A new Queensland derby will play out on Friday night when the Dolphins host the Brisbane Broncos, and rugby league fans could not have asked for a more perfect build up to the match.
Both teams are undefeated after their opening three rounds and sit in first and second place on the ladder – something no-one would have predicted before the season kicked off.
The Dolphins have so far defied the doubters who thought they would struggle to win a game this year, while the Broncos have started the season with a new lease on life, lighting up the field thanks to their exciting young talent.
The stage is definitely set for a big match at the Cauldron, with both teams calling Suncorp Stadium home.
On Friday night, fans will be welcomed to "Phinland" as it is a home game for the Dolphins, relegating the Broncos the ‘away’ sheds at the venue, something that has not really happened since the South Queensland Crushers days of 1995-1997.
The Broncos in turn have announced the side will run out in their new 'City Jersey' for the match, as part of the club's 'Heart of Brisbane' campaign, which was pointedly launched earlier this year.
Match: Dolphins v Broncos
Round 4 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett – who was at the helm of the Broncos during the Crushers era – spoke about the ‘natural’ rivalry that would build between the two sides and is already at a healthy level even before the teams meet.
“That’ll be just natural, it will be driven by the fans,” Bennett said during the pre-season.
“It’ll be two Brisbane clubs together, will be a bit like Manchester City and Manchester United and some of those competitions around the world that have that type of situation. I hope it is [like that] — I want it to be that way as there’s great interest.
“When the Crushers were here, we had 40-odd thousand people turn up when the Crushers played and they hadn’t even won a game at one stage... it’s good, it’s healthy.”
It will also be the first cross-town rivalry experience for a number of Dolphins players, including former Melbourne Storm duo Jesse Bromwich and Kenny Bromwich, who have never previously experienced an NRL derby match.
In-form forward Felise Kaufusi, another former Storm player, will be forced to wait for his opportunity, having had his suspension upheld by the NRL Judiciary.
“I am just soaking in the hype … two teams in one city, I’ve never been a part of something like that, but it’s something that I am looking forward to,” Kenny Bromwich said.
“You can feel the buzz around the place all over town that it’s going to be a big game and it’s something that we are excited for.”
Cross-town rivalry a first for Bromwich
While there has been a big build up to what has been dubbed the Battle for Brisbane, there is also a lot of respect between the two teams – just as there is with any of the Queensland derbies.
The North Queensland Cowboys host the Gold Coast Titans this round as well on Saturday afternoon, and when either of these two teams face the Broncos, it is a case of ‘little brother’ against ‘big brother’.
However, for many Brisbane-based rugby league fans, the match-up between the Broncos and the Dolphins is less about hate-filled rivalry, and more about embracing the excitement of seeing another team play in their city.
Petero Civoniceva, a former Redcliffe Dolphins junior who went on to win premierships with the Broncos, said he was thrilled to see another Brisbane team enter the competition.
“It's wonderful to see and as a guy that grew up at Redcliffe and still lives out there; to see the Dolphins in the in the NRL, it's really exciting,” Civoniceva said.
“I will say, I'm a proud Brisbane Broncos ambassador, so I’ll have mixed feelings (on game day), no doubt.
“But still, it’s going to be a wonderful occasion and I think to have two local teams going head-to-head, it's going to be a fantastic spectacle.
“(The Dolphins will be well supported), that fan base has been built up over the 70-odd years that the Dolphins have been in the Brisbane Rugby League and so there's a long and proud history there, for a lot of local people.
“I think for rugby league lovers, to see a new team, a new entity, coming into this year's competition, there's a lot of excitement.
“No doubt there's going to be a lot of support for them; whether they are the number one team – I am hearing stories of the Dolphins being the second team for a lot of people – it's exciting to see and can't wait to see how go this year.”
The Dolphins host Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium this Friday night and the two teams will meet again in Round 18 at the Gabba.