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Illawarra Mercury

No fairytale ... just Broncos on a title rampage

Author: By GLENN TOBIN
Date: 28/09/1998
Words: 1262
          Publication: Illawarra Mercury
Section: Sport
Page: 24
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 time.

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 champion team.

``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 grand-final chance.

``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 game.

``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 like that."

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 of it."

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 out wide.

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 and scored.

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 towel.

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 Canterbury.

It was a ruthless, clinical performance from the best team in the competition.

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 2 goals).

FOOTYTAB: (for $1): Pick the score: Canterbury 26 Parramatta 22. Div: $326.80.

 
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