Sam Thaiday has identified the key lesson from the premiership-winning season of 2006 that the Brisbane Broncos can draw inspiration from as they target winning the title from outside the top four.
Ahead of the elimination final against the St George Illawarra Dragons on Sunday the veteran forward cast his mind back to the preliminary final against the Bulldogs in 2006 and a moment when all seemed lost, when Mad Monday beckoned and a season of hard work appeared set to go down the drain.
Canterbury led the Broncos 20-6 at half-time, Willie Mason was spruiking as he walked off that the Bulldogs were on their way to another grand final and the situation was dire.
"In the 2006 preliminary final we were down against the Bulldogs at half-time and our backs were well and truly against the wall,” Thaiday told NRL.com.
"We came out and blew them off the park in the second half and that was the moment we knew that we were going to go on and win the grand final the next week.
"The moment where all seems lost might come for us on Sunday, and if it does we have to turn up, play our best footy and seize the moment.
"There are chances and opportunities in any game, but now we are in the bottom four we have to play like every game is our last.”
That is what Brisbane did straight after the break in 2006 when Justin Hodges broke into the back field and found Shaun Berrigan who raced away to score and plant the ball over the line over his head, spreadeagled on his back. Brisbane did not look back from that moment.
Broncos legend Darren Lockyer, who captained the side to premiership glory the following week, recalled it as the ultimate "seize the moment" play.
"Outside of the Steve Renouf try in the 1992 grand final where Ricky Walford chases him, I reckon that Berrigan try is my all-time favourite Broncos try,” Lockyer told NRL.com.
“It was so significant. If that try wasn't scored we probably don't win that game or the premiership, because from that moment we went on a roll with momentum."
The Broncos have the "men for the moment" in the likes of Anthony Milford, James Roberts and Corey Oates to conjure up the freakish play to change games like Berrigan and Hodges did, but they are far from the only ones.
NRL.com columnist Steve Renouf said in a recent Podcast that powerhouse forward Tevita Pangai jnr had defined himself this season by coming up with decisive plays in the moments that decide games.
Pangai's tackle on Scott Bolton at the death of the round two win over the Cowboys that deflected the prop forward into the goal post pad was “a moment”.
There is symmetry between the 2018 and 2006 Broncos. There was inexperience in the backs and forwards back then, as there is today.
Thaiday was 21 and playing his 42nd NRL game in that 2006 preliminary final. Darius Boyd was 19 and playing his 26th game in the top flight. Ben Hannant was 21 and playing his 30th.
On Sunday Pngai (22 years old and 53 NRL games), 18-year-old forward David Fifita (10 NRL games) and 22-year-old super boot Jamayne Isaako (25 NRL games) are in the same boat.
"They have nothing to prove to anyone and have been fantastic in the roles they play for our team this year and are a huge reason why we are here,” Thaiday said.
"Tevita can be one of our key players in this finals series and going forward, and so can the likes of David Fifita and Jamayne.
"We get Andrew McCullough and hopefully Alex Glenn back and that will boost our team but we are in this position on the back of the young guys who have come in and done their jobs for the team."
That is why Thaiday insists the Broncos are as good a chance as any side to be celebrating on September 30.
"I think we can really shake things up in the finals for sure," Thaiday said.
"The whole competition this year has been anyone’s race and a brand new comp starts this week. We’re one of the lucky ones that gets to play in front of our home crowd and I think that is a huge advantage."
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