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Broncos awash in self-belief as they fly north

Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys and Sam Thaiday of the Broncos speak at a media call for NRL finals contenders.

Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys and Sam Thaiday of the Broncos speak at a media call for NRL finals contenders. Photo: Getty

It's blind faith, a brave face or steely belief. Perhaps an amalgam of all three. Anthony Griffin is either determined to inspire his Broncos with positive affirmation, or the Cowboys should be worried Brisbane really do have something up their sleeve.

Tonight's sudden-death semi-final in Townsville doesn't exactly put Brisbane in unfamiliar territory. In recent seasons, travelling to away finals with their backs firmly wedged against the wall has been a familiar jaunt.

They played the 2009 grand final qualifier in Melbourne without Peter Wallace, throwing Darren Lockyer into the foreign role of halfback, where he found he didn't speak the language. And last season, they travelled to Sydney without Lockyer at all to meet eventual premiers Manly.

Both of those matches ended with Brisbane on the wrong side of the ledger, but it had done little to dent the unshakeable confidence of a club with six premierships in the cabinet and soaring expectations for its playing staff, no matter how many Ls populate their recent form (six out of the past seven games).

Brisbane must again travel for a do-or-die game, although this time they aren't required to cross state lines. And again, the Broncos have been listed as outsiders while the Cowboys, guided by the indomitable Johnathan Thurston, are talked about as real threats for the NRL title.

Brisbane's laconic coach doesn't appear worried in the slightest. The doubt was coming from outside the club, Griffin said, and his playing group was ready and willing for a trip to Queensland's north, where league-mad Townsville is partying like the grand final has arrived early.

"I don't think we need any energising. I thought last week (against Penrith) was a tough game of footy. When we had to get out in the second half and score two or three tries we did to win the game," Griffin said.

"There's no lack of confidence and nobody's doubting their ability in our team. That's mainly coming from outside the changerooms here, not from us."

That's not exactly true. Over the past seven weeks, a number of Brisbane's players were on the record saying confidence had dipped as the losses piled higher. Griffin himself said the win over the Panthers was a messy one by a team still trying to regain its feet.

A three-try second half and a vital win has helped soothe the mood and the fact Griffin has the same squad for two consecutive weeks, a rarity for the post-Origin Broncos, has him bullish about the prospect of breaking hearts in Townsville.

He said the Cowboys may be the favourites but both sides entered the match on the same terms.

"We're both under pressure. We're both sudden death. We're both in the same spot. It's 80 minutes and we both finished in the bottom four. Everyone's on notice. Whether anyone rates us a chance, that's not our issue. We're not writing that, " Griffin said.

"It's a final. If you don't win, you don't stay alive. We need everyone to step up, the 17 of them. It's not about looking through the team sheet and seeing who's got experience and who's played Origin. Whoever plays the best on the night is going to win."

Even through a period of losses that had the Broncos in danger of missing the final altogether, the club relentlessly focused on the upsides, to the extent where Griffin maintains they were building towards the post-season even if they weren't winning games.

"We've been building nicely for a while," Griffin said.

"I thought we've been playing OK. We don't read the papers too much. We think we're combining pretty well.

"We're in the same position as the Cowboys for 80 minutes. You guys are the ones who have opinions on how good or bad we're going. We go about our business. We don't take it that seriously."

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