Three seasons ago in September, the Brisbane Broncos were celebrating 'Mad Monday', having claimed their inaugural Wooden Spoon.
Three years on, the Brisbane Broncos are 80 minutes away from making the Grand Final for the first time since their loss to the North Queensland Cowboys in what is regarded as one of the greatest Grand Final of all time.
In front of 50,197 fans, the Broncos produced a masterclass on both sides of the field in attack and defence. Their attack saw them lay down 26 points with tries to Kotoni Staggs, Reece Walsh, Jordan Riki and Selwyn Cobbo.
Whilst on the defensive end they limited the Storm to zero points, an event that has only ever happened twice before in the finals.
"I thought it was a pretty scratchy game. Both teams failed to get any real flow in the game, and I don't think they attacked our line too much at all. We had good field position, but our defence is something we have worked hard in from way back in November last year and it's starting to come together," Walters said.
"Tonight I thought that was the best we have defended. That was our first nil scoreline of the year."
"That [keeping them to zero] was the most pleasing thing. And you can see the resolve amongst our players at halftime. There was few things we needed to fix with our attack but our defence was really good. The Storm can score points, so it was really important we kept defending the way we did," Walters said.
— NRL (@NRL) September 8, 2023
The 26-0 victory saw skipper Adam Reynolds have a great captain's knock. Entering the game as one of two players with Grand Final experience along with Kurt Capewell, the halfback has been a revelation this season and transformed Brisbane into one of the best attacking sides of the competition.
Whilst it may have been an easy victory at the end, Kevin Walters admitted that it was a hard, challenging game, giving his opponent credit for the way they played.
"It wasn't a great spectacle as such, but it was a good, hard tough footy game and we haven't won one like that in a long time," Walters added.
"The Storm had their issues with injury and concussion so we aren't getting too carried away with ourselves.
"I haven't thought about it too much. I'll get together with the staff and the senior players to work out a plan in the next couple of days [for the next fortnight].
"This is very exciting though. We got through tonight and got through injury free as well. A prelim here is gold for Brisbane."
After the game on Friday evening, Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy boasted that he believes the Broncos have all the making to go on a deep run into the NRL finals and could very well walk away as 2023 Premiers.
"Without a doubt [Brisbane can go all the way]. I've said that, and I don't know if people believe me, but the Broncos and Penrith have been well ahead of all the other teams form what I have seen," Bellamy said.
"September is a new competition as well. I'm not quite sure where that came from for us tonight, but sometimes a team like the Broncos or Penrith can do that as well.
"If they [Brisbane] won last week, they were minor premiers. You've had a pretty good year when you're there."
"Their attack is there real strong point, but the biggest change this year has been their defence," Bellamy said.
"They semeed to disrupt us tonight. I think that's the area they have improved most.
"Reynolds hasn't been there for a little bit either, but I thought he made a massive difference tonight. Some of his defensive plays tonight were outstanding."