About 30 minutes after the season's final siren, St George halfback
Noel Goldthorpe said: "We'll have a big night. We're not going to sit around and
moan about what we should have done. We got beaten by a great side."
His words summed up the pervasive feelings in the St George room.
They had played quite well, not their best, but quite well.
But Brisbane were considerably better.
St George did not squander a lead; they weren't the victims of a decisive
refereeing blunder; they weren't beaten in the final minutes.
These are circumstances which make grand-final losses unbearable instead
of merely shattering.
When the siren sounded, the players despondently shook hands with one
another, then slumped to the ground to watch Brisbane's euphoria.
Coach Brian Smith walked to them, spoke first with Goldthorpe, then with
Brad Mackay, then Mick Potter, and so on through most of the side.
There was nothing wrong with St George's tactics. They were adventurous in
possession, and had success bombing Brisbane fullback Julian O'Neill .
At half-time, there was confidence in the room. "Yeah. We were going to
win. We were talking about winning," Smith said.
But class eventually told.
Tactics and high emotion can contain superior talent for only so long.
Like the other 14 sides in the premiership, St George don't have a man as
good as Allan Langer.
For Langer to play as he did, after a week of hearing how St George must
stop him, confirms he deserves to be talked about with Peter Sterling and Wally
Lewis as one of the three best players of the past decade.
For second-rower Alan Cann, who wasn't mentioned for his attacking prowess
in the million words of grand-final preview, to score two individual tries was
a resounding demonstration of the exhilarating power of the Broncos' attacking
A gracious, patient and dignified Smith praised Brisbane and their coach.
"If I can be indulgent for a second, I shook Wayne Bennett's hand (after
the game)," Smith said.
"I said to Bennett I was really pleased for him, because (late) last year
we pinched a game off them at Lang Park, and there were a lot of people who were
screaming for his head.
"And the Broncos management showed a lot of faith in him. It's taken him
five years to put that team together. They play without ... oh, they've got a
couple of dubious blokes, I suppose, the way they tackle ... but generally they
play the game hard and tough, and it's pretty to watch."
A few of the St George players offered technical theories for the loss.
Goldthorpe said they had resolved to try and beat Brisbane by attacking
them, but had forced too many passes, which allowed Brisbane too many attacking
Fullback Potter said: "Perhaps our kicking game wasn't as good as it has
been over the past couple of weeks."
Some of the kicks lacked distance, he said, and the chasing game, which
the team had been so proud of against Newcastle and Illawarra, was also
Potter criticised himself for being pushed over the sideline after
fielding a kick in his in-goal. Langer scored his second try a minute later to
take the Broncos to a 12-4 lead.
"That was a bad mistake by me," said Potter, who was being harsh on
himself since he had done remarkably well to get out of his in-goal, and the
only way out was to run near the sideline.
To a line of questioning which painted the Potter incident as a turning
point, Smith said: "You won't get me making any criticism whatsoever of Mick
today, or any day. He's a great player."
Smith's technical explanation for the defeat was borrowed from Potter.
"Potsy just said to me every (Brisbane) set of six felt like 10 or 12
tackles, because they milk so much out of it," the coach said.
"Probably the big thing for us today was our inability to pin the ball in
the tackle. They off-loaded too many passes and that's a recipe for disaster
when you play the Broncos."
He did not appear to support Potter's opinion of the kicking game, saying:
"Our kicking game was a bit like how we played generally: we had a couple of
dud ones, and we had some good ones as well."
Goldthorpe's soaring bomb in the first half was definitely one of the good
ones, and one or two more of them might have been interesting; but St George
had faith in their ability to score running tries.
When Brisbane performed their scoring spree, Smith rung numerous personnel
changes aimed at catching up-not, he insisted, for the purpose of giving all
the reserves a taste of a grand final.
"Winston Churchill, mate: 'Never give up'," he quoted.
The coach told two stories of the day which made him feel good about St
In the minutes after full-time, Ivan Henjak, who wasn't used yesterday,
had walked among the despondent players offering comfort and encouragement.
Wally Fullerton-Smith had been offered the chance by Smith of finishing
his Sydney career by playing the last 10 minutes of a grand final, but declined
because he thought it would be unfair to replace Matthew Elliott .
"They're the sort of things that make a club great," Smith said.
Smith, who has two years at St George, said the club was losing some
talent(Peter Coyne, Fullerton-Smith, Henjak), there was uncertainty as to
whether Mick Beattie would play another year, and negotiations had not started
with Guy Picken. But he was optimistic about the future.
"We'd like to think we've got better times ahead," he said. "We're in year
two of our development. The Broncos have taken five years to put that team
together, and it's one that everyone in rugby league should be proud of."
The St George President's Cup side narrowly lost its grand final, but
Smith was encouraged by what he saw.
"Some of the boys, the ones we're counting on, are good players," he said.
"We may have one buy for next season-it depends on negotiations over the
next couple of weeks-but, basically, we'll have the same blokes who went around
for us this year.
"Wayne (Bennett) has built a team, slowly but surely, and he's built it
on positive play, on the skill of his players, on teamwork. And we're doing some
of that-maybe a little bit more."