Even in an unconscious state, dual international Mat Rogers was enthralled by the first and only finals instalment of the Titans-Broncos rivalry.
Brisbane won a thriller, 40-32, that night in the NRL qualifying final at Robina in 2009 but Rogers missed the final play.
He was being treated for concussion when Bronco Dave Taylor scored to finish the home team’s comeback and put the match beyond the Titans’ reach, while Titans officials were yelling to get the referees’ attention and have play halted.
Even so, Rogers relished those battles and formed a deep appreciation of what the rivalry between the rugby league neighbours meant to the club and its supporters.
“It was really full-on in those days and I remember the games being a lot of fun,” Rogers said.
“As a footballer you want to play on the big stage and you want to test yourself against the best and the Broncos were a very proud club who were always there or thereabouts.
“When you’re the new kid, you want to let your mates down the road know they’re not the only people in town.”
Some of the individual battles of that era were the stuff of dreams.
Rogers, Preston Campbell, Scott Prince, Luke Bailey and Ashley Harrison were just a few of the Titans’ standard bearers.
In the visitors’ dressing room were the likes of Karmichael Hunt, Darren Lockyer, Peter Wallace, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker.
“I don’t remember them being fun,” quipped Harrison. “They might have been fun at fullback or on the wing.
“They were always tough games.
“They had a lot of respect which they’d earned over the years. We want to get some of that respect for ourselves and I think we managed that.”
The rivalry was never bitter, according to Rogers and Harrison.
Too many players from each camp had served together in the same representative teams so the respect was mutual.
The head-to-head tally was 3-3 before that 2009 qualifying final, a sign that the Titans, on paper at least, had rapidly built a team capable of pushing Queensland’s glamour club.
“You want to know you can trust the person next to you. And we had that,” Rogers said. “If you’ve got that, you only have to worry about your job.
“If it breaks down, that comes about because a lack of trust in the blokes next to you.
“Looking back, we had a core group with an immense amount of trust in each other.”
The Broncos led 28-10 at half-time after five tries after Preston Campbell had opened the scoring with a neat try for the Titans. Broncos halfback Peter Wallace put hooker Andrew McCullough across the line then two Wallace cross-field kicks produced tries for Israel Folau who scored a hat-trick on the night.
Titans coach John Cartwright was ropable that, before awarding the second try, Folau wasn’t penalised for steamrolling Chris Walker.
The Titans fought back to 34-32 in an absolute thrilling second half. It began with Kevin Gordon latching onto a loose pass from Wallace and running 95 metres to score. Brad Meyers crossed six minute later against his former team, from a Nathan Fiend pass, and Gordon scored his second try to bring the score back to 30-26.
Folau scored his third try after intercepting a Luke Bailey pass and running 40 metres to make it 34-26 but the Titans would not relent, and winger David Mead crossed from a Scott Prince kick, and Prince’s conversion made it a two-point ball-game with plenty of time on the clock for a Titans’ victory.
However, with five minutes to go future Titan forward Dave Taylor intercepted a Prince pass and ran 34 metres to seal the game for the Broncos. However, Rogers was down concussed at the time and the Titans felt the game should have been halted.
Assistant coach Trevor Gillmeister was on the field screaming at referees Ben Cummins and Ashley Klein to stop the match but to no avail.
“I was at them about stopping the game because Mat Rogers was out cold,” Titans trainer Trevor Gillmeister said. “He just kept playing. I was dirty because at least he would have been there to make a tackle or attempt a tackle. It was another minute-and-a-half after [Rogers went down] that they kept on playing.”
Despite the entertaining win, the Broncos (who finished sixth on the ladder) were knocked out in the preliminary final against Melbourne.
The Titans, who had finished third, were eliminated 27-2 the following week by the Eels.
Players in tonight’s match who were part of that 2009 encounter are David Mead, Nathan Friend (Titans) plus Andrew McCullough, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker, Alex Glenn and Josh McGuire (Broncos).
BRONCOS 40 (Israel Folau 3, Andrew McCullough, Jharal Yow Yeh, Darren Lockyer, Dave Taylor tries; Corey Parker 6 goals) d TITANS 32 (David Mead 2, Kevin Gordon 2, Preston Campbell, Brad Meyers tries; Scott Prince 4 goals) at Skilled Park. Crowd: 27,227.
Gold Coast Titans: 1 Preston Campbell, 2 Kevin Gordon, 3 Jordan Atkins, 4 Brett Delaney, 5 David Mead, 6 Mat Rogers, 7 Scott Prince (capt), 8 Luke Bailey (capt), 9 Nathan Friend, 10 Matthew White, 11 Anthony Laffranchi, 12 Mark Minichiello, 13 Ashley Harrison. Reserves: 14 Michael Henderson, 15 Brad Meyers, 16 Sam Tagataese, 17 Josh Graham. Coach: John Cartwright.
Brisbane Broncos: 1 Karmichael Hunt, 2 Antonio Winterstein, 3 Israel Folau, 4 Justin Hodges, 5 Jharal Yow Yeh, 6 Darren Lockyer (capt), 7 Peter Wallace, 8 Nick Kenny, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Dave Taylor, 11 Tonie Carroll, 12 Sam Thaiday, 13 Corey Parker. Reserves: 14 Lagi Setu, 15 Alex Glenn, 16 Ashton Sims, 17 Josh McGuire. Coach: Ivan Henjak.