McCullough still rues Grand Final finish
Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough says what potentially cost his team the 2015 Telstra Premiership represents the facet of Brisbane's game that can be improved the most as they endeavour to go one better in 2016.
While the heroics of Johnathan Thurston and his North Queensland Cowboys provided the everlasting memories of a gripping grand final considered one of the greatest of all time, McCullough concedes the Broncos needed to do a better job of closing the game out.
In the wake of the one-point golden-point loss some commentators suggested that Brisbane's decision to kick for touch as the clock wound down invited the Cowboys to keep attacking time and again, the Broncos defence grimly hanging on to a 16-12 advantage.
It took until the final second of the regulation 80 minutes for winger Kyle Feldt to score the try that allowed the Cowboys to draw level and left the likes of McCullough and halfback Ben Hunt with a harsh lesson that will stick with them for the remainder of their careers.
"Not to shut up shop and stop playing football a little bit," McCullough told NRL.com when asked what lesson he took away from the 17-16 grand final defeat.
"You compare it with the energy and the ball control and the ball movement we played against the Roosters [in the Preliminary Final]... I'm not being cocky but I don't know that anyone would have beaten us that day.
"The way we played and contributed throughout the whole team from ball control to defence was right on the money and that's what I felt let us down a bit in that grand final.
"We probably tensed up a little bit with regards to the result and should have just kept playing football a little more but that comes back to learning.
"Not a lot of us had been in that position before and we can take a fair bit out of that loss.
"That's all part of life and moving on and the Cowboys deserved their win in the end and that's the way it goes.
"Life goes on and the great thing now is that we've got another season now and expectations are there again and [we have to] start all over again from square one."
Starting the 2015 season with 148 first grade games to his credit, McCullough again had to build a combination with a new halves partnership with the established Ben Hunt being joined by new recruit Anthony Milford.
It was a combination that would take time to develop but McCullough believes by the end of the regular season the Broncos' key playmakers had become more adept at finishing teams off in the right manner.
"For me it's taking the responsibility of closing games out better, which I did think myself and 'Hunty' and that did better prior to the grand final," said the 25-year-old who is poised to pass the 200-game milestone in 2016.
"Before those big games I think that's something that we did improve. We kicked well to those corners and we closed teams out and the good teams do that and they know when to do it.
"That's something that was improving but we just needed to capitalise on that and finish the rest of the year off which we didn't do.
"I'm a pretty harsh critic of myself but the good thing is I'm still enjoying going to training and doing my fitness and learning new things and I think that's a good sign."