Brisbane miss NRL minor premiership
They came to farewell Justin Hodges but Brisbane also said goodbye to their NRL minor premiership hopes on Thursday night after suffering a 15-8 loss to Melbourne.
The Storm boosted their top-four chances by maintaining a remarkable five-game, six-year unbeaten Suncorp Stadium streak against Brisbane in front of 44,015 fans.
The return of Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt (cork) could not come soon enough for the finals-bound Broncos after debutant No.7 Ashley Taylor suffered a broken hand near halftime.
And in Hunt’s absence, Brisbane pivot Anthony Milford ran out with a target on his back and was manhandled throughout by a ruthless Storm.
In another worry for Brisbane, fullback Darius Boyd left the field with concussion in the 68th minute.
The night was meant to belong to 15-year veteran Hodges who will retire at season’s end.
Fans were allowed on the hallowed Suncorp Stadium turf after fulltime to pay tribute to the Brisbane skipper at a farewell ceremony to coincide with their last regular-season home game.
However, Melbourne were the ultimate party poopers and can secure a top-four finish if Manly upset Cronulla on Sunday.
Brisbane will finish second, gifting the Sydney Roosters their third straight minor premiership.
The Broncos will host third-placed North Queensland in the opening weekend of the finals after missing out on securing their first minor premiership since 2000.
Melbourne led 8-4 at halftime and eventually ran out three-tries-to-one winners with Storm centre Kurt Mann bagging a double.
Cooper Cronk kicked a 71st-minute field goal to put the visitors seven points clear.
Milford came under heavy treatment from the outset without his halves partner Hunt.
Brisbane opened the scoring when lock Ryan Hinchcliffe was penalised for a late hit on Milford after the Broncos’ pivot kicked the ball out on the full and Corey Parker nailed the two points on offer after nine minutes.
Taylor came off the field near halftime after suffering a compound finger fracture in a tackle.
Melbourne fullback Cameron Munster was a standout as he continued to shine in Billy Slater’s absence, notching 224m, one linebreak and a try assist.