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Who would have won the 1997 Telecom Bowl?

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FatsDontCrack new author
Roar Rookie
9th February, 2019
22

In 1997, as we know, the Australian rugby league scene was a divided wasteland with two professional opposing competitions taking place.

The Optus Australian rugby league season run by the ARL up against the newly formed Telstra Super League Cup run by the News Limited-owned Super League. This meant that for the first time in Australian rugby league history two premiership winners were crowned with legitimate claim to being the best side in the country.

Unfortunately, due to each factions’ pure hatred of the other and a lot of other yahoos, these teams never faced off against each other. Who would have won, who has the most legitimate claim to the 1997 season?

Loyalists will tell you it’s the Andrew Johns-led Knights team and Broncos fans will tell you otherwise. Let’s settle it once and for all now and face them off against each other.

Brisbane Broncos 1997 season statistics
Ladder: 1st, 29 Points
Games Played: 18 (Won 14, Drew 1, Lost 3)
Points For: 481 (26.72ppg)
Points Against: 283 (15.72ppg)
Points Differential: +198

Form
The Broncos had a strong run of late-season form winning their last six matches crowning them Minor Premiers with two rounds to spare, having held onto the first position since Round 5. In the finals, the Broncos had to face up to just two matches, with both against the Cronulla Sharks.

In the first match The Broncos crushed the second place Sharks 34-2 with the game all over at halftime 30-2 before cruising to victory. Two weeks later they would face up again, this time in Brisbane in front of nearly 118,000 heads at QEII Stadium. Again the Broncos proved to be too good and following a 55th minute try giving them a two-score lead they were never really headed winning 26-8.

Newcastle Knights 1997 season statistics
Ladder: 2nd, 29 Points
Games: Played: 22 (Won 14, Drew 1, Lost 7)
Points For: 512 (23.27ppg)
Points Against: 320 (14.55ppg)
Points Differential: +192

Form
Knights entered the finals on the back of five straight victories and carried that into the first week of the finals overcoming the Eels 28-20. In Week 2’s pointless game seemingly there for practice, they came up well short ahead of future grand final opponents the Sea Eagles 27-12. The following week they ran out 17-12 victors over Jason Taylor’s Bears to book themselves a place in the big dance.

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In a classic Optus Cup clash, remembered mostly for Andrew Johns’ short side raid to slip Darren Albert through with seven seconds left, the Knights came back from a 16-8 deficit to claim the title 22-16.

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The Telecom Bowl
The Telecom Bowl, so named after the major sponsors of each competition, would have pitted the Knights up against the Broncos. Representing the Telstra Division, the Brisbane Broncos and for Optus, the Newcastle Knights. Assuming everyone backs up and the Knights toned down their postseason parties, the teams for the Bowl would have been as follows:

Broncos
Fullback: Darren Lockyer
Wing: 18 Michael De Vere
Centre: 3 Steve Renouf
Centre: 4 Anthony Mundine
Wing: 5 Wendell Sailor
Five Eight: 6 Kevin Walters
Halfback: 7 Allan Langer ©
Prop: 10 Brad Thorn
Hooker: 23 Andrew Gee
Prop: 21 Shane Webcke
Second Row: 11 Gorden Tallis
Second Row: 12 Peter Ryan
Lock: 13 Darren Smith
Interchange: 15 Tonie Carroll
Interchange: 9 John Plath
Interchange: 2 Michael Hancock
Interchange: 16 Ben Walker
Coach: Wayne Bennett

Knights
Fullback: 1 Robbie O’Davis
Wing: 2 Darren Albert
Centre: 3 Adam MacDougall
Centre: 4 Owen Craigie
Wing: 5 Mark Hughes
Five Eight: 6 Matthew Johns
Halfback: 7 Andrew Johns
Prop: 8 Tony Butterfield
Hooker: 9 Bill Peden
Prop: 10 Paul Harragon ©
Second Row: 11 Wayne Richards
Second Row: 12 Adam Muir
Lock: 13 Marc Glanville
Interchange: 15 Troy Fletcher
Interchange: 16 Scott Conley
Interchange: 19 Steve Crowe
Interchange: 18 Lee Jackson
Coach: Malcolm Reilly

So, who would win? The bowl would have been played the week following the Knights’ win on Sunday the 5th of October, meaning the Broncos have had a two-week break to clear niggles, although this means they’ve played just two games in nearly six weeks before the Telecom Bowl meaning rustiness could be an issue.

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Really though, all it comes down to, is the coach and his players and what we see here is a match-up of the locally talented Knights outfit verse the well-oiled star-studded Broncos juggernaut. This Broncos side was dominant and would have kept the Knights attack well in control with their staunch defence and their backline would have dominated the Knights backline, with the forwards battle being even.

The saving grace for their Knights would have been their pluckiness, but the Broncos would have run out winners by 12+. 8/10 times the Broncos would have won in my books, with the other two times relying on an Andrew Johns masterclass to pull them over the line.

Your 1997 Telecom Bowl champions: the Brisbane Broncos.