Let me open the batting by saying that, despite Tina Turner's presence,
this was not one of the great grand finals.
For two teams to have publicly stated so often just how much relaxation
resided within, both punctuated the early stanzas of play with
uncharacteristically nervous mistakes.
Having got that off my chest, congratulations Brisbane Broncos. The words
of Tina's song seem appropriate, you are "simply the best".
Pre-game speculation said it was a contest between Brisbane, the team of
champions, and St George, the champion team.
Under the guidance of coach Wayne Bennett, the Broncos have broken new
ground. Coming from fifth, they have convincingly established a special quality.
They are a champion team of champions.
Having tipped St George to do this year's lap of honour, I must say I was
surprised and disappointed with the Saints' first half.
I am loath to be critical of a team which loses a grand final. It is hard
enough to endure one loss, let alone two in succession, then be subjected to a
microscopic examination of the tactical mistakes.
The word "loser" should never enter the vocabulary in discussion about
grand finalists, and the St George men deserved all the accolades they received
for their methodical, relentless march to the last game.
Any critical analysis is only that: just a look at what might have gone
wrong, without any intention of apportioning blame.
I was stunned that St George in this last game either elected to use a
different brand of football to the one that got them there or for some reason
departed from the modus operandi that had proved so successful in the crunch
To be fair, it was a mistakeriddled half by both teams, but St George were
They lost the ball six times in the first 20 minutes and paid dearly for
The counter-punch ability of this Bronco team on turnovers is awesome, and
their habit of punishing the opposition where it hurts most, on the scoreboard,
is a Bronco trademark.
Saints forced the ball wide from the outset and applied unnecessary
pressure to their outside men.
Many sides that have faced the Brisbane team this season have operated on
the belief that to be in the hunt with them you must put points on the board,
because they certainly will.
St George appeared as if they wanted to make an early statement that they
had the confidence to take Brisbane on at their own game.
There was a hint that the strategy of applying the blowtorch to the
Broncos' stamina from the opening whistle would wear them down physically. If
this was the case, it was a bold plan indeed and could have worked - but it
required much better passing and handling than the stuff produced.
In fact, neither team's performance in 50 per cent of the game bore any
resemblance to what was produced by each side in the lead-up matches.
The Saints' attack was different. Gone was the relentless advantage-line
surge by their big forwards, the major cornerstone of victory in their tough
Brisbane's defence was different. Gone was the lethargic "We'll tackle if
we have to, but we'd prefer to have the ball" approach. In its place was a
tenacious, competitive brand of defence specially designed to halt what they
thought would be coming at them.
To compound the problems St George were having out wide, they forced some
passes in thick traffic, the most notable being one by prop Tony Priddle. It was
this loss of possession that led to the Broncos' first try.
Before Priddle had time to reflect on his indiscretion, and seemingly to
rub salt into the wound, Brisbane five-eighth Kevin Walters beat him on the
outside, shot past his outstretched arm, drew fullback Michael Potter and sent
Brisbane centre Chris Johns in under the posts.
Brisbane's second try was built on back-to-back possessions after St
George were forced to line drop-kick.
Allan Langer was employing the smart tactic of angle-kicking to the
in-goal area to trap St George, and when right-winger Willie Carne forced
Saints'left-winger Ian Herron to put the ball dead, Brisbane's second try was on
Kevin Walters was again the man for the job when he cleverly pulled two
defenders wide on an angle-run and swivelled to find lock Terry Matterson on the
inside. Saints were unable to cover Matterson, and with nobody home he strolled
Saints were clearly in trouble with the score 10-2 against them at
half-time, but to their credit they looked more like the St George of old
straight after the break, which in many respects endorsed the fact that they had
taken the wrong route in the first 40 minutes.
Brisbane's third and final try of the match came after the clever Langer
had once again trapped St George for a line drop-kick.
His well-weighted kicks for the in-goal were a feature of the match and
played a big part in producing two of the three tries.
That Saints managed to draw the second half four-all with two penalty
goals to the solitary Bronco try suggests they got closer to the St George they
wanted to be on the big day.
But the decision by the Saints to kick for goal with the score at 10-4 and
the penalty one metre out was not a bold move by a confident team. If ever they
had an opportunity to nail the Broncos, it was right there.
Saints appeared unaware a number of the Broncos were struggling at that
point, but it is pointless to speculate what might have been had the scores been
levelled at 10-10.
There were plenty of good performers in both teams, but none better for me
than Brisbane five-eighth Kevin Walters.
Saints were desperately unlucky to lose prop Jason Stevens very early, but
the Broncos thoroughly deserved their victory.
They came from fifth, their defence indicated they meant business, and in
scoring three tries to nil they have won back-to-back titles in convincing
Saints must be left wondering why they saved their worst football for the
Some features of the match: Kevin Walters's effort to provide two tries
for his team, Andrew Gee's enormous contribution coming off the bench, the
volume of work by Saints' lock Brad Mackay, Michael Potter's faultless
exhibition, and Trevor Gillmeister's usual robust performance in attack and