BY CURTIS WOODWARD
There is always something special about Brisbane against Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium. An electricity throughout the city – the Eels are in town and the NRL is officially back.
The Broncos are a powerhouse club but they have always considered Parramatta worthy adversaries.
Tonight at Lang Park, atop the old North Brisbane Cemetery, rugby league is back from the dead.
There’ll be no fans – no heaving mass. Instead of a sold-out crowd of 50,000, we’ll just have to settle for 26 men whistling through the graveyard.
Hit by hit, every try, every sledge – our game rises from the dirt like it has a thousand times before.
Why shouldn’t it be the Broncos and Eels to get us back underway?
Their rivalry is underrated and often lost in the shuffle.
Remember back in 1993 when the Broncos moved away from the old Suncorp Stadium and opened up shop across town at QE II?
This celebration for the defending premiers was meant to be a cakewalk against the cellar-dwelling Eels.
Nobody told Mick Cronin’s boys as Michael Buettner scored a try and kicked four goals to hand the unlikely visitors a shock 12-8 win in front of 51,517 Broncos supporters.
When coach Brian Smith took over at Parramatta in 1997, he brought with him a burning desire to beat Wayne Bennett. Smith’s Dragons went down in consecutive grand finals in 1992 and 1993 respectively to Bennett. Smith loved the challenge. Bennett loved beating Smith’s teams.
There’s the infamous ‘tip sheet’ incident prior to the ’93 decider and Allan Langer’s “St George can’t play” sing-a-long post-match.
“I was cranky with him [Bennett] about the stuff that went on in the lead-up to and post the 1993 grand final,” Smith told The Daily Telegraph in 2010.
“It caused a lot of aggravation for my family and the people around me.
“I was entitled to be mad about it. The tip sheet and ‘St George can’t play’ stuff. All that stuff.
“Not all of it came directly out of Wayne’s mouth. But I felt I was entitled to be mad about it. He was entitled to go along with it.”
In 2001 and seemingly on an unbeatable run to the premiership trophy, Parramatta knocked the Broncos out in the preliminary final.
A year later, Brisbane returned the favour.
What about recent history?
In 2017 Parramatta scored the fastest try in NRL history when they crossed after just 13 seconds on a Friday night at Suncorp.
Just last year the Broncos snatched a classic 17-16 golden point win over the Eels which guaranteed Brisbane a spot in the finals only for them to play the Eels a few weeks later at BankWest and receive one of the great hidings we’ve ever seen in September.
Every game of rugby league is personal but there’s just a little more spice when Brisbane and Parramatta come together.