It took North Queensland 17 matches and 11 years to win their first game against Brisbane, but Broncos captain Sam Thaiday says the Cowboys are little brothers no more.
The Cowboys have won three of their last four encounters with the Broncos, including both games this season.
Speaking ahead of their elimination final at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday night, Thaiday pointed to the recent success of the Townsville outfit against his side.
“It is going to be a very tough match, I don’t think you can call the Cowboys our little brother anymore,” Thaiday told NRL.com.
“They have been pretty successful in the last few years against us.
“It is going to be a tough match up there in Townsville, I’m sure there is going to be a sell-out crowd as well, it is another Queensland derby.
“They are very balanced all over the field, they have some great combinations and have been playing some great footy at the moment. I think you can’t go past that combination of (Johnathan) Thurston and (Matt) Bowen, they work so well together, but they work off the back of (James) Tamou, (Matt) Scott and the other forwards as well.”
The Broncos were touted as genuine premiership contenders early in the season before a six-match losing streak almost cost them a place in the finals entirely.
Seemingly on the verge of locking a top four finish mid-season and a second chance at the finals, the Broncos dropped to eighth place and now have to travel to Townsville in a do-or-die clash.
But the Broncos don’t believe they have limped into the finals.
“A lot of people were reading into scoreboards,” Thaiday said.
“We were not worried about our form, we were playing some good football. A lot of people think that we are limping into the finals, but personally and from our team’s point of view we haven’t been going that bad.
“We are excited about the finals, it is a new season and it starts all over again once the finals week starts, so we can do anything we want from here.”
Speaking at his first Captains Call, Thaiday says he has felt the pressure at different stages this year of trying to replace the void left by Darren Lockyer.
But the most important message he has for his team is not to take the finals for granted.
“There is always a pressure when someone as big as Darren Lockyer leaves your club,” he said.
“I have felt the pressure this year in filling the role, but I have enjoyed it, I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a captain, and a lot of things about my team.
“I was only a youngster myself back in 2006 and we haven’t got that far to make a grand final since then.
“I know now and I’ll pass the message on to the boys, these things don’t come around very often. It is not every year you do make the final series, so we are going to have to do everything we can and lay it all on the line if we want to continue further in the season.”