North Queensland and Brisbane have declared their mutual respect for one another ahead of Sunday’s NRL grand final, with Broncos coach Wayne Bennett hailing the “tremendous spirit” the sides have played with in 2015.
In stark contrast to recent grand final build-ups between keen rivals Canterbury and South Sydney last year, and the Sydney Roosters and Manly in 2013, the official grand final media conference was something of a love-in. The Cowboys and Broncos were kept busy talking of their mutual admiration for one another and the entertaining brand of football them employ.
As Queensland State of Origin teammates, Broncos Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday and Justin Hodges and Cowboys Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Michael Morgan, sat at a table alongside coaches Bennett and Paul Green, there was nothing but good words for one another.
Scott took up the theme first.
“There’s obviously a few connections there. I’m friends with many of them; we’ve had some great battles over the years,” he said.
“Never have they been dirty or anything like that – we’re always very respectful but very tough at the same time.”
Parker spoke of the lack of angst between the sides.
“As Matty Scott touched on before, we are all good mates and, along with that, we all respect each other and we are all very close through that Origin period,” Parker said.
“The only difference is we have different coloured jerseys on so it will be business as usual.”
The last time the sides met, Brisbane won 16-12 in the second qualifying final in a highly entertaining rugby league affair.
More of the same is expected at ANZ Stadium. Bennett said he wasn’t sure if Brisbane and North Queensland had played the most eye-catching football in 2015. But he said they had played it in the greatest spirit.
“That’s hard to say that we’re the most exciting teams but both teams play the game in tremendous spirit.”
Bennett, after taking teams to seven grand finals for seven wins, was coy when asked what his secret was.
“I might have a little idea, but I’m not going to say it,” he said.
However he did reveal where he thought the big game would be won.
“The forwards will determine who wins the game,” Bennett said.
“Whoever does the job best in that area will allow the halves to play. The halves can’t play if the forwards don’t lay the groundwork for them. The Cowboys and the Broncos are in the same boat.”