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
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
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.