Like the majority of Brisbane Broncos fans, Gorden Tallis was sure they had it in the bag. Videos posted to social media on Monday captured the Brisbane legend's brutal reaction as his Broncos suffered the biggest collapse in NRL grand final history on Sunday night.
The Broncos took a 24-8 lead when Ezra Mam crossed for his third try in the 54th minute, and they seemingly had one hand on the premiership trophy. But Nathan Cleary produced one of the finest 20-minute bursts in grand final history to snatch a dramatic 26-24 victory for the Panthers.
The 16-point lead is the biggest ever coughed up in an NRL grand final, surpassing the 14 points the Dragons led by before losing the 1999 decider against Melbourne. For Broncos fans, it was ecstasy to absolute agony.
And no one epitomised it more than Tallis. The 50-year-old played 160 games for the Broncos, winning three premierships.
He was in attendance at Sunday night's game alongside a number or current and former players, including Willie Mason, Api Koroisau and Justin Horo. Mason and Horo's 'Levels Network' social media account posted a number of videos of how they were all reacting during the game - and it paints a brutal picture for Tallis. (Warning: The following videos contain NSFW language).
The 'Rampaging Bull' couldn't believe his eyes when Mam raced away to complete his hat-trick, telling the camera "Ezra Mam I want your babies". But what transpired left the Broncos legend crushed. A follow-up video shows Horo, Mason and Koroisau losing their minds after Penrith completed the comeback, with Tallis looking on in the background completely crestfallen.
Broncos to use pain of defeat as motivation in 2024
The Broncos are vowing to come back bigger and better after the crushing loss. In the dressing rooms after the game, fullback Reece Walsh was too distraught to speak - a sign of how much he cares.
"That 20 minutes at the start of the second half is the Broncos I know. We need to do that for 80," coach Kevin Walters said. "We are not there yet, but when we do we will win premierships. We are not far off. We are a lot closer now than we were 12 months ago.
"Once the dust settles, everyone in that room can be proud of where the club is now compared to where it was ... it is just remarkable. But we wanted to win the premiership this year, and that pisses us off."
Reminded of how the Panthers rebounded from losing the grand final in 2020, Brisbane hooker Billy Walters said: "We are going to have to. We don't want to make this loss for nothing.
"If we get another chance next year - which I think we might in the next couple of years with this young, skilful group – we are going to have to use it as motivation. It just sucks. We had that in our hands. It got taken away in the last three minutes."
Captain Adam Reynolds said the pain would drive Brisbane to go one better in 2024. "You never want to feel that way again so you can use that as motivation," he said. "We have got a good group of fellas in there that work hard every day and they want to get better every day."
Broncos legend Darren Lockyer compared it to the team's grand final loss to North Queensland in golden point extra time in 2015. "That was very cruel and I feel like this was even worse," he said. "In 2015, the game was still close and we lost it at the death.
"We had this in the bag. I feel for the players and coaching staff. They had it, it was right there, and to get it taken away from you like that is something you never forget."
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