Fairytale was a forgotten word yesterday as Brisbane completed a dominant
season with a clinical 38-12 defeat of Canterbury in the National Rugby League
grand final at Sydney Football Stadium.
The 1998 title decider had something special in its leadup.
On one side Brisbane, the team of the 1990s with four titles, the '98 minor
premiership and at prohibitive odds to win.
On the other Canterbury, ninth-placed in the regular season yet in this final
game after winning four straight sudden-death bouts - including two in extra
If ever the underdog was to pull out the impossible win, this was the time.
It was like a movie script with the final page savagely edited and rewritten.
But there was no fairytale.
Instead, the anticipated ``day of the dog" ended in misery. Canterbury,
while far from disgraced, were involved in one of the most one-sided and almost
predictable grand finals in recent memory.
The final scoreline read seven tries to two.
It would have been more if not for some first-half resolve and old-fashioned
guts from Canterbury.
However, they were unable to subdue a Brisbane team which, with four titles
this decade, is being rated with the all-time greats.
Great because they keep winning.
Great for having equalled the record total for grand final points (38) set by
Eastern Suburbs against St George in 1975.
But the Dogs were humble.
They went out wagging their tail because the future looks grand.
The Presidents Cup side won their title yesterday - incredibly beating
Parramatta after trailing 22-0.
And en route to Belmore for next season are league superstars Brad Clyde,
Ricky Stuart and Darren Smith, who was ironically a member of yesterday's
``That game gives us somewhere to go for next year," Canterbury coach Steve
Folkes said, smiling. ``If we had won it ... there would not have been anywhere
to go next season."
The last comment sent the press conference into a fit of laughter.
Of course, Folkes was not serious.
He and his men would have swapped much for the title rings last night.
But there was an air of expectancy in the Dogs den.
They conceded defeat to a remarkable side.
But next year, they will be stronger, better and ready for another
``I am very disappointed at losing, but I and no-one else is going to go out
and slit their wrists or anything," he added.
``This has been a truly great year for the club and everyone is proud of
that. I think us getting to the grand final the way we did has been good for the
``The way we did it was quite amazing from the players. I have really enjoyed
the ride during the last month or so ... it has been terrific. It has been a
story of character and courage and I have been proud to be involved in it."
Proud too, for reasons obvious, was Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett.
This was his fourth championship in the '90s and follows his stunning State
of Origin win with the Queenslanders earlier this season.
Somehow this one seemed to mean more.
``We are all relieved that we could come here and won today ... we had
something to prove," he said. ``The thing that makes me the happiest about this
win this year is the way the players approached the grand final and the way
they reacted after they had won.
``There is so much friendship and camaraderie in this team. And it meant a
lot to the fans.
``They say there is not much Broncos support here in Sydney, but I sure saw
some out there today. It was amazing ... the whole thing has pretty much been
Brisbane halfback - and likely Test skipper for the upcoming Trans-Tasman
games - Allan Langer was asked if this 1998 combination was the best he had
played in as Bronco over the past decade. He would not say it was so, for fear
of offending ex-team-mates. But he conceded there has not been any better.
``This has certainly been of the best years of my career," he said. ``This
is obviously a great side, we have won the title and the minor premiership.
``But it is the camaraderie too ... it doesn't come any better than this. In
the end, that is what wins football games and I think we showed we have plenty
In the game, Brisbane ended up having plenty of ball.
And Canterbury, hoping for the start they never had for the duration of the
play-offs, again began the most important game disastrously.
Brisbane muscled up while the Dogs went backwards and after just three
minutes, centre Willie Talau lost the ball, allowing Brisbane winger Michael
Devere the try.
Devere was on the field for regular starting flanker Michael Hancock, who was
forced to the bench with a finger injury.
However Devere proved his worth, toeing ahead from the Talau spill to score
The conversion was good from Darren Lockyer and Brisbane sprinted to 6-0.
The Dogs seemed shell-shock. But no, they like being behind.
And they only experienced that feeling for another 19 minutes.
A Darryl Halligan penalty goal and converted try from second rower Tony
Grimaldi had the underdogs ahead 8-6 after 23 minutes.
This early return of a ``Scud-like" serve showed the game would be a contest
- not the Brisbane pounding many thought would transpire. Well, not until the
second half at least.
Canterbury were next to have the back of their hand on the table.
But there were two controversial moments surrounding a Brisbane try from
replacement forward Kevin Campion.
First, a clear forward pass leading to the try, and second, replays showed
Campion did not get the ball down.
Referee Bill Harrigan, refusing the available technology, awarded the try and
Brisbane were ahead 10-8.
But justice was just around the corner ... the Dogs soon regained possession
Talau redeemed himself, finishing a brilliant Steve Price break to score and
suddenly it was Canterbury 12-10 and subsequently halftime.
The second half was nothing like the first.
Brisbane dominated completely.
Canterbury this time had no counter punches.
The 100-minute games finally caught up.
They were like a punch-drunk fighter waiting for the trainer to toss in the
The Broncos scored in the 42nd (Tonie Carroll), 51st (Wendell Sailor), 60th
(Gorden Tallis) and 69th (Phillip Lee) and 76th (Darren Smith) minutes to bury
It was a ruthless, clinical performance from the best team in the
BRISBANE 38 (D Smith W Sailor P Lee G Tallis T Carroll M Devere K Campion
tries, D Lockyer 5 goals) bt CANTERBURY 12 (W Talau T Grimaldi tries, D Halligan
FOOTYTAB: (for $1): Pick the score: Canterbury 26 Parramatta 22. Div: