The Roar
The Roar


The battle for Brisbane no one saw coming: Undefeated Queensland teams in a derby of unexpected importance

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Roar Guru
22nd March, 2023

So here we are.

Anyone who predicted that the Broncos and Dolphins would be undefeated heading into their Round 4 showdown either has access to a time machine or some substances that are not readily available through official channels.

I’m sure the NRL and Dolphins hierarchy would both have hoped to gain a foothold in Brisbane’s collective consciousness over time. I’d say a few optimists even hoped for a close to capacity crowd for the clash. Yet Suncorp has sold out quicker than for a regular Origin fixture.

The Dolphins have sold out their second home game in a row. Wayne Bennett is making carefully thought out and well directed comments. Kevvie Walters is resurrecting his patented “Don’t mention the other team” line from his Origin coaching days.

The Broncos are studiously pretending that this week has no significance, while coincidentally releasing a special jersey for the clash, showing Brisbane landmarks. It’s an obvious message to the league world, “This is our city”. The Dolphins have gratefully accepted the free publicity for their home game.

So here we are.

Brisbane have put together a squad with a backline built for supreme entertainment and a pack of young forwards still a few years away from what could be a set of unstoppable prime years. It is all led by the Redfern Ringmaster, the king of field position and two point drop goals.

The coach is in a happy place, far from the indignity of having to defend his coaching qualifications against that master strategist Tyson Gamble.


Where are their weaknesses? Maybe a less than top level dummy half thanks to ‘Bring your kid to work’ week. But even that is a stretch because Billy Walters is playing at a very high level right now, tackling everything, making generally smart run or pass decisions and frankly showing his team what commitment over freakish skill looks like.

Maybe an inexperienced number six? But Ezra Mam is purring like a jungle cat now that his game has been stripped down to three basic rules; let Reynolds kick it, follow Reece Walsh everywhere and run like the blazes.

Ezra Mam has starred for the Broncos early in 2023. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Brisbane don’t look very beatable right now, particularly at home, which is where they will be even though they won’t be.

And yet, here we are.

The Dolphins are here with a bang. Memberships are selling fast, car stickers are being sighted all over Brisbane, the merchandise store on Redcliffe Parade is unable to keep up with demand as vanilla Cokes proudly parade through the streets.

They are the talk of the town. At least of Redcliffe town. And maybe Caboolture town, definitely Sandgate town, probably North Lakes and Kallangur town, possibly Sunshine Coast town, and definitely Central Queeensland after they lent the Capras Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford.


Are they the talk of Brisbane town? Quite possibly. The less Wayne Bennett says, the more others talk.

Where earlier I asked of the Bronco’s weaknesses, now I find myself asking what are the Dolphins’ strengths? It’s a key difference I would think. A key strength is experience, in coaching, in fitness, in the forward pack and in leadership.

Captain Bromwich is set for game 299 and in the other Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi, Mark Nicholls and Jarrod Wallace they have a group that will not be easily overawed or overrun. Plus they have Shorncliffe’s own Tom Gilbert at his peak, which is turning out to be quite a sight.

Felise Kaufusi is a big out for the Dolphins in Round 4. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

However, no matter how hard you squint, the backline still looks like players that other clubs didn’t fight to keep. Ezra Mam is getting a real time tutorial from Adam Reynolds. Isaiya Katoa is getting his from journeyman Sean O’Sullivan.

Three of the back five have played for the Broncos and failed to hold down a first grade spot. One other is a second rower. Brenko Lee could start running now and he still won’t catch Reece Walsh on Friday.

And yet, here we are.


Three from three. Tesi Nui has played possibly his third ever game on the wing, scored a hat-trick and run for 230 metres. The Hammer is yet to miss out on a try this season. O’Sullivan’s game management and kicking has been, dare I say it, Reynolds-like. Jamayne Isaako doesn’t look miserable. I think that Bennett bloke might be able to coach a bit, I’ll have to ask Tyson.

So, here we are.

From commencing in February 1947 and being known as the Shellgrit (if you’ve been to a beach in Redcliffe you will know why), to joining the Brisbane Rugby League in 1960 as the Seagulls, to Beetson and Yow-Yeh in 1965, to finding The Dolphins nickname in 1968, to three grand final losses in each of the 1970’s and 1980’s, to building Dolphin Oval on the site of an old dump (bits of tyres and even an old car bonnet came up through the ground on the oval in its early years), to bloody Mick Reardon in 1981, to eight Queensland Cup Premierships between 1994 and 2018.

From the first great signing, Australian fullback Ken McCrohon to Greg Oliphant making a Kangaroo Tour in 1978 and local legends barely known outside of Brisbane like Ian Harken, Bob Gehrke, Ian “Bunny” Pearce, Tony Obst, Peter Leis, Bob Jones (the current chairman was a tough hooker in his day), Ian Thinee, Steve Bullow, “Chicken Legs” Steve Bleakley and the elegantly named Forrester Grayson.

To Queensland legends who passed through the peninsula on their way to greatness like Wally “Gator” Fullerton-Smith, Mitch Brennan, Mark “Muppet” Murray, Bryan Neibling, Tony Currie, Greg “The Turtle” Conescu, Dave Brown, Chris “Choppy” Close, John Ribot, Brent Tate and Petero Civoneciva. (Sure, Redcliffe bought most of those players from other teams, they were the silvertails of the Brisbane competition after all).

Momentum, mission and a base to stand on. Here we are.


I fully expect The Broncos to have too many guns on Friday night. I don’t mind, I’ve followed them passionately since 1988 and I have room for two loves in my life. Make that five loves – sorry wife and two kids.

I’d say it will be close to a point and then that magic Bronco backline will tip the balance late. You can’t beat pace. Not when your ammunition is the blinding speed of Brenko Lee and Euan Aitken. Jeremy-Marshall King is still a week away and at the time of writing Felise Kaufusi will be watching form the stands.

And yet, here we are.