2000 grand final rewind: Lockyer masterclass inspires Broncos

The bravery of Shane Webcke to play with a broken arm and a masterclass by fullback Darren Lockyer put the stamp on a decade of dominance by the Brisbane Broncos in their 14-6 win over the Sydney Roosters in the 2000 grand final.

The scoreline obscures how dominant the Broncos were in the decider with Roosters fullback Luke Phillips' brave defence at the back saving three certain tries on Brad Thorn, Lote Tuqiri and Wendell Sailor in the opening half.

NRL.com had a trip down memory lane chat to former Broncos coach Wayne Bennett at Red Hill several months ago when the conversation turned to the 2000 grand final.

Bennett said one of his standout memories of the game was second-rower Brad Thorn and centre Tonie Carroll pummelling the Roosters into submission.

It was a Thorn/Carroll double-act on Matt Sing that jarred the ball loose to set up the first try for the Broncos in the 17th minute.

From the scrum it went from Kevin Walters to Ben Ikin to Lockyer. The Broncos fullback accelerated, got outside the Roosters defence and gave an inside ball for Tuqiri to score.

The try was almost a carbon copy of one Justin Hodges scored six years later against Melbourne in the 2006 decider, also from a Lockyer inside ball.

What is often forgotten about the Broncos sides of the club's greatest era was their defensive steel. In their five grand final wins from 1992 until 2000 their opponents scored just six tries, and two of those were late consolation efforts.

The Roosters had to wait until the 71st minute to score, but the game was almost gone after Sailor had given the Broncos a 14-2 lead in the 56th minute following a weight of possession.

Wendell Sailor scores against the Roosters.
Wendell Sailor scores against the Roosters. ©NRL Photos

Veteran Michael Hancock, who won his fifth grand final for the Broncos coming off the bench in what was his 274th and last game for the club, said Sailor and Tuqiri were the Broncos trump cards on either wing. They were giants of men who both took their try scoring tallies to 18 for the season in the grand final.

"I didn't have the speed of those two at that stage and you look at the size of both of them, it was deadest like having two extra forwards," Hancock told NRL.com.

"To have Locky making his runs from fullback, then Wendell and Lote taking a few hit-ups, you could be back on your 40-metre line before you even knew it, and that was a massive advantage. I felt privileged to play with them."

Webcke's courageous display in the decider is entrenched in Broncos folklore.

A special cast had been made for his left arm after he broke it badly against St George Illawarra in round 24. Webcke should have been out for 12 weeks, but returned a month later in the preliminary final against the Eels, before backing up in the grand final win over the Roosters.

Bennett desperately wanted Webcke to play in those final two games and the warhorse prop was of the same mind.

"I'd tasted it [grand final victory] twice before and I desperately wanted to be part of it again. I did anything and everything that anyone suggested," Webcke told Rugby League Week in 2013.

"I had a hole cut in the cast for this bloke to put a machine in that delivered ultrasonic rays. I even started drinking more milk. I left no stone unturned."

Hancock said having Webcke on the field by his side was always a reassurance that victory was at hand.

"Webby put self-preservation out the window and was giving us that go-forward until the final minute," Hancock said.

"If he had broken his arm in the first 10 minutes people might have said 'that was selfish' but that wasn't him. He just didn't want to let us down.

"You always felt safe having him in the team, broken arm or not."

While it was the end of an era for the Broncos, it was the start of one for the Roosters. It was 20 years since they had appeared in a grand final but 2000 was the first of four grand finals they would contest in five years.

"It was a good stepping stone for us and two years later we were able to win the grand final under Ricky Stuart," Roosters utility Craig Wing told NRL.com.

The play of the day

In such a low-scoring game it was a tackle in the fourth minute by Lockyer that in hindsight was vital in the outcome. Roosters centre Shannon Hegarty seemed certain to score until Lockyer came across and in a show of immense strength and determination forced Hegarty to lose the ball over the line.

"A couple of years ago there was only one weakness in Darren Lockyer's game… his goal line defence. Not so any more," Peter Sterling said in commentary after the tackle.

"Last week we saw him come up with a beauty on the line against Parramatta, and that was a cracker."

