Brisbane and North Queensland are preparing for arguably the biggest Queensland derby of the clubs’ storied 20-year rivalry in what is certain to be a Suncorp Stadium sell-out. Hunt v Thurston, Milford v Morgan, Boyd v Coote, Thaiday v Scott, Granville v McCullough, Parker v Taumololo – it’s going to be an absolute barn-burner with a preliminary final berth on the line.
Flashback Friday takes a look at all three of the previous Broncos-Cowboys finals clashes – all won by ‘little brother’ but, crucially, all staged in Townsville.
North Queensland’s fairytale journey through its maiden finals campaign reaped the club’s first-ever win over Brisbane in 17 attempts, rolling the Broncos 10-0 in a gripping semi with a delirious 24,989-strong crowd in attendance at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Cowboys pivot David Myles scored in the 25th minute after Karmichael Hunt misjudged a chip kick by his opposing fullback Matt Bowen; it would be the only try of the match, with Josh Hannay slotting a penalty goal either side of the decisive play. But it was magnificent defence that underpinned the victory – the only time in the Cowboys’ underachieving history they had held a team scoreless. The Broncos’ loss brought down the curtain on the career of retiring captain – and Townsville junior – Gorden Tallis.
2012 Qualifying Final
Halfback Michael Morgan scored three tries, but club legend Matt Bowen was the star of the show in his 250th NRL appearance with a try, a hand in two others and a field goal in North Queensland’s comprehensive 33-16 defeat of archrivals Brisbane. Former Broncos great Brent Tate also crossed the victorious Cowboys. The Cowboys led 18-0 at halftime, and despite three second half tries to the visitors, a miracle comeback was never a realistic chance; the Broncos’ lacklustre campaign met a fitting end as revered front-row veteran Petero Civoniceva farewelled the premiership.
2014 Qualifying Final
North Queensland advanced to the second week of the finals with a 32-20 victory over Brisbane, but only after withstanding an admirable second half comeback by the visitors. The qualifying final seemed destined to travel a similar path to the corresponding match two years earlier, the Cowboys racing to a 24-0 halftime lead – with backrower Gavin Cooper crossing twice – as Johnathan Thurston and Robert Lui toyed with the Broncos’ goal-line defence, which consistently buckled. But Ben Barba scored a fine try from close range, before fullback Justin Hodges set up centre Jordan Kahu for two touchdowns with sizzling breaks to reduce the deficit to 10 points with 21 minutes left.
Tariq Sims was put on report and ultimately rubbed out for five weeks for a late shoulder-charge on Hodges in the lead-up to Kahu’s second, stunting the subsequent impact of the veteran Bronco. Michael Morgan crossed for a try and a Thurston penalty apparently put the game out of reach, but the Broncos refused to throw the towel, staying in the contest when Daniel Vidot scored from a brilliant Dale Copley offload. The Cowboys managed to hold out their Queensland rivals, however, ending Broncos coach Anthony Griffin’s four-year tenure with the club.
Commentary Box Sports’ Will Evans ranked the Broncos-Cowboys rivalry at No.11 in his new book, Rugby League Rivalries, which ranks the top 100 all-time premiership club rivalries. Rugby League Rivalries is available at all good bookstores and department stores or online.