Wayne Bennett’s rejuvenated Brisbane are the greatest Broncos team since the 2006 NRL premiers and one of the club’s best ever, Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy says.
Brisbane will vie for their first NRL minor premiership since 2000 when they line up against old foes the Storm at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night in their regular season finale.
They will then cast their eyes on breaking the club’s longest premiership drought by claiming title No.7 under Bennett.
Brisbane last tasted premiership success in 2006 when they shocked Bellamy’s Melbourne 15-8 in the decider.
And Bellamy wouldn’t rule out history repeating after watching Brisbane blossom upon Bennett’s return in 2015 after a seven-year absence.
“They’ve been the best Broncos side since 2006 – you would have to say they are the best Broncos side in a fair while,” said Bellamy, who served under Bennett at the Broncos before taking the Melbourne reins in 2003.
“They led this year for most of the journey and that is not easy in this competition.
“They’ve been ultra consistent all year.
“They are in a prime spot to go all the way.”
Brisbane made Bellamy sit up and take notice when they broke an eight game losing streak against the Storm 14-12 in round 15 at AAMI Park.
Melbourne have won 19 of their last 22 clashes with Brisbane.
The Broncos have not defeated the Storm at Suncorp Stadium since 2009.
But Melbourne have taken the Broncos threat so seriously they set up an Origin-style camp on the Sunshine Coast to prepare for Thursday night’s match.
“There’s a rivalry but it’s based on respect,” Storm playmaker Cooper Cronk said of Brisbane.
“We are looking for a bit of consistency ahead of the finals.
“We have lost to teams below us on the ladder and played some really good footy against teams above us.
“We know our best is super competitive and our average games are below par, not to the standard we want to play at.
“We have to address that.”
Melbourne can keep their top four hopes alive with a win but must rely on other results to go their way.
“We are well aware of the circumstances,” Cronk said.
“Destiny is still in our hands in some regards.”