Brisbane's class of 2008 looking to go one better

It was the game that launched the careers of a core group of Broncos and on Sunday those players will have their shot at grand final redemption.

 

The match in question was the inaugural NYC under-20s grand final between the Broncos and Canberra Raiders in 2008.

The NRL's under-20s competition has produced some of the game's most exciting prospects since its inception seven years ago with many graduates from the system now household names around the country.

And it was during the first season of that competition when Brisbane unearthed some tremendous talent.

Current stars Ben Hunt, Andrew McCullough, Alex Glenn, Mitchell Dodds and the injured Josh McGuire are still wearing Broncos colours to this day and have all made an impact – some more influential than others – during Brisbane's charge to the 2015 Telstra Premiership Grand Final.

That list of players currently playing for the club could have been longer if it weren't for injury and the return of Darius Boyd, with retired winger Jharal Yow Yeh and current Gold Coast Titan Josh Hoffman also members of Brisbane's class of 2008.

While the Broncos had what now looks like a strong side on paper, the Raiders also had the backbone of a very convincing side with the likes of Josh Dugan, Jarrod Croker, Shaun Fensom and current Bronco Daniel Vidot on their books.

The young Broncos started their maiden under-20s season in unconvincing fashion, carving out only three wins from their opening eight games, but turned things around in the months that followed with 14 wins and one draw from their next 18 starts before the October 5 decider. 

Despite enjoying a 16-12 half-time lead and outscoring the Green Machine by five-tries-to-four at the end of 80 minutes, some wayward kicking by an 18-year-old Ben Hunt (two goals from five attempts) ensured the grand final would head into golden point.

It took over seven minutes of end-to-end extra-time action before a Michael Picker chip-kick found Croker in space, who then delivered a pass to back-rower Jarrad Kennedy who scored under the posts to immediately end the decider at 28-24 in Canberra's favour.

While the history books show a four-point win to the Raiders, what the statistics can't measure was the bond formed between a group of young men that are now chasing premiership glory again on a much larger scale.

"It was a big game for everyone in the team. It was a tough game and quicker than we usually played," outgoing Broncos prop Mitch Dodds told NRL.com.

"It was a bit exciting and a bit scary with all of the people watching you because with the 20s you never usually had big crowds.

"It was the first year of under-20s and a lot of the boys are still around who played in that game – I think that was a platform for a lot of the guys.

"You go through a lot of good times and bad times with the boys especially hanging around them since 2008 – you get pretty tight with the lads – it's a dream come true to get another chance to win a grand final."

Alex Glenn was captain during that season and sees similarities between the 2008 under-20s team and the current squad of Broncos who will take on the North Queensland Cowboys in this year's premiership decider.

"It was a very tough day and still to this day I haven’t watched that game," Glenn said.

"It was just shattering to go all the way and to lose in extra time. It's still very hard to talk about with myself and the players who played in that team.

"Our team was so strongly bonded – it's got the same feeling as our NRL team this year." 

Glenn made his senior debut the following year and has been a mainstay in the Broncos side since with 167 first grade games to his name.

Now 27, the Kiwi-born back-rower will finally have his own shot at redemption, and like Dodds, is relishing the prospect of winning a grand final alongside many of the teammates he has played with for the entire duration of his seven-season NRL career.

"To win a premiership would mean everything," said Glenn, who won an under-16s grand final with the Burleigh Bears after moving to the Gold Coast at age 14.

 "We've gone through a lot with the team we have this year and right from the start we've had each other's back and played for each other out there. 

"To get this far is an achievement in itself but the job's not done – we've got to make sure we still train hard and we stick to our processes and do what we've been doing for the past 28 weeks. 

"Like 2008, the further you go the harder the wound is and we don’t want to replicate that."

Video first featured at broncos.com.au