Date: Sunday 4th October, 2015
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Brisbane Broncos 1 Darius Boyd 2 Corey Oates 3 Jack Reed 4 Justin Hodges (c) 5 Jordan Kahu 6 Anthony Milford 7 Ben Hunt 8 Sam Thaiday 9 Andrew McCullough 10 Adam Blair 11 Alex Glenn 12 Matt Gillett 13 Corey Parker 14 Jarrod Wallace 15 Mitchell Dodds 16 Joe Ofahengaue 17 Kodi Nikorima 18 Dale Copley
North Queensland Cowboys 1 Lachlan Coote 2 Kyle Feldt 3 Justin O’Neill 4 Kane Linnett 5 Antonio Winterstein 6 Michael Morgan 7 Johnathan Thurston (c) 8 Matthew Scott (c) 9 Jake Granville 10 James Tamou 11 Gavin Cooper 12 Ethan Lowe 13 Jason Taumalolo 14 Rory Kostjasyn 15 John Asiata 16 Scott Bolton 17 Ben Hannant 19 Ray Thompson
It all comes down to this.
The first ever all Queensland Grand Final will take place at ANZ Stadium on Sunday evening, with the Brisbane Broncos taking on the North Queensland Cowboys, with kick off at 7:15 PM.
The match has already had its first taste of controversy with Bronco’s captain Justin Hodges being cleared to play by the Match Review Panel who found the centre not guilty of a lifting tackle on Aidan Guerra in the Broncos win over the Roosters last Friday. Hodges now has the chance at a fairy tale farewell before entering retirement from Football following the Grand Final. Some reports suggesting Hodges is struggling with a back injury and won’t train until late in the week.
Off-field there’s been a lot of talk in north of the border about the cost of flights from Townsville and Brisbane as the airline carriers ‘gouge’ on airfares at the end of spring school holidays and with a public holiday in the eastern states the next day. Both teams have chartered Alliance aircrafts to provided specialised flights for the game.
While the Cowboys will be hoping to claim their maiden Premiership in their second Grand Final in their twentieth season, the Brisbane Broncos have already won six premierships and have a perfect record in the season finale. The Cowboys will certainly be up against it, though have shown they are more than capable, after wiping the park of both Cronulla and Melbourne in the last fortnight.
The two sides met in the first week of the Finals in what was the game of the Finals so far, an entertaining 16-12 win for the Brisbane side at Suncorp Stadium.
That win was built on a strong defence and patient attack, the Broncos waiting for Cowboys defensive mistakes to come and taking the chances when offered.
The halves are the key to this encounter. Both the Brisbane pairing of Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford as well as the Cowboys halves Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan have been the best sixes and sevens in the game this season. Thurston was rightly named Dally M medalist in convincing fashion further showing he is the greatest player in the world in the sport. Thurston’s fitness will be put to the test after struggling at the back end of North Queensland’s victory at AAMI Park last Saturday night with what appeared to be a groin problem.
The halves that control the game effectively on the back of their kicking game will go along way to winning the game for their teams. Field position will be the key, with both sides defence on song.
If one team can mount strong field position, the other will be sure to crack eventually.
The Matt Scott vs Sam Thaiday clash is also a mouth watering prospect. For the halves to fire, the big men will need to create room. Both sides dominated their opponents up front last week and that was largely on the back of the veteran props in Scott and Thaiday. The two will be looking to out muscle each other and bust over the top. Expect them to run plenty of traffic at the smaller men to tire them and limit their impact. Thurston will have a high tackle count if the Broncos are too win.
Both sides have earned their way through to the Grand Final. Brisbane in particular have been the best side for most of the season, and will be favourites for the clash especially after holding off the Cowboys a few weeks ago. The North Queensland side, however, have the best rugby league player in the world leading them around the park, and are a very good chance of claiming their first Premiership.
No matter what the result, a fairy tale will be reached. Whether it is a personal fairy tale for Hodges, or a fairy tale on a team level for the Cowboys remains to be seen. Either way, it will be a close affair and entertaining to watch.
Wayne Bennett has been there so many times, and should have a slight edge in preparing his team for the event. There is less pressure on the Brisbane side, and despite a rally from the Cowboys, they should just edge out the game by four points.