NRL GRAND FINAL
Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys
Sunday, 4 October 7:15pm
It’s an All-Queensland affair in the 2015 NRL Grand Final with the Brisbane Broncos facing North Queensland Cowboys for the right to be called 2015 Premiers.
The first time a Grand Final will be contested between all sides from north of the Tweed promises to be a hotly contested affair with two of the best sides of the season facing off for the Provan-Summons Trophy.
Sentiment is on the side of the Cowboys with neutrals hoping to see the Townsville-based side earn their first NRL title led by Immortal in waiting Jonathan Thurston.
Not even the most ardent Brisbane fan could have predicted the season they have had with the club just one win away from their first premiership since 2006.
The return of Wayne Bennett and Darius Boyd along with the recruitment of boom Fullback-cum-Five Eighth Anthony Milford has seen a return of the Broncos to their former glory days and on the verge of a seventh club title.
North Queensland, in just their second decider in 20 years of existence have been on the verge of a breakthrough title for the past few seasons and now find themselves in their best chance ever to end the drought.
Let down in recent years by what only can be described as questionable refereeing decision and an over reliance on Thurston, Paul Green’s side now have balance and depth to finally make a play at a title.
For the first time in years the Cowboys have a solid support act around the four-time Dally M Medal winner with Lachlan Coote and Michael Morgan setting up to the plate.
If their backline doesn’t get you their forwards certainly will with two of the best props in the game of Matt Scott and James Tamou.
The Cowboys path to the Grand Final has taken them the long way round after dropping their first final to the Broncos three weeks ago. That 16-12 loss denied them the week off forcing them to play an extra week than their opponents. The loss seemed to have little effect on them as they bounced back with big successive wins over Cronulla and Melbourne to book their spot in the final, which included a trip down to the Victorian capital.
It has been a slightly easier road for Brisbane who enjoyed a week’s rest after that Qualifying Final victory and backed it up with a dominant 31-12 win over Sydney at home.
Despite the easier run in it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Broncos. A mid-week visit to the judiciary to clear captain Justin Hodges proved successful but also a distraction. Many feel Hodges was lucky to escape punishment for a dangerous tackle on Roosters forward Aiden Guerra with some even questioning if the centre got off the charge purely on sentiment with the Grand Final to be his last NRL game.
The market saw some movement with Hodges being cleared to play with the Broncos price dropping after the decision.
— Betfair Australia (@Betfair_Aus) September 30, 2015
Brisbane enjoy the better of history against their little brother of the north. The two have met 42 times since 1995 with 29 wins to the Broncos. Recent history is a little closer three wins apiece from the last six matches.
The two have met three times already this season with Brisbane coming away with the points twice. Each game has gone to the home side this season and as this game will be played at neutral territory, that stat becomes a little questionable.
Both Brisbane and North Queensland have made just one trip to ANZ Stadium in 2015, both coming away with wins. The Broncos overcame the Bulldogs 16-8 in their only visit to the Olympic Stadium while the Cowboys upset reigning champs South Sydney 30-12 back in Round 6 in their one trip to Homebush.
North Queensland enjoy mixed fortune at the Grand Final venue in recent years. While they have won their last three games at ANZ, that was on the back of nine straight losses at Homebush. Just seven wins from 20 games at ANZ hardly scream happy hunting ground, with only four win at the ground since their only Grand Final appearance against West Tigers in 2005.
Brisbane possess a slightly better record at ANZ Stadium with just two wins from their past six matches there. Despite poor recent form Brisbane do enjoy a winning record at the venue with 11 wins from 20 games and have the added advantage of winning titles there twice in 2000 and 2006.
The Match Odds market has been an interesting one to keep an eye on this week. Broncos opened at 1.97 then drifted to 2.18 with the Hodges judiciary drama, only to fall back down to 2.00 once he was cleared to play.
The Cowboys in contrast opened at 2.04 and got down to as low as 1.85 mid-week before claiming back up to 2.08.
Looking at the Winning Margin market and it is hard to confidently pull out a winner. The winning margins between these two sides usually sit under 13 the last six matches with producing margins of 4, 11, 22, 12, 13 and 4. The last six Grand Final winning margins are 24, 8, 10, 14, 24 and 7.
The theory that the Clive Churchill Medal is purely a halfback medal isn’t entirely true with with just two of the past eight winners having the number 7 on their back. Front-rowers have won the medal three times in the past eight years including last years winner Sam Burgess.
Despite that fact it’s the halfbacks that lead betting for this years medal. Thurston unsurprisingly leads the line at $3.56 with Bronco Ben Hunt at $6.8. Those looking at the big boys to get it again this year should look at Cowboy Matt Scott who offers great value at 17.
The stat to go for when choosing a Clive Churchill Medallist is that only once in the NRL-era the medal has gone to a player in a losing side, that being Sea Eagle Daly Cherry-Evans back in 2013.
History suggests the medal usually goes to the halfback, fullback or prop of the winning side. Keep that in mind!
Sentiment may sit with the Cowboys but it’s really hard to go past Brisbane. Five Broncos have won premierships in previous years (Hodges x2, Sam Thaiday, Adam Blair x2, Darius Boyd x2, Corey Parker) plus Bennett’s seven titles as coach while only three North Queensland players(Thurstan, Justin O’Neill, Ben Hannatt) have a premiership ring.
The halves combination of Hunt and Milford has been electric for the Broncos and should prove too hot for the just as it did in Week 1 of the finals.
The experienced heads of Brisbane, both on the field and in the coaches box are too much to go against a Cowboys side inexperienced in this arena.