How ‘healed’ Broncos can rebound from 2023 GF nightmare

Joel Gould |

Brisbane prop Payne Haas was devastated after the 2023 grand final loss to Penrith.
Brisbane prop Payne Haas was devastated after the 2023 grand final loss to Penrith.

Brisbane players have spoken of using the gut-wrenching emotions of losing last year’s NRL grand final to go one better this season but that is easier said than done.

The 26-24 loss to Penrith came after they gave up a premiership record 16-point lead in a decider.

In the 2015 grand final the Broncos led against North Queensland with one second remaining in normal time, only to lose 17-16 in golden point.

None of the players in that Brisbane side have played in an NRL grand final since and several remained haunted by it for years.

In 2018 former Broncos No.6 Anthony Milford was asked if he still thought about the heartbreaking loss.

“Always mate, always,” he said.

“I am still filthy about that game. There are heaps of things I could have, should have … I don’t know if I can let it go. I try to, but it just keeps coming back.”

Last year in the week leading into the grand final AAP asked ex-Broncos prop Jarrod Wallace, now with Milford at the Dolphins, how he reflected on the loss.

“I was haunted by it for a long time. There were lots of sleepless nights,” he said.

Current Broncos squad member Corey Oates is the last survivor of the 2015 grand final still left at the club. He was left sprawled on the turf when North Queensland’s Kyle Feldt scored a last-ditch try to take the decider into golden point.

Late last year Oates said playing in, and winning, a premiership decider, still drove him.

“It’s been a long time since that (2015) grand final,” he said.

“You always look at that stuff and say, ‘what if?’ But you have to get back there to give yourself another chance.” 

Oates was left out of Brisbane’s grand final side in 2023 and didn’t get the opportunity to return to the biggest stage. 

This week in Los Angeles, Broncos No.1 Reece Walsh referred to last year’s loss as “an open wound” that would serve as inspiration to go one better this year.

The players have reviewed the last 20 minutes of the grand final where they collapsed in a heap. 

“It was gut wrenching. I have never felt heartbreak like that before,” second-rower Jordan Riki said of the review.

“It was genuinely one of those things where you half felt sick. For us to sit down as a team, I thought it was a healing session for us. 

“In that last 20 minutes we went away from Broncos style footy which is exciting footy and turning up for each other in defence but we are willing to do whatever it takes to get back there. 

“The end of last year still kills us and we have still got that burning fire. We want to prove a point.”

Broncos legend Steve Renouf won all four grand finals he played in with the club and has no doubt the side can bounce back in 2024, starting with the round one clash with Sydney Roosters in Las Vegas.

“If they can get a win in the first game that can wipe away the memory of the grand final and they’ll get on with the season,” Renouf told AAP.

“I am very confident the Broncos will make the top four again. They learned how to win semi-finals last year. When they get back on the big stage they can draw on that. 

“We should have won in 2015 and 2023. I was at both grand finals and it was shattering, but I only see positives going forward for this team.”