With everything to play for at Kogarah, the Broncos barely put themselves in the contest before Ben Hunt and Mat Feagai performed the last rites on a horror end to 2022 for Brisbane.
Canberra had entered the weekend believing they would need to beat Wests Tigers on Sunday to wrap up their top-eight spot.
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But with Brisbane’s collapse, the Raiders will now face Melbourne in an elimination final next Saturday unless they somehow lose by 54 points to the last-placed Tigers.
The result also means Broncos will become the first team since Canberra in 1999 to miss the finals with a winning record.
Brisbane only have themselves to blame.
They sat in the top four as recently as round 19, but have since won just one of six games and conceded an average of 35 points per match.
In turn, they are now the only team since to fall from the top four so late in the season to out of the finals since the NRL introduced a top-eight system in 1995.
“That’s been the last five weeks, one setback after another,” dejected Brisbane coach Kevin Walters said.
“We just couldn’t get off the canvas.
“We lacked the effort and discipline in the last five weeks that’s required.
“We had that effort and discipline for the first 20 weeks. And then we just let it go.”
It was a bunch of former Broncos who sealed the longest finals drought in the club’s history.
Of the six ex-Brisbane players in the Dragons side, Jack Bird scored the game’s first try before Hunt starred.
In another reminder of why his contract extension beyond 2023 is so crucial, the halfback kicked a 40-20 in the lead up to one first-half try and skipped free to put Cody Ramsey over for another.
He also pulled off a crucial last-ditch tackle on Zac Hosking with 13 minutes to play to keep a 16-12 lead intact, before putting Feagai into the clear from 50 metres as he bumped off seven defenders to put the match beyond doubt.
No player has won the Dally M outright without making the finals since Danny Buderus in 2004, but Hunt led when votes went behind closed doors and is every chance to take it out.
But coach Anthony Griffin said it would be more than justified.
“There’s nowhere to hide in the NRL and he’s been outstanding,” Griffin said.
“He’s been outstanding individually, he’s been outstanding as a leader for our club.”
In comparison to Hunt’s brilliance, Brisbane’s attack was poor throughout as they coughed up the ball on three first-half attacking raids and then struggled to show any bite in the second half.
Te Maire Martin showed moments of danger at the back before copping a knock, while Pat Carrigan ran 181 metres on return from suspension.
And even after Billy Walters also managed to get the game back to 16-12 with 20 minutes to play, there was never enough spark to threaten a late Broncos miracle.