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The Sydney Morning Herald

BRONCOS MAKE IT TWO-TIME CHAMPS

Author: JOHN MACDONALD
Date: 26/09/1993
Words: 1294
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 44
The Brisbane Broncos are great grand final winners, even if they won a grand final which wasn't within a victory lap of greatness.

It takes a very good team to win successive premierships, it takes a great one to win its second from outside the top three.

Brisbane completed their weekly dice with death from fifth place to beat St George 14-6 in yesterday's grand final at the Sydney Football Stadium.

It would be more appropriate to say they won three tries to nil.

Canberra in 1989 were the only others to win from outside the top three, with their epic extra-time defeat of Balmain.

The expectations were that yesterday would produce a grand final to equal that classic.

The champions Brisbane were to be opposed by an aggressive, disciplined and skilful St George, who would have learnt from last year's grand final loss.

Because the expectations were so high, because two teams of such high quality were opposed, 1993's will be remembered as one of the most disappointingly flat of all grand finals.

St George's tragedy was not that they lost, it was that they did not give themselves a chance to win.

Their first 40 minutes were diabolical. Perhaps it was fear of winning, perhaps nerves, perhaps bio-rhythms. Perhaps it was in the stars.

When the St George players have their agonised post-mortems, it's unlikely they will find any definitive reasons for the half-dozen handling errors in the first 20 minutes, for the breakdown of their kick-and-chase game which allowed Brisbane six change-overs.

They will know they are a far, far better team than the one seen yesterday.

So the emphasis must be on Brisbane's achievement rather than the contest, and two themes emerged.

Coach Wayne Bennett pinpointed St George's 16-10 defeat of the Broncos in the last round at ANZ Stadium as the key. A secondary theme, enlarged on by the players, was St George's alleged cockiness and their coach Brian Smith's alleged disparagement of the Broncos and Bennett.

It didn't matter that this wasn't based on reality. In the Broncos' minds, it was true and that was enough. It certainly says a great deal about motivational games.

Bennett said of the most important theme: "There's no doubt that loss won us the premiership. It gave us the hunger. If you learn from mistakes, they don't hurt you."

Bennett mentioned defence as the area Brisbane concentrated on, and after a shaky start of their own, it was defence which won them the grand final.

The Broncos shut St George out, and even in the second half when the Dragons had periods of possession, they only gained ground from dummy-half and were not able to expand their game from that basic.

This wasn't a characteristic Broncos performance. There was more emphasis on defence, a thoughtful kicking game and territorial control rather than razzle-dazzle.

Nor were there dazzling individuals but there were staunch, industrious ones.

Hooker Kerrod Walters and second-rower Trevor Gillmeister were chief among them, and what dazzle there was came from five-eighth Kevin Walters - the creator of the first two tries - and fullback Julian O'Neill with his aggressive and elusive running.

O'Neill said of the ANZ Stadium catalyst: "There was a bit of revenge there. It made us hungry. It came down to pressure. Each individual wanted to physically get over his opposition."

Said prop Mark Hohn after another impressive game, completing an outstanding finals series: "We didn't play up to our ability in Brisbane and used that as a motivational tool. We came in at half-time and felt really fresh."

Said captain Allan Langer, sporting a new hat of plastic beer cans to replace last year's model: "After that loss we knew we had to do it the hard way."

Bennett again: "The Monday after the 16-10 loss, the players came to training switched on for Manly." He knew they were ready.

St George would not have been ready for the miserable luck which saw prop Jason Stevens suffer a fractured thumb in the first minute, and be replaced by Jeff Hardy. He was later admitted to the Prince of Wales Hospital, with doctors diagnosing a fractured dislocation of his right thumb.

The Dragons gave a sign they could be ready early in the match when David Barnhill sent Brad Mackay spearing through. What seemed a promising start might have been the worst thing to have happened.

St George lost their control, their plan, the plot, searching for holes on the extremities without doing the preparatory work. Half Noel Goldthorpe was the main sufferer of passes around the head, the ankles - anywhere but the target.

A knock-on by prop Tony Priddle allowed Brisbane the chance to attack and their try after 20 minutes was characteristically Brisbane.

Kevin Walters dummied on the inside, changed pace and accelerated between Priddle and Barnhill, with Chris Johns there to take an inside pass and sprint 30m.

Ten minutes later, things were looking ominous for the Saints when Terry Matterson passed to Walters 10m from the St George line and Walters passed back inside on Matterson's call.

The defence parted like the red and white sea.

One Ian Herron penalty goal had St George in touch at half-time, if they could find some continuity and Brisbane found tiring legs a problem.

St George truly had lock Brad Mackay and centre Mark Coyne to thank for defence which saved them from conceding further points.

The Saints at least found a measure of control, if not authority, in the second half and if there was a key moment it came after 61 minutes when replacement Phil Blake was brought down after chipping through metres from the Brisbane line.

Herron kicked a goal which made it 10-6, but ...

"Thank God they decided to go for the kick," Brisbane centre Steve Renouf said. Renouf said the Broncos were ready for the taking, and the breather was like gold.

Brisbane deservedly claimed the grand final in style after 68 minutes when hooker Kerrod Walters darted to within centimetres of the St George line.

Langer fired a long pass from dummy half to replacement prop Andrew Gee, and his pass gave winger Willie Carne a clear run to the corner and glory.

Three vignettes. Mackay's modest "Brisbane have probably got so many great players, they didn't know who to give it to" when accepting the Clive Churchill Medal.

Gillmeister's being embraced in his last game with the club. "Alf Langer ran over and said 'It's tremendous to play with you. It's something I feel very good about'," he said.

Bennett's sharing the victory lap with the players. "I didn't think I earned it last year," he said. "It was their victory. I just wanted to go for a lap today.

"I was thinking about what the losing speech could be at lunchtime. That's when I felt really confident."

St George centre Graeme Bradley has been mentioned in referee Greg McCallum's report for a first-half tackle on Renouf.

BRISBANE 14 (C Johns, T Matterson, W Carne tries; J O'Neill goal) bt ST GEORGE 6 (I Herron three goals). Referee: G McCallum. Crowd: 42,329.

 
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