2015 grand final rewind: How Cowboys created history

It is arguably the greatest grand final in the history of rugby league, a tight contest from start to finish, unbelievable drama in the final minute and then a few minutes more after Johnathan Thurston's potential match-winning conversion hit the upright.

The first grand final to be decided by golden point extra time, the 2015 decider will remain forever iconic courtesy of the wobbly field goal from the right boot of Johnathan Thurston which sealed the 17-16 triumph over Brisbane at ANZ Stadium.

It kick-started frenzied celebrations for North Queensland as the club collected its first premiership trophy and signalled Brisbane's first loss in a grand final after their six previous appearances all ended in success.

The Broncos got off to an early start thanks to an Anthony Milford pass to Jack Reed, who sent Corey Oates over for the first try of the night.

The Cowboys struck back shortly after courtesy of Jake Granville's work from dummy half to Justin O'Neill, who brought the Cowboys within two points.

Granville again proved his worth when he found James Tamou at first receiver, the big man spinning over to give the Cowboys the lead.

It didn't last long as the Broncos pounced on a loose ball for Reed to put the favourites back in the lead at half-time.

A penalty goal for the Broncos in the second half was the only points until the dying seconds when Kyle Feldt scored in the corner off a Michael Morgan flick pass.

Thurston missed the conversion, but when Ben Hunt dropped the ball off the kick-off, the Cowboys halfback made no mistake, and slotted the field goal to secure the Cowboys' first premiership.

"When Kyle Feldt scored I was on the bench and I was so excited," Cowboys forward Ben Hannant told NRL.com.

"I was on my feet. Then when JT struck the ball for the conversion he couldn't have struck it any better. I was 100 per cent sure we had won the grand final, but he struck it so well and was going so fast it didn't have time to curl around.

"Golden point just typified JT. You give him two opportunities...he might miss one but he was never going to miss the next one. He definitely made the most of his next opportunity."

Johnathan Thurston kicks the winning field goal.
Johnathan Thurston kicks the winning field goal. ©NRL Photos

Best player

Thurston won the Clive Churchill Medal - he was cool under pressure throughout the match, engineering the late fightback, including his desperate pass to send the ball wide for Morgan in the dying seconds of the match, as well as for his match-winning play of kicking the decisive field goal.

The unsung hero

Anthony Milford was perhaps the best player on the field for the majority of the match, setting up the Broncos' first try and worrying the Cowboys all night. Unfortunately his potency waned as the Cowboys' forwards began to dominate late in the game.

Play of the day

It's hard to choose between Morgan's flick pass to Feldt, or Thurston's field goal, but in the end Thurston wouldn't have had the chance to win the match with his boot if not for his halves partner's brilliance in the 80th minute when he accelerated into a half gap, drew two defenders and put the ball on a platter for Feldt to touch down.

"We were at that stage where the clock was counting down and every second that went past made you realise it was over for us, but you still had that glimmer of hope," Hannant said.

Kyle Feldt scores on the full-time siren.
Kyle Feldt scores on the full-time siren. ©NRL Photos

"JT was bouncing around with the ball and there was no opportunity for him, and then he passed it. Then you are thinking 'oh no, JT doesn't have the ball now, nothing will happen'. But what Michael Morgan was able to do, having thought about it and gone over it in my mind over and over again, was something incredible.

"He is left-handed and to be able to run across the field like that and get outside of players, then under fatigue, switch the ball from his predominant hand to his right and throw that thread-the-needle pass for Kyle Feldt to score down that touchline ... it was just meant to be. There is no other way to describe it or explain it.

"It was just that never-say-die spirit. So many times that year we had been behind in games and won them on the buzzer. That was the attitude we had all year."

The what-if moment

The fingernail-destroying closeness of this match can be defined by the number of these moments.
What if the Broncos had tackled Thurston or Morgan before they got the ball away? What if Feldt doesn't strip the ball from Hunt as the Broncos make a late charge up the field? What if Hunt catches the kick-off in extra time? What if Thurston misses the field goal? There were so many incidents in the last few minutes which could that could have shifted the game either side's way.

Michael Morgan conjured up the late try for Kyle Feldt.
Michael Morgan conjured up the late try for Kyle Feldt. ©NRL Photos

The quote

Speaking on the closeness of the game, and the fashion in which the Cowboys won it, coach Paul Green said: "It's probably fitting." In the context of a season where the Cowboys won several games in late comebacks or extra time, the fact that their grand final win was a nail-biter was somewhat poetic.

Recollections of a champion

Ben Hannant

"That 2015 grand final will stand the test of time. It was nine years between drinks for me after winning in 2006 with the Broncos so I took in the whole week and the whole night of that grand final experience.

"The first one you are in, you don't know any different and you don't know how hard it is to get into one.

"I had six kids in 2015 and I was able to share that whole experience with them. After the game what meant the most to me was being on the field with all six kids and my wife, holding the trophy and getting a photo together.

Cowboys players swamp Johnathan Thurston after the victory.
Cowboys players swamp Johnathan Thurston after the victory. ©NRL Photos

"I was playing against my old team as well, who I had just spent four years with and worked so hard with to win a premiership, so it was mixed emotions at the end of the game. Twelve months before I was trying to win a comp with those guys and I could see them, devastated on their haunches, after losing the biggest game of their lives."

Recollections of a runner-up

Sam Thaiday

"I was lucky enough to play in two grand finals and win one. I'll never complain about losing 2015 because I was lucky enough to win one in 2006. I was only 21 at the time when we won in 2006 and as a young bloke you just expect to play in more. Shows hard it is to even make one the fact I had to wait another nine years.

"I just remember the whole week and build up was fantastic in 2006. It can fly past if you don't sit back and enjoy it and that's the advice I tried to give the young boys in 2015."

The year after

The Cowboys would go down to eventual premiers Cronulla in the grand final qualifier after a stellar year in which they won 11 of their 12 home games to finish fourth on the ladder.

The Broncos were early-season favourites for the premiership, but finished fifth and were eliminated in week two of the finals by the Cowboys.