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He may have ultimately fallen short of his goal of bringing a seventh premiership to the Brisbane Broncos but outgoing coach Anthony Griffin says he is content that he leaves a foundation for the club to be successful in the future.
Having taken over in dramatic circumstances at the start of the 2011 season, Griffin oversaw his 101st and final game as head coach on Saturday night as a blistering North Queensland start left the Broncos with far too much to do in the second half.
In the First Elimination Final the Cowboys picked up where they left off after recent wins over the Sea Eagles, Sharks and Rabbitohs and raced out to an 18-0 lead by the 20-minute mark and at half-time boasted a 24-point advantage.
But as they have done all season the Broncos found a way to lift themselves into the contest and at 24-14 – and two missed conversions – they had the momentum and capability of testing how the Cowboys handled some pressure.
In a season where Ben Hunt has been virtually the sole Broncos playmaker, Griffin said that while the initial hurt of their season ending will take some time to dissipate, he is confident that he is leaving behind a strong club for Wayne Bennett to return to in 2015.
"We've never lacked character or heart or whatever you want to call it and the boys, to their credit, we rose again and we got back to four tries to three and had the chance to score a couple more," Griffin said post-match.
"I thought if we could have kept them to 24 we were going to get a chance to win but that one with 13 or 14 minutes to go obviously killed us.
"It's been a long, hard year at our club with everything that's gone on but I am satisfied that we stuck together as a football team. We've never made excuses or shied away from tough situations and that's the way we finished tonight.
"I'm not one for honourable losses but I'm content that there's a very strong football team and a very strong club here.
"There's a really good football teambuilding here. I've said before that we got to a point at the end of last year where we had to change course, some players and the way we did things and since then we've been building.
"It's been frustrating at times and I suppose that process and losing a few tight games earlier in the year has cost this season but long-term it's built a foundation that the club is going to be successful.
"That will be built on the frustration of this year and the people we've got in place now. I don't want to talk about what it was like when I got there, all I know is that there is a real positive club here and they're a great group of players and they're going to be successful."
It was a long, dark tunnel with only the slightest flicker of hope when the Broncos returned for the second half trailing 24-0 but three tries in the space of seven minutes reignited their prospects and put a spring in their step.
Even at 32-20 down with nine minutes to play the Broncos' season showed signs of life and co-captain Justin Hodges was full of praise for the way his players responded.
"I challenged them at half-time to come back and really make a stand for that jersey. That jersey means everything to us so I just want to really congratulate my team for their efforts," Hodges said.
"I said to them that we might have been 24 points behind but we could score 30 points to win this game. I challenged my players and I can't speak highly enough of the way they dug in that second half. Things didn't go our way but they never quit and that's the sign of a great footy side. "