Dead last: Broncos ‘win’ first spoon in club’s history
It's official. The mighty Broncos - the NRL's richest club and the sporting pride of Queensland - are wooden spooners.
Brisbane's nightmare season ended with one final hellish script with strike weapon Kotoni Staggs suffering a suspected ACL tear as the Broncos crashed to dead last with a 32-16 derby loss to the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium.
Before 17,174 fans, the Broncos had every incentive to dispose of the Cowboys with retiring stalwart Darius Boyd playing his final game and Brisbane needing to win the XXXX derby to offload the wooden spoon to the Bulldogs.
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But in the ultimate humiliation, Brisbane wake today in the gutter with the first spoon in their 32-year history. They have gone from 1990s champs to NRL chumps.
Consider this: the Broncos won a paltry three games this season, lost 17 of their last 19 games, witnessed the demise of coaching dud Anthony Seibold and conceded a record 624 points with a woeful differential (-356).
It’s all happening at Suncorp. Retiring Darius Boyd has done a gender reveal by kicking a footy into the crowd. His pregnant wife is having a girl. I’ve seen it all.— Pete Badel (@badel_cmail) September 24, 2020
"It's extremely disappointing to get the wooden spoon," Broncos caretaker coach Peter Gentle said. "The table doesn't lie."
In a bumbling affair, the Broncos squandered a 12-0 lead to trail 16-12 at halftime before Cowboys duo Valentine Holmes and Scott Drinkwater carved up after the break to consign their fierce foes to the dreaded spoon.
Staggs' hopes of a NSW Origin debut have been dashed after the Broncos strike weapon collapsed in the opening minutes.
Starting at five-eighth, Staggs' left knee twisted badly as he attempted to tackle a Cowboys player, triggering an instant scream as he fell to the turf in agony.
If scans confirm an ACL tear, he will miss November's Origin series and could be wiped out of the 2021 season until May next year. "He will go for scans but it doesn't look good at all," Gentle said.
Darius Boyd has endured a nightmare final campaign but the retiring champion will never forget his 13th-minute bargeover try from dummy half in his farewell to rugby league.
The quality of his rugby league resume cannot be questioned. This clash was his 337th first-grade game, seeing Boyd finish ninth on the all-time list of NRL appearances.
Boyd fought to the last minute, running the ball with vigour, cleaning up grubbers and jumping into five-eighth in the second half as he tried to spark the Broncos. He didn't deserve this finish.
"This game doesn't change things for me," he said. "I have to apologise to the fans, it's been a challenging season.
"Today I was nervous. It felt like a grand final. It was my grand final. It's hard not to get upset but I'm grateful for this great game."
The first task of Brisbane's new coach must be fixing the Broncos' defensive structures next season.
The Broncos finished the 20-round campaign having leaked a whopping 624 points at an average of 31.2 per game - the first time any Brisbane team has conceded 600 points in a season.
Brisbane's tryline attitude, midfield defence and reads on the edges have been worryingly soft all year.
If the Broncos want to climb out of the cellar, they need to find some mongrel without the ball.
FELDT'S MAROON DREAM
North Queensland winger Kyle Feldt would be a shoe-in for Origin after Thursday's performance but his representative dream is in tatters after ruling himself out of Maroons contention to deal with a groin injury.
There's no denying he is Queensland's in-form winger at the moment and completely outshone his opposite number and Maroons incumbent Corey Oates on Thursday night.
Feldt has now notched up 19 tries for the season - a career best - and rocketed up to become the NRL's top tryscorer - two in front of Tigers winger David Nofoaluma.
Valentine Holmes faces a nervous wait at the judiciary after being penalised for a shoulder charge in the dying minutes of the game.
If found guilty, he could be ruled out of Origin through suspension.
Holmes was one of the Cowboys best on Thursday night - finishing the match with three try assists and 141 running metres - and would be a handy acquisition for the Maroons this year.
Now at the end of his comeback season, Holmes has started to find his feet back in the NRL.
The Cowboys became the first club to have a try overruled under the NRL's new experimental bunker rules and it would have been one for the highlight reel.
The NRL trialled a number of experimental rules in Thursday's Queensland derby in a bid to make the game more "freeflowing".
In the 23rd minute, Scott Drinkwater kicked from his own 10m line for a flying Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow who went on to score a length of the field try.
Awarded a try by the on-field referee, the Bunker overruled the decision after finding Tabuai-Fidow offside.
The experiment would have proved successful in the eyes of NRL hierarchy with Gus Gould even giving his approval of the new changes.
After 323 first grade games, Gavin Cooper finishes his NRL career with a winner.
The stalwart played more than 50 minutes of Thursday's Queensland derby and competed in every single minute.
At the 60 minute mark, Cooper was still leading the kick chase and making strong tackles in defence.
The 35-year-old also topped off his farewell match with a successful conversion just two and a half minutes out from fulltime.
Originally published as Dead last: Broncos 'win' first spoon in club's history