Sam’s got the Mad Monday blues
SAM Thaiday's spectacular NRL career went up in flames on Sunday after the Dragons burnt Brisbane's season in a Suncorp Stadium boilover.
Thaiday will celebrate the final Mad Monday of his 16-season career and vacate his post as the Broncos' most popular player after Brisbane was thrashed 48-18 by St George Illawarra yesterday.
"It's bittersweet. It's been a fantastic journey but obviously not the way we wanted to finish the year," he said.
"When that siren went I was flooded with emotions. I'm going to miss playing for the Broncos next year and being out there with the boys, but I'm going to be a huge part of this club going forward."
Amid the array of spicy narratives in the sudden death elimination final, it was hard to miss the emotion surrounding Thaiday as 47,296 packed the grandstands for his farewell.
Thaiday arrived at the Broncos as a chubby teenager from Townsville and there were times when the kid from the Torres Strait wondered if he had the work ethic to go the distance at Queensland's flagship sporting club.
But 16 years later, Thaiday has endured. At 33 years and 89 days, Thaiday was at the heart of the finals battle yesterday, charging into the Dragons defensive line in his 304th top-grade game.
Unfortunately for Thaiday, his dreams of a fairytale premiership farewell disintegrated at the hands of St George Illawarra.
It was almost 25 years to the day that Broncos halfback great Allan Langer famously declared "Saints can't play" after the 1993 grand final.
That sentiment swirled around Suncorp yesterday, with the spluttering Dragons given almost no hope of halting Brisbane's late-season surge.
The Dragons hadn't won in Brisbane since 2009, ironically when Broncos coach Wayne Bennett was at the helm of St George Illawarra.
Bennett, 68, was in his favoured Broncos coaches box yesterday hoping to conjure one of his greatest achievements in leading Brisbane from sixth on the ladder all the way to the September 30 grand final.
He fell three weeks short.
Bennett now has eight weeks to prepare for what shapes as his 26th and final season as Broncos coach.
He needed a miracle to have any hope of coaching the Broncos beyond 2019 and that miracle did not arrive yesterday.
There is even a chance the man to lead Brisbane to all six of the club's premierships may not be at Red Hill next season.
For the first 20 minutes it looked like Bennett and the Broncos were on their way to ANZ Stadium on Saturday to face the Rabbitohs in week two of the finals after they bounced out to a 10-2 lead.
But the Dragons, led superbly by former Broncos junior Tariq Sims, had something to say about that.
Sims blew Brisbane, and younger brother Korbin, away with a three-try blitz and the Dragons continued their surge despite a brief second-half resurgence from the Broncos.
The Broncos should have taken inspiration from what was an historic occasion at Suncorp yesterday. The longstanding rivalry between the Broncos and Dragons had a fresh dimension when their respective female teams traded blows in the opening round of the inaugural women's NRL premiership.
Brisbane drew first blood, with a masterclass by hooker Brittany Breayley spearheading the Broncos' 30-4 rout of the Dragons as an impressive 18,853 fans filed in to watch the curtain raiser.
But Brisbane's men couldn't mimic their clubmates' effort as former Broncos halfback Ben Hunt came back to haunt the club.
Hunt was booed when his face flashed up on the big screens and even Dragons fans jeered when kick-offs floated his way following his infamous 2015 grand final drop.
But it was Hunt and his Dragons that had the last laugh as St George Illawarra ensured Brisbane's search for a seventh premiership enters a 13th season, the longest drought in the club's rich 30-year history.