1982: The year the Canberra Raider’s scored their first try in the NRL
He’s gone down in Canberra Raiders’ history as the first try-scorer in the NRL, Gerry de la Cruz is one player sure to be remembered by multicultural Australian rugby players for years to come.
de la Cruz was born to a Sri Lankan mother and Filipino father in Innisfail, but was raised and educated in the Northern Territory capital, Darwin. With few people of mixed cultural background playing in the NRL at the time, de la Cruz was often confused as being of Chinese-Aborigine origin, but it was his skill as a halfback in the Raiders’ premiere match against the South Sydney Rabbitohs that really struck a chord in the game and with fans.
Despite only playing four senior games for the Canberra Raiders due to an injury that cut his career short, de la Cruz made a huge impact in the NRL, being the first person with Filipino ancestry to play first-grade rugby league. His impact has continued to make strides today, with the Brisbane Broncos now being home to upcoming Filipino player, Payne Haas, who recently made his debut in first-grade NRL.
Since de la Cruz’s history-making try, there are eight other players with Filipino ancestry who have played first grade, including Ben Gonzales, Paul Sheedy, Joven Clarke, Craig Wing, Kevin Gordon, Matt Srama, Andrew Everingham, Shane Gray, Almer Salvilla (Super League) and now Haas.