There are three certainties in life. Death, taxes and the Broncos playing on Friday nights. The second game of the season might have been overshadowed by the ongoing debacle that is the Cronulla Sharks, but the rugby league world will welcome a few hours where the concern is about tries and tackles rather than peptides and plea bargains. The game needs a blockbuster to remind us all why we love it.
It’s 25 years since the Brisbane Bronco story began on a muggy afternoon at the old Lang Park, and today they take on the same foe, the Manly Sea-Eagles. Rabs throws to Tom Waterhouse for a plug as shameless as they come. The season is 80 minutes old and I’ve already seen enough from Tom.
The game settles into a plodding pace that is common in these early rounds of the season, and the Broncos knock over an early penalty. The oldest of the old dogs, Scotty Prince, hasn’t got as much spring in the step as he did the last time he was a Bronco, but he’s looking sharp early. Justin Hodges produces a monster of a right foot step and a marvellous offload to put Matt Gillet over. Hodges might be as unpleasant as a banana-bender after a case of XXXX, but he’s still a wonderful footballer. Manly respond with a try of their own, but the next Bronco effort is an absolute stunner.
A left side rush from deep in their own half and a swing back to the right results in a succession of flick passes, capped by another Hodges screamer and Lachlan Maranta, whose been around the Broncos since he was a fresh faced ball boy, strolls over in the corner. After a week where the worst of rugby league was displayed to all and sundry, this is the absolute best of the greatest game. There is no sport in Australia that has perfected the art of self-sabotage quite like rugby league, but it is moments like this that have always saved the game from itself.
But after halftime Manly turn it on. Daly Cherry-Evans muscles his way over for a soft try, and Matai gets his second after a surge down the left, and quick as a flash the momentum has shifted. Jack Reed, an Englishman from Bribie Island coughs up the ball, and Brent Kite shows an awareness I didn’t think he had in shifting to David Williams to cross in the corner. Williams is currently looking rather strange without his bushranger beard, but the full moon is drawing near.
The longer the game goes the better Manly are looking. Brisbane might have some old heads in the team, but the younger brigade are playing fatigued footy. The Queenslanders are surviving on heart alone, the Sea Eagles are looking for a knockout punch. It never comes, but in the end, it’s not required. Kieran Foran, tougher than a $5 steak and twice as nasty, has been a standout for the visitors.
The post game interviews attribute full credit to the boys, reveal that Manly are taking it one game at a time and the commentators proclaim it was a game of two halves. Thoughts return to ASADA and the day’s bad news, but only until the next game.
Nathan Hindmarsh Medal
3- Kieran Foran
2- Justin Hodges
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