Star Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt admits he is “surprised” at how quickly the miserly NRL minor premiers, Sydney Roosters, succumbed to their attack in their grand final qualifier.
But the Broncos are crediting their new found attitude in defence with setting up their first shot at a premiership since 2006.
Brisbane lived up to their billing as the league’s fastest starters by racing to a 16-0 lead after 19 minutes of their preliminary final against the NRL’s defensive yardstick.
Chief destroyer Hunt combined brilliantly with pivot Anthony Milford as the Broncos ran in six tries to two to book Sunday’s NRL grand final with North Queensland.
“I was surprised to be honest,” Hunt said of their rout over the Roosters, who had conceded less than 13 points a game ahead of the clash.
“I was expecting a really tight low-scoring game against the Roosters.
“We got off to a flying start again. We know if we can control the ball we will get over the line a few times.”
Brisbane have now scored the first try in 20 of their 26 matches this year.
However, the Broncos believe it is their new found confidence in defence, ushered in by returning coach Wayne Bennett that will prove the difference on Sunday.
“He obviously brought some handy players with him in Darius Boyd and Milf (Anthony Milford), but our change in attitude in defence has got us to where we are,” Hunt said.
A Johnathan Thurston-led Cowboys led the league in line breaks (125) and tries scored (116) this regular season, not far ahead of Brisbane (108 line breaks, 109 tries).
But Hunt said Bennett had ensured their defence would prove the difference this year – and the stats back him up.
The Broncos missed the least tackles this season (543) well behind nearest rival Melbourne (562) and North Queensland’s 589.
However, Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough said Brisbane’s true character this year was shown when they did miss a tackle.
“Everyone will miss a tackle or drop the ball, it’s how you respond,” he said.
“I think that is a big aspect we turned around this year.”
Bennett’s influence has helped six-time premiers Brisbane get on back on track to notch their first title since 2006 – the club’s longest drought.
Bennett took over the reins from Anthony Griffin this season after seven years away following Brisbane’s first round finals exit last year.
“That was the disappointing thing about last year (bowed out in finals first round),” McCullough said.
“We had quality teams on the back foot but ended up losing those games with 10 to 15 minutes to go.
“This year we closed out those tight games by backing our defence – that’s worked for us this year.”