NRL's greatest rivalry a decade in the making
It's become the greatest rivalry in the modern game that according to two of Brisbane's most experienced players of all time has been more than a decade in the making.
The past three meetings between the Broncos and Cowboys have incredibly delivered three one-point results with the Cowboys' 17-16 win in last year's Telstra Premiership Grand Final to be remembered as one of the all-time classic deciders.
The grand final rematch in Round 4 saw the Cowboys denied a potential match-winner in the right-hand corner before Anthony Milford's field goal in extra time earned Brisbane a 21-20 win and then eight weeks later Johnathan Thurston repeated his grand final heroics with a one-pointer five minutes from full-time to win 19-18.
Those of us expecting a fourth instalment as rich as the three that have come before could be accused of being greedy in the extreme, but if history does indeed repeat why should we expect anything less?
There were tight contests in this all-Queensland derby in the early days – including two 20-all draws – but it wasn't until the Cowboys caused a 10-0 boilover in their 2004 semi-final in Townsville that the rivalry finally gained teeth.
"We were pretty guarded after that and maybe that was the start of this kind of finals rivalry that kicked off and then especially the last couple of years," Thaiday said of the 2004 final played in front of 24,989 fans.
"They've never been an easy-beat for our club because there has always been such a rivalry from the first time we played.
"Now that our competition has evened up with the salary cap there is no such thing as an easy-beat any more.
"For me personally, I don't know that it's been the last two years, it's been probably the last five or six years of some real close encounters. Some tough old battles in Townsville."
Corey Parker, playing his 347th and possibly last game in the NRL on Friday night, also believes the contests over the past 12 months have been born out of a decade of close contests and a record of 14-12 from the past 26 meetings.
Parker's 31 games against the Cowboys are the most of any club he has played against over the course of his 15-year career says the brand of football both teams play makes their match-up something to savour.
"They were a lot different team back them and only new to the comp," Parker said of the early days of the rivalry.
"They've been 'up to our level' if you want to call it that for probably a decade; as long as I remember anyway.
"I think the two teams play a similar style of footy but if you look back at the last three games in particular, to be decided by one point, who would have thought? You've only got to assume that Friday night is going to be something similar.
"I just think that the passion and the spirit of the game that we've seen three games or more, it's one of those games where you go, 'Broncos are playing the Cowboys, really want to watch this one.'"
For Titans-bound Jarrod Wallace Friday night's semi-final represents his final taste of the Broncos-Cowboys rivalry and is hoping to exact some revenge not only for last year's grand final defeat but their finals exit in Townsville in 2014.
"I reckon definitely the last two years [it has grown]," Wallace said of the rivalry.
"In saying that we went up there three years ago and played them in the first semi and we got beat but I just think the last two years it's been the highest that I've felt personally, going up against them.
"Everyone likes putting a name on it – big brother, little brother, all that type of stuff – but it's just two good teams going into battle.
"As a player you don't want to lose to anyone let alone another Queensland team.
"It's just always a big battle, it's always going to be close and I reckon in 20 years it will still be the exact same no matter who's there.
"It is two Queensland clubs who love playing footy against each other just going it and that's how it will always be."
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