When a relatively lean and light-framed kid in Toowoomba was spotted by talent scouts and lured to the big smoke in 1994, it was impossible to predict the enormity of his future.
Steve Price became an Adonis at Belmore and remains so to this day.
Originally a fringe running back-rower before his move into the engine room a few year later, Price played just six first grade games that season yet there were early signs that the Bulldogs, once again, had their hands on something special. It didn’t take long for the Dalby-born Queenslander to start fulfilling his enormous potential.
The culmination of one of the most astonishing runs of elite performance in the history of the Club saw the Dogs knock off the Dragons, Broncos and Raiders, as well as the firm favourites and all-conquering Eagles to claim the 1995 Premiership. Price scored the opening try that day. Still an inexperienced kid with less that thirty games under his belt, his speed and agility on the fringe was noted and black-booked by many, including representative selectors.
The following two seasons are often omitted from the memories of many league fans as the Super League concept and the NRL’s history were at loggerheads. Whilst forgettable in so many ways, Price’s rapid development was taking place amidst the drama, animosity and disloyalty of the time. Ironically so, considering the forwards’ friendly and trustworthy approach to life.
When the game reunited in 1998, Price was well and truly on the radar of the Maroon selection panel and he made his debut for Queensland in their 2-1 series winning side, inspired by the great Darren Lockyer and led by Allan Langer. Playing off the bench in all three matches, Price did enough to entice the national selectors to include him in the Kangaroo squad.
Perhaps his most astonishing achievement is the fact that eleven years later he was once again chosen to wear his nation’s colours. Then a Warrior, after his decision to head to the shaky isles and take on a much needed leadership and educative role with the Club in 2005, Price’s performances late in his career reflected an astonishing level of consistency. Few men of his size and power would experience such longevity in the game.
As his skill set continued to grow and with Darren Britt’s departure from the Club, coach Steve Folkes installed Price as Club Captain for the 2002 season; a year lamentable in the Bulldog’s history, yet one in which the now front-rower continued to grow as a leader and footballer.
With the dominant on-field squad hampered by off-field legalities, it took the Club some time to rebound but off the back of a Player of the Year award from Rugby League Week in 2003, Price was ready to lead the team to something special the following year.
And lead he did, as the Bulldogs finished second on the ladder and Price collected the personal honour of Queensland’s player of the series during their 2-1 loss to the Blues.
A Grand Final date seemed destined for the Dogs and the clash with the Roosters had all the spice, history and tension befitting of the final match of the season.
Sadly for Price, his presence on the field was denied by a medial ligament tear a week prior. In typical Price fashion, he beamed from ear to ear throughout the celebrations, as the Bulldogs claimed a 16-13 win. It said a lot about character and class.
The adoration he was afforded in New Zealand only added layers to the reputation he had already built at Canterbury. That reputation was based around hard work, toil and leadership; all completed with good humour and humility.
When Price eventually retired from the game in 2010, his legacy was well and truly cast in stone. His return to Belmore as a Board member and the frustration he felt watching the Club struggle through the turmoil of 2017/18 says a great deal about his character and commitment.
There is an old saying that nice guys finish last. In the case of Steve Price, nothing could be further from the truth.