Hargreaves tackle.
“These days it would probably be a penalty, but it was phenomenal.
“He had a similar build to Gareth Ellis. It was sad to see what happened to him.
“For Hargreaves, who was such a dominant figure in that Roosters team, to get smashed like that was pretty incredible.”
The qualifying final was only Waerea-Hargreaves’ 22nd first grade game, but he had already earned a reputation as one of rugby league’s hard men.
With their uncompromising, aggressive styles, the two were bound to lock horns in the NRL at some stage — they had been clashing in junior football for years.
So they came together again, in the dying minutes of the semi-final, with the Tigers leading by one point.
Waerea-Hargreaves trucked it up and Dwyer flew in at pace, knocking the ball free and seemingly assuring victory for the Tigers, only for the Roosters to win it late, 19-15.
“I played Hargreaves through the lower grades, so I knew his running style and how he likes to play,” said Dwyer, a Macquarie Fields junior.
“He likes to single players out and get down low and use his bumpers. So I was back-pedalling to get onside, and I saw him coming at me — I knew I had to hit him with everything I had.
“Me being a young guy in the team, it earned me some respect from my teammates.”
Dwyer and Waerea-Hargreaves clashed all night.
The tackle created a sensation. Legendary hit man David “Cement” Gillespie called it the most brutal hit in a decade, and Waerea-Hargreaves himself congratulated Dwyer after full-time.
“There was talk on the field about it being a head high, but Jared spoke to me after the game and said it was just a good shot,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer’s career was supposed to be full of these kinds of moments, were it not for his injury. Instead, still just 31, Dwyer now works as an analyst for the Tigers.
In contrast, Waerea-Hargreaves continues to carve out a stellar career, and at 31 is contracted to the Roosters until the end of 2023.
He’s been a mainstay on three Roosters premiership teams and, along with Jake Friend and Benji Marshall, is one of three remaining players from that night in 2010 who will run out onto Leichhardt Oval when the two clubs meet on Saturday night.
“He (Waerea-Hargreaves) still carries that dominance — he’s not the only one, but he’s one of the last who is like that,” Fulton said.
“To me, it’s a little bit sad for Simon, what he’s had to go through. And I think the hardest thing — and he’s made the most of it — but what he’s been doing with the stats and that with the Tigers.
“With me, it would have been really difficult to stay around. Even after 10 years in first grade, all I wanted to do was play and I couldn’t sit around and watch the club.
“He would have known that he would have been a first grader, maybe even captain — he didn’t say much but he always led by example.”
Dwyer vs. JWH could have been Paul Harragon vs. Mark Carroll for a new generation.
But Dwyer refuses to dwell on what might have been, or feel sorry for himself because he missed out on the career that should have been about so much more than one great tackle.
“It doesn’t feel strange, it’s just unlucky with injury,” Dwyer said.
“There’s plenty of other players in the same boat as me.”