Queensland finally rises to the top at club level

Mal Meninga's Maroons have been dominating State of Origin for so long it was surprising it took until 2015 for the first all-Queensland NRL grand final.

The big question now is: Can the Cowboys and Broncos repeat the dose next season?

The grand finalists have already been installed joint-favourites to take the title in 2016, although the Cowboys would have to buck history to go back-to-back. The Broncos were the last team to do that back in 1992-93.

APN's rugby league expert WAYNE HEMING completes his review of the 2015 NRL season with a look at the teams that finished in positions 1-4 on the ladder.

BIG SHOES: Jackson Hastings has been doing a fine job filling in for Mitchell Pearce at No.7.
BIG SHOES: Jackson Hastings has been doing a fine job filling in for Mitchell Pearce at No.7. GETTY IMAGES

 ROOSTERS (18-6 1st):
The Roosters were the best team for 26 weeks for the third year in a row, but suffered two telling injury blows close to the finals with aggressive front-rower Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (ACL) and halfback Mitchell Pearce (hamstring) effectively playing no part in the play-offs. Coach Trent Robinson will have to re-fashion his side in 2016 with playmaker James Maloney (Sharks) and brilliant fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors) both cleaning out their lockers. Young Jackson Hastings showed he was NRL class when he filled in for Pearce, while Blake Ferguson could take over at the back. Will be desperate to at least make the grand final next season.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Anthony Milford of the Broncos looks to pass during the round 26 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium on September 3, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Anthony Milford of the Broncos looks to pass during the round 26 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium on September 3, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images) Bradley Kanaris

 BRISBANE (17-7 2nd):
Nobody expected Brisbane to be in the decider, least of all the man who got them there, master coach Wayne Bennett. They were flogged by 30 points at home by South Sydney in the first game of the season, but by round 26 were probably the most consistent side in the comp. There's no doubt the Broncos over-achieved, thanks largely to the combination of young halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford, plus Adam Blair's efforts in the front row. With emerging stars Corey Oates and Jordan Kahu likely to improve, not to mention Hunt and Milford, plus the return of prop Josh McGuire (Achilles), expect the Broncos to be in the thick of things in 2016.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 04: Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys runs the ball during the 2015 NRL Grand Final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys at ANZ Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 04: Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys runs the ball during the 2015 NRL Grand Final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys at ANZ Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) Getty Images

 NORTH QUEENSLAND (17-7 3rd):
The Cowboys lost their opening three games, then won 11 in a row to justify their early-season favouritism. Despite late-season losses to the Sharks and Storm, they were always a chance to go all the way thanks largely to one man - Johnathan Thurston. He wasn't the only ace in the pack, however. Test and Origin front-rowers Matt Scott and James Tamou, plus playmakers Lachlan Coote, Michael Morgan and Jake Granville were also crucial. Can they repeat the dose with no major personnel changes in 2016? Why not? But it won't be easy, just ask the last the 21 sides that won the premiership.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 29: Cameron Munster of the Storm is tackled during the round 25 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys at AAMI Park on August 29, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 29: Cameron Munster of the Storm is tackled during the round 25 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys at AAMI Park on August 29, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images) Robert Prezioso

 MELBOURNE: (14-10 4th):
Perennial finalists who defied the odds and the critics to finish top four despite losing champion fullback Billy Slater to a shoulder injury after Origin. His replacement, 21-year-old Cameron Munster, averaged 179m in his 14 games and was one of the finds of 2015. Coach Craig Bellamy fielded one of his youngest sides ever - notwithstanding stars Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk being on the wrong side of 30 - and will be confident the team can improve next season. This year showed you can never write off a Bellamy-coached team.
 


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