Australia enjoyed a blockbuster weekend of sport across three football codes but there is no question which game will etch itself in the nation’s memory.
The North Queensland Cowboys’ victory over the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL grand final will be remembered as one of the great Australian sporting stories.
It was everything team sports should be about. Heart. Individual brilliance. Payoff for the training, commitment, and belief among fans and players.
A victory that will live for the ages because the team that won simply never gave up.
In the other codes, the AFL grand final was a one-sided affair with Hawthorn thrashing West Coast by more than 50 points. The rugby was somewhat more engaging, with the Wallabies surprising possibly even themselves in their crushing win over England to knock the host nation out of the World Cup in the first round.
But the NRL was special. A high-tempo game was capped by a sensational last-gasp try, a conversion attempt that came off the upright, and the ensuing a golden-point scramble nailed by the hero of the night, Johnathan Thurston.
As the full-time siren approached you have been comfortable with the Broncos taking out the trophy. Having established a four-point lead they had taken everything the Cowboys could throw at them.
Everything, that is, but that last desperate combination from Thurston, Michael Morgan, and Kyle Feldt.
Thurston was moving backwards after a scrappy pass and as Brisbane defenders rushed him he finally offloaded to Morgan who steamed for the corner. He was caught a matter of metres from the tryline but delivered the ball off the very tips of his fingers to Feldt who seemed to come from nowhere to pick up the pass and plant it in the corner.
Thurston’s missed conversion attempt was heartbreaking but his redemption would be just minutes away. He slotted home the winning field goal.
Already many are calling it perhaps the greatest grand final ever played.
The sensational climax of the season comes at an important point for the NRL as a business, after it renegotiated its TV rights and moved more games onto free-to-air on Channel 9 in a deal that has put it in a difficult position with Foxtel. This morning The Australian reported that News Corp has deferred talks over future TV arrangements with the NRL.
Last night’s thriller – and the guaranteed sustained interest there will now be in the Cowboys’ title defence next year – brings a new dynamic to the rights negotiations.
Here are some of the photos of the thriller night for Thurston and his team.
Thurston led the Cowboys out at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
The crucial moment: on the buzzer, Kyle Feldt plants the ball in the corner after a miracle run by Michael Morgan, set up by Thurston, to leave the score tied at 16-all.
Agonisingly, Thurston’s conversion attempt from the sideline hit the upright. To golden point.
After a couple of failed attempts to set up for the drop goal, Thurston finally found himself in the pocket with some space and had a crack…
… and landed it.
He was mobbed by his team-mates…
… and then mobbed some more. What a moment.
A bloodied Thurston went straight to see his family.
The Clive Churchill Medal for man of the match was only ever going to one guy.
Finally! After 20 years, the North Queensland Cowboys lift the Provan-Summons trophy.
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