The last three Cowboys-Broncos encounters – the 2015 grand final and two regular-season clashes this year – were decided by a field goal, with Anthony Milford’s long-range golden point effort in Round 4 bookended by a pair of Johnathan Thurston match-winners.
With little splitting the two teams ahead of Friday night’s sudden-death meeting in Townsville, there’s a fair chance a one-pointer could be required again. So who holds the edge?
Milford leads the NRL for field goals in 2016 with four – all kicked in the first seven rounds of the season. Thurston’s Round 11 strike against the Broncos was his only field goal of the year so far.
The Brisbane five-eighth has bagged nine field goals in 94 NRL appearances, though his golden-point stunner against the Cowboys was his only late deadlock-breaker; the other eight were in matches featuring a final margin of 13 or more.
Surprisingly, JT has kicked only 15 field goals in a 290-game career, though he only managed four to the end of 2013. Thurston slotted an NRL-high six in 2015, while he also boasts two one-pointers in the Origin arena.
The North Queensland talisman has twice kicked two field goals in a match his team won by a point, and kicked the decisive field goal in a one-point margin match another three times, as well as sending his debut Origin into golden point with a field goal in 2005.
In terms of alternative options, the teams are evenly matched. Lachlan Coote has kicked three field goals in his 134-game career – a match-winner for Penrith in 2012, one in an 11-point win over the Broncos last year, and a deadlock-breaker against the Panthers in 2016 – but no other Cowboy has booted one.
Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough banged over an inconsequential field goal in a 41-10 win over Canterbury in 2014, and while Jordan Kahu hasn’t kicked one at NRL level, he notched a crucial late one-pointer in the Kiwis’ 9-2 win over England in London last year.
Milford has the recent practice under his belt and probably has greater range, but Thurston’s clutch experience can’t be bought. And while they have other options at their disposal, you can bet on the superstars slipping back into the pocket if the scores are tied up late in tomorrow night’s epic showdown.
In the Canberra-Penrith match-up, both teams boast several talented field goal exponents. Blake Austin and his potential stand-in, Sam Williams, have both kicked one for the Raiders this year, and Aidan Sezer booted five in 71 games for former club Gold Coast.
The Panthers are ever more stacked with sharpshooters, despite Jamie Soward’s mid-season departure. Matt Moylan has slotted eight in his last 42 games, including four match-winners. The last of Peter Wallace’s eight career field goals snatched a 19-18 win over the Raiders in Round 9 this year, while there’s little doubt cool-headed 18-year-old half Nathan Cleary could step up if required.