At 24-8 with 20 minutes to go, the script was already written for the Brisbane Broncos.
From winning the wooden spoon in 2020 to being on top of the rugby league mountain in the space of just three years is a reversal of fortune the likes of which you rarely see.
Unfortunately for them, in the NRL grand final of 2023, the remarkable comeback swung the other other way courtesy of a Nathan Cleary performance, the likes of which you’ve never seen.
Thank you so much for sticking with us last night and all through the season.
We’ve got plenty of exciting stuff coming on the ABC Sport website in the coming days, weeks and months, so hang around and we’ll see you then.
Another little moment I wanted to shout out belong to Jack Cogger, the unlikely hero for Penrith.
I think my esteemed colleague Nick Campton has more coming on him, but I just want to point out this moment.
When Jarome Luai went off, it felt treacherous for Penrith, but Cogger came off the bench and played a massive facilitating role for Nathan Cleary to weave his magic.
The above play showed it particularly well, getting the ball one out off the ruck, Cogger saw Kobe Hetherington sprint up out of the line and Cogger sprinted straight back at him before shaping to pass.
Cogger’s straight and fast running meant Pat Carrigan couldn’t get across in time, leaving Hetherington singled out against Cogger and forcing Kurt Capewell to show on a hard run from Moses Leota.
That left enough space out the back for Cleary to burst around Capewell, through the line and pass back to Leota to score the first try of the comeback.
A simple play executed perfectly by a man who knew his job.
Any Broncos fan that got ahead of themselves during that Mam run last night must have not watched or completely forgotten the 2020 grand final.
The Panthers trailed 26-0 inside the final half-hour and Cleary willed them to within one try. I think that was the night he realised he can do anything as long as there’s time on the clock.
If he fell in love with footy again in Brisbane, that game might have been enough to turn it to pure hatred.
He looked about as broken as anyone after the game last night and at Sydney Airport this morning.
Just a million-mile stare into the abyss.
He played well last night as he has done all season, but he was clearly hampered by that hip or groin injury in the 25th minute.
It slowed him down and definitely had an effect on his kicking game. I wouldn’t be surprised if it contributed to him missing Nathan Cleary for that final try.
Reynolds is 33 but he was sensational this year so there’s no reason to think he can’t be an elite halfback again in 2024.
- His current contract takes him through next year and I believe there are talks of an extension through 2025.
With all the injuries he’s had and the years that little body has been belted around, it’s hard to think he’d play much beyond that.
I don’t know if he’d be into it – he may want to go home to Sydney – but the Broncos should do their best to keep him around as an assistant coach whenever he does call time.