Thanks to XXXX, Platinum Sponsor of the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys
Settle in, put the feet up and crack open a XXXX on Derby Day, this Friday.
It's a Queensland ritual that just about everyone in the Sunshine State can relate to, and for good reason. Whether you're on the Broncos bandwagon or the Cowboys cheer squad, the XXXX Derby delivers. Every time.
Over 24 seasons, the Cowboys and the Broncos have given us 50 games to remember - and with XXXX getting on board 25 years ago, we've been there every step of the way. It's everything Queensland stands for; after going at it hammer and tongs for 80 minutes, players from both sides come together, shake hands and chew the fat over an icy-cold beer. That much has never changed.
But the story of this epic clash - probably the only 'local derby' in world sport involving teams based 1,300km apart - has had its share of twists and turns. It was 1994 when XXXX teamed up with both clubs: the Brisbane Broncos, already two-time premiership winners and a glowing Queensland success story in their first seven seasons; and the North Queensland Cowboys, a long-awaited addition to the league who’d got the green light to play in 1995. Yep, we took on the Cowboys a year before they even existed, and we’ve seen plenty of monster battles ever since.
You could cut the Townsville air with a knife in April '95 when the Cowboys lined up against their southern neighbours for the first time. The locals, far from a team of superstars, were yet to notch up their first win, while the visitors boasted all the big names Queenslanders had come to know and love. The Cowboys held their own that night, but were eventually outmuscled to the tune of 20-12. Big Brother had beaten Little Brother - and one of Rugby League's greatest rivalries was born.
What followed was one of the most dominant streaks the game has seen; over the course of almost a decade, the Broncos were invincible when they butted heads with their XXXX brothers. Apart from a couple of draws, the men from up north had little to show for their first 16 derbies, until fate landed them in a do-or-die semi-final in 2004. Originally to be played in Sydney, the teams' first finals meeting was shifted to Townsville - where a massive local crowd, XXXX in hand, got to watch their team get up for the first time.
In the 33 games since, it's been a pretty even playing field. Even when the Broncos won the comp in ’06, they couldn't beat their northern foes, while Brissy took the chocolates in one of the best finals matches ever in 2015. Of course, that thriller would be topped when they met again just three weeks later.
The first and only all-Queensland Grand Final was reason to celebrate in itself four short years ago, but there was no love lost in what we reckon is the greatest decider of all time. Trailing 16-12 for most of the second half, Townsville's own Kyle Feldt was the hero in the dying seconds as the Cowboys drew level. When the legendary JT slotted an extra-time field goal minutes later, he clinched the Cowboys' first title and brought grown men to tears.
That night marked the first of four-straight derbies decided by one point, as both teams took the clash to an even greater level – and in 2018, the stakes were raised again. We officially brought in the XXXX Derby Trophy, cut from the same wood used in the original Castlemaine Perkins Brewery, giving the Broncos and Cowboys an even greater reason to win. That trophy shared hands last season, with each team enjoying a four-point win in the two hit-outs.
When the ref calls time on one of the most bruising encounters in Aussie sport, you'd better hope you have the tools to wash it down - and we've been there since Derby Day One. For every try, every hit, all the cheers and all the tears, there's been a XXXX GOLD patiently waiting on the sideline. When it's picked up and cracked open, fierce rivals become great mates once again.
Until next time.