The quote

"Did I make a difference to the final outcome? Probably not. But I got to win another premiership," Brisbane Broncos prop Shane Webcke said.

"Whenever I was injured, I just so desperately wanted to be part of everything I could at that club. Once I got a taste of it, it was like reading a good book. I couldn't put it down.

"The broken arm scenario has been played into a bit of folklore, but it wasn't that dramatic."

Shane Webcke after the 2000 grand final.
Shane Webcke after the 2000 grand final. ©NRL Photos

Best player

 It was Lockyer's third grand final win playing as a fullback and one where he stamped his class as one of the game's all-time greats.

A constant threat with his running game, he also loomed in support of his ball players throughout and would have scored in the first half had an Ikin pass not been ruled forward.

His probing left-foot kicks found ground and he was rock solid in the last line of defence.

In the decisive moments, Lockyer delivered, and was a worthy winner of the Clive Churchill Medal.

"We had a lot of leaders in that team and Locky was one of them with his communication and talk at the back," Hancock said.

"He gave the last pass for Lote's try and when the team needed something he delivered. He was a superstar.

"Locky was always underrated for his defence. I think he was a better defender at fullback than five-eighth simply because he had to be."

Unsung hero

In the wake of Allan Langer's initial retirement in 1999 it was left to five-eighth Ikin to partner Walters in the halves in 2000 and he did a stellar job in the decider.

Ikin laid on a suite of exquisite passes to his ball runners and took the line on himself on many occasions where he was a constant threat.

He also copped a late, high shot immediately after half-time and spent time on the bench but bravely returned.

Hancock said Ikin was the perfect foil for captain Walters and the ultimate team man who could be relied on to unlock the attacking weapons the Broncos had at their disposal.

"Ben wasn't a self-promoter and didn't like to put himself up in lights. He just did his job," Hancock said.

"He had a great running game and an outstanding kicking game and was a big part of us having success that year."

What-if-moment

There were probably two moments for the Roosters. The Hegarty no-try at the start was one. Then Craig Fitzgibbon scored in the 71st minute and had a conversion attempt three metres in from touch to reduce the margin to six points.

Fitzgibbon had landed 10 from 10 in the finals series up to that point but on this occasion his attempt agonisingly hit the cross-bar.

"That is what separates grand finals from any other game, apart from Origin, in that they just come down to moments," Wing said.

"You can always say 'what if this' and 'what if that'.

"One of the pleasing things in that game for us, even though we lost, was that we came home strong. I feel deep down in my heart that if that game had gone for another 15 minutes we would have got over the top of them. I know I had a lot left in the tank and a lot of other guys did too."

Brad Fittler after the 2000 grand final.
Brad Fittler after the 2000 grand final. ©NRL Photos

Recollections of a champion

Michael Hancock (five-time Broncos premiership winner)

"When you look at the players we had from 1992 until 2000 it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Hancock.

"We were blessed to be able to have and retain such fantastic players. With that comes expectation and pressure but Wayne was really good at combating that for us.

"I knew the 2000 grand final was going to be my last game for the Broncos and coming off the bench is what I call 'stress-free football'. That year I played just about everywhere, including halfback on one occasion.

"In the grand final I came on at back-row and my role was to bring enthusiasm.

"Everyone said it was a boring game but it wasn't for me because I got a grand final ring. Sometimes you can go out and razzle dazzle. Other times you battle through.

"I thought it was a fitting end, especially for the guys who had been there a long time like Kevvie Walters. He'd been through some hardships in his life and that win was icing on the cake."

Recollections of a runner-up

Craig Wing (Sydney Roosters)

"We had a lot of young guys at the time who got a lot out of that grand final like myself and Anthony Minichiello and our senior guys became real senior guys," Wing said.

"Freddy was always Freddy but Luke Ricketson and Bryan Fletcher were our real leaders through that early 2000s period.

"We probably felt like we were lucky to get to the grand final whereas the Broncos in their minds felt they deserved to be there.

"They say you have to lose one to win one and that was certainly the case for us. From 2000 onwards we felt like we were a grand final team.

"Graham Murray did a good job of pulling us together somewhat but the real change came when Ricky Stuart came in 2002. We trained so much harder and became the benchmark for fitness and toughness in the NRL, which is why we made those three grand finals in a row."