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The Sydney Morning Herald

THIS WILL TAKE LEAGUE INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

Author: IAN HEADS
Date: 27/09/1992
Words: 801
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 48
The Brisbane Broncos' glittering second half at Sydney Football Stadium yesterday may well prove to be the stuff that rugby league dreams are made of for the remaining seasons of the 20th century.

The most complete grand final win since a similarly-gifted Easts shattered St George back in 1975 has redefined the parameters for the game's foreseeable future.

In the aftermath of league's 51st grand final, Wozza Ball, the grim but effective 1980s plan based on boa constrictor defence, was looking decidedly like last decade's fashion. The new game for the 1990s has officially become Benny Ball - as in Wayne "Benny" Bennett.

Bennett's team brilliantly brought together the mix he has worked to perfect over the past five years. The Bennett philosophy has always been one of attacking football, first glimpsed at the highest level when Canberra did wonderfully well in the 1987 premiership.

Gradually Bennett has shaped the defensive aspect of his team's game to provide equal balance with attacking qualities that were never in question. Yesterday it all came together in a potent and thrilling mix - mobile, hard-hitting and desperate defence which gave as good as it got, combined with attacking skills and plays which ripped the heart out of brave St George.

As the Broncos flew home with their historic bounty last night - the J.J. Giltinan Shield (struck 1951) and the Winfield Cup (struck 1982) - the sobering thought for a shell-shocked Sydney was that they're both going to be fearfully hard to get back. If Benny Ball is the shape of league's future, the question looms large: can any club in the immediate future hope to play such a game anywhere near as well as the Broncos?

Other clubs will need exceptional recruiting skills if they are to assemble any line-up that gets close to the brilliant natural talent represented by Brisbane 1992.

With great tries, a generous crowd and good refereeing, yesterday's final was one to savour, the 20-point margin a fair reflection of the gap between the teams. The Saints played well, their all-action gameplan a credit to coach Brian Smith. But ultimately, under the pressure of having to contain so many outstanding players, individual flaws surfaced, and the Broncos carnival rolled home.

One moment encapsulated what Bronco football is all about. It came in the 61st minute when Noel Goldthorpe nudged through a splendid grubber-kick which Willie Carne retrieved under pressure near his dead-ball line. With a swerve and a surge of speed, Carne headed left towards the posts and somehow made it back to the field of play.

Next pass, 90 metres out, it was try time. Allan Langer sensed a chance on the left and eight metres out from his own line unhesitatingly shovelled a wide pass to Steve Renouf. The rest is history - Renouf slipped Rex Terp, and sped down the field for a blistering try. That's what the Broncos can do to you.

En route to the title, Brisbane blew a couple of myths out of the water -especially the one about minor premiers being "disadvantaged" by having too little football during the finals series. In question too was the one about teams having to be locked away from fans and media as they prepare for big games. At Bronco headquarters it's been open house all week, and the team still looked superbly relaxed and focused on the day.

Such modern icons as "field position" and "kicking games" barely got a mention in the game's aftermath. Pure skilful football in which players were free to investigate attacking possibilities, and bruising, hungry defence were the simple keys. Together, they add up to one of league's oldest formulas.

Bennett's team now sets out on the quest for true greatness. The reputations of great football teams are not built just on winning one grand final, but winning again, and then again.

Consider Souths of the 1920s, Easts of the '30s, Souths of the early '50s, St George of the '50s and '60s, Souths of the late '60s and early '70s, Parramatta of the early '80s and Canberra 1989-90. Each can genuinely be classed as a great team of the past.

The challenge for Brisbane once the euphoria fades will be to begin the climb back up again. On yesterday's showing, anything looks possible.

 
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