Redemption is the buzzword in Brisbane as the Broncos prepare for their NRL grand final rematch, but reigning premiers North Queensland also aim to exorcise some demons at Suncorp Stadium.
Even Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett can’t play down the significance of their clash in front of an expected sold-out crowd.
However, Cowboys coach Paul Green sounds like the man with something to prove.
Green was the toast of the NRL after steering North Queensland to their maiden title in 2015.
He even had to knock back an offer to coach the Queensland State of Origin side.
But Green admits he has some unfinished business on Friday night.
North Queensland have not savoured victory at Suncorp Stadium since 2012, ensuring Green has never won as Cowboys coach at the venue.
“I don’t enjoy losing. Any record like that I would like to change,” Green said.
“But a lot of things will have to go right for us to get the result we want.”
The Cowboys have lost four straight at Suncorp Stadium, including their 16-12 semi-final defeat in 2015, but Brisbane’s round three 44-22 rout of North Queensland seemed to irk Green the most.
“Early in the piece we didn’t play anywhere near good enough,” Green said.
“That round three game, we were a team that struggled for confidence.
“We are probably a different team now, having been through what we have.”
Of course, Green won’t be the only one looking for atonement.
Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt was vilified for his grand final gaffe and has not been the same since.
Broncos great Darren Lockyer admits it will still be in the back of Hunt’s mind, but believes the playmaker will soon return to his best.
“There are probably a few doubts at the moment but I know Ben – I am not worried,” Lockyer said.
“He is just a little bit down on confidence. He will get it back.”
Bennett could not help but talk up the occasion.
“It’s a great rivalry between the two clubs. They have now played in a grand final, so it has carried on from there,” he said.
“Everyone should be excited. There couldn’t be a better place to be.”
While Bennett said they were over the grand final loss, one defeat was still raw – their shock one-point loss in Penrith last round.
Bennett was gutted by the second-half defensive fadeout that let the Panthers back into the match – a mistake they can’t make against a Johnathan Thurston-led Cowboys.
“If it gets to a shootout about who can score the most points, they (Cowboys) will do that because they have players with great flair and they love that type of game,” Bennett said.
“Defensively, we have to be good to give ourselves a chance.”
KEY FACTS – BRONCOS V COWBOYS
* The Broncos have lost just four of 19 matches against the Cowboys in Brisbane. Their last loss was in 2012, and have won four straight since
* Overall, Brisbane have lost just two of their past 14 matches at Suncorp Stadium
* The premiers have won four of the past five grand final rematches. The Roosters were the last reigning champs to lose, to Manly in 2014
* If the Cowboys play the 17 they named this week, it will be the seventh straight match they have kept the same line-up. The previous record since 1998 was four straight games
* North Queensland have won three of their past seven away games since round 22 in 2015, and have lost seven straight away matches in Queensland