Broncos owe powerhouse Petero a fitting farewell
Petero Civoniceva in action during NRL Round 16. AAP Image/Action Photographics
Are Brisbane fielding draught horses or bucking broncos? We’ll find out when everything is on the line against the Penrith Panthers at Suncorp tonight, in what could be Petero Civoniceva’s last NRL game.
Six straight losses, for a team that was running second for a good part of the season, is a weird statistic, but the last three against Manly, Melbourne and Canterbury have been close-run games, suggesting that Brisbane is about to hit a patch of form.
Brisbane’s creativity – especially in their attacking quarter – has been lamentable for the past couple of months, but some key backline changes this week will trigger an enormous change for the better. Corey Norman is dangerous at five-eighth, Josh Hoffman is a lethal spearhead from his favourite fullback position and the talented Dale Copley makes a timely return from a leg fracture.
I’m tipping a Bronco win over unpredictable Penrith tonight, and it would not surprise if they get rolling and wreak some havoc in the finals series.
This team has the talent to romp from eighth spot right through to the grand final. The Brisbane defence tightened considerably in recent games against the title heavyweights, and if they can regain their old try-scoring flair they may well become the wild card in the finals pack.
Emotion will provide huge assistance for coach Anthony Griffin as he prepares his team for battle. More than 40,000 Brisbane faithful will be on hand to give warhorse prop Civoniceva a rousing home ground farewell.
The 36-year-old forward is nearing the end of a magnificent career, which deserves to be celebrated in finals football. If Brisbane falls down tonight, Suncorp will have the mood of a funeral parlour at full time.
Civoniceva this week received one of his greatest accolades from legendary South Sydney hard man, John Sattler. “He is the toughest player of his time,” Satts told The Courier Mail. “He is the goods.
“A lot of players today think they are tough, until they come up against Petero. He just wears his opponents down and runs over the top of them over the period of a game.
“He’s a bloody tough player. There has been some very tough forwards over the years. John O’Neill my old front row partner was tough, as was John Wittenberg and Kevin Ryan.
“When I say toughness, I don’t mean in terms of belting somebody. I mean someone who can take punishment and just back up, week after week, without complaining.
“Petero doesn’t talk it up, he just plays tough. That sorts the men from the boys and he’s the man for me.”
Sattler, who famously played 70 minutes of a grand final with a shattered jaw, said Civoniceva would have been just as dominant during league’s blood and guts era of the 1960s and 1970s.
“I wouldn’t have minded playing with Petero,” Sattler continued. “I think we would have had fun playing together.”
With lofty praise such as that, the Brisbane players should take a good look at their 36-year-old teammate before they run out tonight.
This giant of a man is already an all-time great of their club, with nigh on 250 games for the Broncos, and his achievements should warrant an extra-special effort from each one of them from now until their 2012 race is run.
Anything less would be an insult.