Oates: Finals pain never leaves you
ONE second. One play.
That's what finals football teaches you - that one moment can be the difference between winning a premiership and walking off with a broken heart.
Every second, every play counts.
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For many of us at the Broncos, the hurt is still there. The hurt from the 2015 grand final, a gut-wrenching defeat that inflicted a pain that seems to deepen with every year that passes without us making it back to the big dance.
That grand final loss to the Cowboys was a lesson I will never forget. Of that team, there are seven survivors who will play in Sunday's elimination final against the Eels - Anthony Milford, Darius Boyd, Joe Ofahengaue, Matt Gillett, Alex Glenn, Andrew McCullough and yours truly.
That night of heartbreak should also be motivation for our younger guys when they run on to Bankwest Stadium.
You can't waste your chances in finals. I was in my third season with the Broncos in 2015. I thought, 'Surely we will be back again'.
Now I'm in my seventh year and we haven't been back to the NRL grand final.
I still don't have a premiership ring.
With the competition being as a competitive as it is now, I feel it's getting harder and harder just to make the finals, let alone win the premiership.
At the time, I didn't stew over our grand final loss so much, but now, four years on, the pain lingers.
It really does hurt me.
In fact, I think it hurts more now than it did in 2015. Every year is like more salt to the wound. It's also like fuel to motivate you to want to fight back and play for a premiership.
I still have vivid memories of that night. I thought we had it. I could picture us holding the premiership. Inside, you start daring to dream.
Then I remember seeing Michael Morgan rushing towards our side. It happened so fast. One big blur.
I thought he actually got through, so I started to rush infield thinking I had to stop him. That left Kyle Feldt open, unmarked on the wing, and when I saw him get the ball, time stood still.
I wanted to hit the rewind button. Instead, I could only watch him score. Darius fell to the floor like he'd been shot.
I couldn't believe it was all happening.
When Johnathan Thurston kicked the winning field goal in extra-time, every part of my body caved in. I remember looking to the dark night sky and thinking how on earth did that just happen.
All the weeks of work. The pre-season torture you go through. It all came to nothing.
One second, one play.
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The shed was just pure devastation. It was so quiet. Eerie. You could hear a pin drop. It was like shellshock. It took a while for the boys to start talking to one another. It showed just how much it hurt.
That's the memory, and motivation, the more senior guys will take into Sunday's final against the Eels.
Just the other day, our coach, Anthony Seibold, challenged the bigger names at the Broncos to lead the way. Blokes like myself, 'Darbs' and 'Gillo'. I agree with him.
We know what the speed, intensity and aggression is like and we have to show the way and hope the rookies like Payne Haas come with us.
Our mood is fine. What we dished up against the Bulldogs last week in our 30-14 loss wasn't up to our standards. We know our energy and intensity was below par.
But I'm still very confident in the team and the players we have to take us beyond week one of the finals.
We know we have given ourselves a hard path. It's a tough challenge playing from eighth spot but the young guys have a few games under their belt now and know what it's like in the NRL.
We have to realise what's at stake - if we lose, we're done, the season is over. We have a maximum of four games to go, so it's not a massive ask to expect the group to lift for the last month.
Expectation is always high at the Broncos, but you know that the minute you set foot in the club.
Being at this club and the history that the Broncos have, the expectation is high with the facilities we have. The pressure is building.
I am confident we can break the premiership drought, we have a really talented roster, but right now we need to get past Parramatta and hopefully pin our ears back for a finals charge.