Grand final agony still haunts Boyd and Milford
The gut-wrenching ending to the 2015 grand final still burns a hole in the souls of Brisbane Broncos stars Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford, who are driven to get in a similar situation again and make it count.
When NRL.com spoke to Boyd and Milford about that 19-18 golden point loss to the North Queensland Cowboys, there were plenty of unfinished sentences and pregnant pauses as they reflected in anguish.
It was as if they couldn't bring themselves to a final conclusion as to how it all unravelled in the final seconds of regular time when on the cusp of being able to feel the Telstra Premiership trophy.
It would be simplistic to say that the game hinged on a dropped ball by Ben Hunt from the kick-off to golden point extra time, and subsequent piece of Johnathan Thurston magic.
Why the Broncos lost will be debated for years but there is a sense from the body language of Brisbane players that the try by Kyle Feldt in the 80th minute was the killer blow. Talk to them, and it is what happened in those defining seconds, not later, that haunts them.
Boyd collapses to the ground.
As you can see in this photo, it's the stuff nightmares are made of.
"That's the one where Kyle Feldt puts the ball down and I'm lying on the ground," Boyd told NRL.com.
"I'm coming across in cover and then he's scored … and that's when it has just hit me.
"What was it? One seconds, three seconds. One final play. I've seen highlights. I've had people speak to me about it.
"When you think about it, it was a massive opportunity lost. Every year that we don't win the competition, we know how close we were."
Boyd said he would be lying if he claimed he didn't think about it regularly.
"It is one of those things you don't dream about. You dream about the good moments, kicking a goal from the sideline or scoring the winning try, and winning the grand final. No one wants to dream about losing it with a couple of seconds to go."
Boyd has sat through the agony of watching the game again, but said some good could come from it.
"We did do a review and it was painful watching it ... we were so close," he said.
"There was a list of things in that game we could have done better to change the result.
"We have a core group of guys who played and are still here in key positions, and I'd like to think they have learned a lot of strong messages from it, whether that be game management or finishing off sets which we possibly could have done to prevent that from happening.
"Hopefully, they can instil what they've learned in the young guys that are here so that when those big moments come around again we are prepared and ready for it ... and making better choices and better decisions."
One of those players who starred for Brisbane in the 2015 decider was Milford.
The Brisbane pivot was on track for a maiden premiership and probably the Clive Churchill Medal before the dramatic finale.
Anyone who doubts how much the Broncos means to Milford should reflect on the answer he gave to whether he thinks about that 2015 loss much.
"Always mate, always," he told NRL.com.
"I am still filthy about that game. There are heaps of things I could have, should have ... I don't know if I can let it go. I try to, but it just keeps coming back.
"I guess the best way to try and put that behind us is to get one of our own. It is going to be a long season, but that is the main focus and goal for us."
Milford had dared to dream in the week leading up to the grand final of returning to Brisbane with a premiership ring.
"I remember the week leading up to it was very surreal," he said.
"At our last training session [at Red Hill] we had heaps of fans here who wished us luck. Just for our city, Brisbane, it has been a long time since the club has had a premiership.
"During the week I was saying to myself 'it would be pretty cool if we came away with the trophy'. It just wasn't to be."
Boyd reflected on how everything had gone to plan through that season.
Injuries were few, the side hit form at the right time, finished in the top two and had a week off after beating the Cowboys in the first semi-final.
The finals campaign of 2015 provided him with a rollercoaster of emotions, including much joy thanks to the birth of his daughter, Willow.
"It was definitely an exciting time," Boyd recalled.
"We played the first finals match against the Cowboys and won that, then we had the week off and the following week Willow was born on the Tuesday.
"My wife [Kayla] and Willow were in hospital on game night and I left from hospital to play the Roosters after I was eating Maccas and KFC in the hospital rooms all week leading up to it.
"Then to get that intercept try in the first minute was just a crazy thing that you never see happen. We won and played well in front of our home fans. It was a great week, or two weeks, and was a second or two off being amazing."
Boyd then wondered whether the Broncos should have given a penalty away in those final seconds.
"We were up by four, so they can't kick a goal, then they've got one play and your line is set," he reflected.
"There are probably a heap of things you could say, but at the end of the day the moment is lost now.
"I'm sure when I've been retired for 20 years it will be one of those great games that will be replayed on Fox. I'll be sitting through it, and no doubt I'll try and change the channel.
"But for two seconds, for whatever reason, we couldn't finish it off."
Milford is still hard on himself for the loss and takes it personally. When asked whether he felt like he had a decent match himself in the decider, his answer was stunning.
"Nah, for that reason we didn't come away with the trophy," he said.
NRL.com then asked if he replayed the game over in his head.
"Always," he said.
"If you ask any side that has lost a grand final they'd say the same, but they haven't lost the way we have ... ever."