Almanac Rugby League – NRL Grand Final 2015: Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys – The Greatest Grand Final of All Time

National Rugby League Grand Final

Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys
ANZ Stadium, Homebush.
7pm, October 4th, 2015.


Rugby League is back in Sydney. The Cowboys have come via a Preliminary Final in Melbourne whilst the Broncos’ put paid to the Sydney Roosters at home.

We are into the second month of spring, and this heatwave has been tough on the u20’s, won convincingly by Penrith over Manly. The sun is just dropping over the horizon as Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss, Don Walker and Phil Small take to the stage to belt out the true national anthem, Khe Sanh.

One thing in favour of a night time Grand Final, the lighting and pyrotechnics in the pre-game entertainment adds to the spectacle. This mini concert from Chisel was a visual feast.

Not for the first time, there is no NSW side in the NRL Grand Final, however, this is the first that has two Queensland teams taking part. With Ipswich winning the Interstate Challenge and Queensland re-establishing their dominance at State of Origin level, Rugby League’s true strength surely lies north of the Tweed.

But who to support in this title decider? As a born and bred New South Welshman I’d prefer if neither of these teams carries the title of champions for a year. I’ll plump for the team that has the most Penrith juniors, and with Lachlan Coote and Gavin Cooper, my money lands on the Cowboys.

It is a full house here at the Olympic Stadium as Jessica Mauboy sings that other song.

The Cows kick off to the northern end and the Broncos complete their first set of possession with a deep kick fielded by Coote only 10 metres from his own end. Cowboys also successfully get through their first set of six.

The Cows make a small break down the right but Michael Morgan releases the ball forward. Brisbane get the ball from the scrum and then get the first penalty two tackles later. Corey Parker takes the kick from 40 metres out just to the right of the sticks and he gives the Broncos an early 2 point lead.

Second tackle after the kick-off the Broncos have broken down the left from a Blair offload to Milford and onto the winger Corey Oates who races 80 metres to score untouched. Parker kicks his second goal in as many minutes and suddenly it’s 8-nil.

Second tackle after the restart Gillette drops the ball in the tackle and give the Cowboys some possession deep in their territory. From the scrum base Granville runs it and steps inside the early breaking Broncos loose forwards who were trying to cover Thurston standing at five eigth, Justin O’Neill is backing up from the scrum and his momentum takes him over the line. Thurston converts and now it’s 8-6 after only 10 minutes.

The Cowboys next set of six is good and from a high bomb on the sixth Lachlan Coote wins the contest and the ball is spread right where the Broncos cover defence forces the Cows winger into touch just short of the try line.

This game is already lining up to be a Grand Final of ages. Half time is needed for my keyboard to recover.

Milford breaks down the left with some great footwork and a dummy and the Cowboys cover defence breaks down the play. Coote covers up a grubber kick before it gets to the in-goal and the Cows then get a penalty to march cheap metres up field.

This set of six ends with a Thurston grubber which only just beats the chasing winger. Bronco’s now with a seven tackle set at the 20 metre line, but they knock it on, failing to complete that possession set of six.

Thurston is caught in possession on the fifth tackle and the final tackle play from the Cows is poor as a result and they turn the ball over 10 metres out.

I glance up to the scoreboard and the 20th minute has only just rolled past. The Cowboys get another penalty and start again inside the Broncos half. Thurston regathers from a deflected grubber and the tackle count restarts, they head towards the posts and James Tamou spins through a tackle to crash over to give the Cowboys the lead. Thurston converts and North Queensland leads 12-8 after 25 minutes.

Thurston ends the next set of six with a good old fashioned touch finder. The Bronco’s don’t mind as they need the break in play. Cowboys fail to clean up a Ben Hunt grubber kick only 15 metres out and now the Broncos have a repeat set. A penalty in a tackle and the Broncos turn down the goal attempt and seek another try. But they can’t find it and the Cowboys force a fifth tackle error.

Thurston loses the ball in a tackle 30 metres out from his own line, it’s picked up by Gillette who breaks down field and he passes back to Jack Reed and he’s over. It’s time for our first Video referral. It’s a green light to confirm the try and Jordan Kahu converts to give the Bronco’s the lead again 14-12 with 5 minutes before half time.

Lachlan Coote fields a kick and passes deep inside to Thurston who runs and gets it off to Winterstein and they are into the Broncos half on the first tackle. They set up a bomb on the last and it’s taken on the full in goal. This game isn’t slowing down. It is the best half of football played all season.

Third minute into the second half and the Broncos are held just short of the tryline but are awarded a penalty and Kahu kicks the goal and now the lead to Brisbane is 16-12.

This intensity and skill levels haven’t dropped off after half time. Both sides are finding gaps with short inside passes in the centre third of the field. The interchange bench management may be what decides this game.

Both sides defence has been of grand final standard, too. The only thing that hasn’t had a direct influence on the play is a bad referring call. There’s still 24 minutes for that to happen.

