No Revenge, No Redemption

by Warren Boland

The Broncos are looking to redeem themselves when they take on the Cowboys in the re-match of the 2015 Grand Final.  Nearly six months after Jonathon Thurston’s extra-time field goal snatched a thrilling grand final, the Broncos have the chance for revenge.

That is what reporters are telling us.

No doubt the Broncos are still hurting from that dramatic 17-16 defeat. The boisterous joy of the Cowboys was a devastating heart-breaker for the Broncs.

Will revenge be sweet?

Here is the hard truth: There is no revenge. There is no redemption, no antidote, no cure for the ache.

A win in the re-match might temporarily dull the sting. It might bury it until the next time it comes to mind.  The deep seated hurt of losing that unique 2015 Grand Final or any other grand final may ease but will never go away.

You can debate whether it’s worse to lose a grand final or never to make one.

In my first-grade NRL career we regularly made the finals but always fell short.

In 1980 I captained the Wests Magpies to the preliminary final where we were smashed by the Roosters. We had numerous players patched up with strapping and painkillers before the game and we played poorly. Easts ran all over us 41-5.

The hammering haunted me through the summer and there’s always a pang when I think of it. Our coach Roy Masters told me he had his black and white footy socks in  his top clothes drawer and every morning he would see them. Eventually he couldn’t stand it and moved them to his bottom drawer.

In 1982 the Magpies bowed out in the semi-finals beaten 11-7 by Easts. With Terry Lamb in full flight we finished strongly but ran out of time. Another jolt of regret – if only we had two more minutes……

It’s a long time ago – and they weren’t even grand finals – but it still gnaws.

Don’t think you have to play at the top level to feel it.

I remember the moment my Under 9 Marist Brothers Eastwood rugby union team lost our grand final in 1963 at the T.G. Millner Field. We were leading narrowly when a teammate threw a panicky pass which was intercepted near half-way.

I turned and gave chase and close to the try-line in desperation I dived from behind. With arms outstretched I just grabbed the back of  the Holy Cross Ryde boy’s shorts with the tips of my fingers. I clung on for a few milliseconds before he broke free and dived over for the winning try. I remember those milliseconds like a slow motion car crash.

School teams I played in went on to make, win and lose our share of grand finals. We won an Under 12 City of Sydney rugby championship at Woollahra Oval – I have a framed photo of the smiling team with the shield.

We suffered a close and bitter loss to Parramatta Marist in the Under 13 Grand Final at the back of the old Cumberland Oval. I recall the coach held an intense post-mortem the following week.

Pennants on my teenage bedroom wall flagged victories in Balmain District rugby league weight knock-outs. Small for my age, I was older than most, playing in the 4, 5 or 6 stone 7 divisions.

The district win qualified you for the State Rugby League Knockout at Moore Park. It was a long day if you kept winning and we only made it to the grand final once. Benefitting from the draw, our  opponents at the old Sydney Sports Ground played only three games to our five. I made an early break, ran 70 metres and was tackled just short of the line. That was it for me. I could barely lift my legs in the second half. We felt hard done by. No, cheated.

In the early 1970s in the University Cup, my Macquarie University team had some great battles with Alexander Mackie Teachers College. The way I remember it we had a penalty goal attempt to win a grand final but it missed. If only……

The Alexander Mackie coach was the long-time NSW Rugby League and referees administrator Eric Cox. They were a mighty fine team.

Moving to the big league, I had some luck. In my first year, at St George in 1974, we won the Under 23 premiership. In 1978 at Balmain we took the Reserve Grade Premiership. I can’t remember much about the grand finals at the SCG. but I know the celebrations lasted a long time.

You would think the happiness and satisfaction of winning a grand final would be equalled by the disappointment and regret of losing one. Maybe they are. It’s hard to measure and compare. I seem to recall the losses more vividly.

Nail-biting grand finals create heroes and villains. Jonathon Thurston’s winning field goal in 2015 cemented his status as a legend of the game.

The accolade is well deserved but what if the Cowboys had lost? Would J.T. be the villain for hitting the upright and missing the conversion after the siren. Or for dropping a ball in a tackle which led to a Jack Reed try just before half-time.

Thurston more than most can appreciate the fine line between pleasure and pain. He lost the 2005 Grand Final with North Queensland and they controversially failed to reach a couple of  “big dances” as he calls them.

Everyone moves on but those Broncos, so close but so far away in the memorable 2015 Grand Final, are not going to feel any better about it no matter how many times they beat the Cowboys.

Nor will a loss in Round Four 2016  diminish the glory and fond memories of October 4, 2015 for the Cowboys.




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