Sitting in the stands as a kid, Townsville boy Sam Thaiday thought North Queensland were No.1 in the NRL.
His view hasn’t changed despite being responsible for leading Brisbane’s charge against the Cowboys in Saturday night’s qualifying final at Suncorp Stadium.
Broncos prop Thaiday admitted he was still a North Queensland fan after a childhood spent watching the Cowboys in his home town.
Back then, North Queensland played “little brother” to multiple premiership winners Brisbane.
Now, Thaiday reckons the Cowboys can boast another tag in their 20th year – Queensland’s No.1 NRL team.
“I think so. Over the last couple of years, they have pushed further into the finals (than Brisbane),” Thaiday said.
“They have had a lot more success than us as a team.
“That’s something we would like to turn around.”
Brisbane have won six premierships since their 1988 inception.
North Queensland have made a sole grand final back in 2005 – 10 years after their entry.
Yet, recent form shows the Cowboys are turning the tables.
They have a 3-0 finals record against Brisbane, knocking the Broncos out of the title race on all three occasions they have met.
The most recent was last year’s 32-20 win in Townsville, ensuring the eighth-placed Broncos bowed out in the first weekend of the 2014 finals.
Brisbane last went deeper into a finals series than North Queensland back in 2011 when the Broncos made the preliminary final under now-retired captain Darren Lockyer.
“It’s probably something I never dreamed about, sitting there and watching them play (as a kid),” Thaiday said of taking on North Queensland in the finals.
“I am still a fan of the Cowboys.
“It’s a game I always look forward to.
“And I have a lot of great mates in that Cowboys side and, when you play your mates, you always want to beat them so you can rub it in after the game.”
This weekend marks the first time in four years Brisbane have hosted a home final.
“We’ve had a great rivalry with the Cowboys for many years but throughout the finals as well,” Thaiday said.
“The last few times they have pipped us at the post so that has only added fuel to the fire of the rivalry.”
Broncos No.1 Darius Boyd wasn’t so sure about Thaiday’s call that the Cowboys held Queensland’s No.1 team mantle.
“Sam has been here his whole career and (it) is something he knows more about but, for me, when I think of Queensland, I always think of Broncos as No.1,” he said.
BRISBANE AND NORTH QUEENSLAND’S SEASON FINISHES IN PAST FIVE YEARS:
* In 2014:
– North Queensland finish fifth (14-10 regular-season record), knocked out in semi-finals
– Brisbane finish eighth (12-12), beaten in finals first round by Cowboys 32-20
* In 2013:
– North Queensland finish eighth (12-12), knocked out in finals first round
– Brisbane finish 12th (10-1-13)
* In 2012:
– North Queensland finish fifth (15-9), beaten in semi-finals
– Brisbane finish eighth (12-12), knocked out in finals first round by Cowboys 33-16
* In 2011:
– Brisbane finish third (18-6); knocked out in preliminary final
– North Queensland finish seventh (14-10), knocked out in finals first round
* In 2010:
– Brisbane finish 10th (11-13)
– North Queensland finish 15th (5-19)