A well-weighted kick from Thurston traps Darius Boyd in goal and now the Cowboys get the first goal line drop out and from the catch at half way they run it left and bring it up to the 20 metre line, enterprising play from the Cows and Coote gets the tackle count restarted when his grubber kick is deflected from the Broncos defence. They need to score here and a perfect Thruston pass is dropped by Kane Linnett over the line. Could that be the play that costs the Cowboys the Premiership?

On the last tackle the Cowboys run it to the right and they make a break, the inside pass sees the ball get kicked and Darius Boyd runs it back but is smashed and back slammed into the ground. The Broncos cough it up and Lachlan Coote runs it to the line but is tackled short of the line but he rolls over and claims the try. It is disallowed and is penalised for a double movement. 16 minutes to go now.

A swinging arm from Blair gifts more possession and territory to the Cowboys. Now is the time. They come right but the Broncos defence holds firm. Highest quality this stuff from both teams.

The Broncos have found their wet sail and force a goal line drop out from a long kick. A poor pass from Boyd is knocked on by Oates . Have the Cowboys got a second wind?

Whatever wind they had, Sam Thaiday just knocked it out of the lungs of Jonathan Thurston in a great hit. Time is running out for the Cowboys.

And now we have a spear tackle with three minutes to go. Ben Hunt has hit Kane Linnett in a great tackle but he’s lifted him and he’s landed on his head. It’s a penalty to the Cows but there is no send off. This is the final roll of the dice, and the Broncos have held on, gathering a kick 2 metres before their goal line.

Milford breaks the line and is into the back field but he’s lost possession the Cows are some how still in it. Thurston is out on his feet, he can’t run, he gets it to Morgan and he’s put Kyle Feldt into the corner and it’s a try as the siren sound. Scores are tied and now the next immortal has a kick from the side line to win the Premiership.

You can’t write a script like this. This is a Grand Final that is up there with 1989 and 2003. Thurston has taken 4 minutes so far to line up this kick. He’s got to have got the oxygen back in his lungs, here it is and it hasn’t swung in with the motion of his kick and it’s hit the near upright and bounces back into the field of play. We’re off to golden point.

The Cowboys kick off the extra time and Ben Hunt has dropped it, right next to the posts. The Cowboys have a scrum feed 10 metres out in the centre of the field. They are in the box seat. They’re setting up the field goal from the scrum but the Broncos break too quickly and Thurston has to take the tackle. They set it up again and Thurston dishes it off to Coote but again the Broncos defence is on him and he runs and almost breaks down the left side.

Third attempt and the Broncos are out on their feet and Thurston has the time, he’s right in front and he slots it with his right boot. That’s it, the Cowboys win 17 to 16 in the best Grand Final ever.

Now the NRL pull another surprise by turning off the stadium floodlights and we now have a central stage shone by spot lights. Jonathon Thurston is named the Clive Churchill Medalist.

The NRL doesn’t get many things right. But tonight, from stadium presentation with their “Light It Up” finals campaign, through to pre-game entertainment and now the presentation. A true spectacle.



Tries: Justin O’Neill, James Tamou, Kyle Feldt.
Goals: Jonathan Thurston 2/3.
Field Goals: Jonathan Thurston.



Tries: Corey Oates, Jack Reed
Goals: Corey Parker 2/2, Jordan Kahu 2/2


Attendance: 82,758 at Stadium Australia

About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.


  1. An absolutely fantastic Rugby League Grand Final. Fast open play, scores close all night and the last minute was the stuff of creative script writers. TV sound turned to mute with Roy and HG on ABC News Radio, it doesn’t come much better than that.
    Really enjoyed your report Wayne

  2. I suspect every Cowboys fan had given up two minutes out from the siren.
    it seems the only people who hadn’t given up were the players.

  3. Peter Fuller says

    Marvellous summary of the game, Wayne, even for those of us ignorant of the finer points. It was a superb match, and an absorbing struggle for the full 80 (85?) minutes.
    I think I really need to sit in your company with a match in progress to develop something more than my current rudimentary understanding of the game.
    Do you have an in principle view on the merits of golden point? If as has been suggested Wayne Bennett has maintained his view on it, there does seem to be something to be said for the raffle aspects. It seems to an uninitiate that the first team to get the ball within 25 metres , which seems to be decided by who kicks off, has a considerable advantage. Would 5 or 10 minutes each way be fairer?

  4. Wayne Ball says

    I’ve never been a fan of Golden Point. I still think there’s equal honour and disappointment in a draw during the regular season. Finals do need extra time and the ’89 Balmain -v- Canberra Grand FInal found it’s place in folklore due to the 10 minutes each way they played.

    There is something special about a club winning their first title. Which is why this year, 1989 and 1991 stand out for me, as well as 2003.

    If the draw is friendly and circumstances permit, Peter, I’ll see you for the Storm -v- Panthers game next year.

  5. Peter Fuller says

    Thanks Wayne, happy to pencil that in. I go to an occasional Storm game with a friend who left the Riverina for Melbourne more than 50 years ago. Although he is keen on League, he hasn’t seen much live football, and he doesn’t have your contemporary and detailed knowledge.

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