HIGHLY decorated ex-player Brent Tate can smell an all-Queensland NRL grand final, which would create a piece of rugby league history.
The recently retired centre/winger believes his first NRL club, Brisbane, and his last club, North Queensland, will face off in Sunday week's grand final in Sydney.
While he agrees with many experts who say the best four teams in the competition have made it to this weekend's preliminary finals, the former Queensland and Australian star says he has "a strong feeling" the grand final will be an all-Queensland affair.
Tate played 114 games for Brisbane - where he was part of Wayne Bennett's 2006 grand final-winning side - and the last 67 of his 229 NRL games for North Queensland, where he battled a career-threatening neck injury and came back from three knee reconstructions.
Still employed by the Cowboys, he admits to having loyalties to both clubs.
"I'm still here at the Cowboys, but I love both clubs and I am very proud of both clubs," Tate told APN.
"It's a flip of the coin between all four clubs left - they were the best four clubs all season - but I believe it will be a Brisbane-Cowboys grand final showdown in Sydney and both teams look ready to win."
He added that if North Queensland front-row bookends Matt Scott and James Tamou played like they did against Cronulla last weekend, and got a big contribution from bulldozing lock Jason Taumalolo, "it could be their year".
"When those two big boys (Scott and Tamou) and Taumalolo get going, there's not too many teams who can stop that," Tate said.
He also said the addition of hooker Jake Granville and fullback Lachlan Coote, and the rise to prominence of Michael Morgan had all contributed to halfback Johnathan Thurston having his best season at the club.
"Those guys have given the Cowboys a different point of attack and made it easier for JT to do what he does," Tate said. "He's probably having the best year he's ever had.
"He's probably played at the same level, but he's been ridiculously good with those players around him."
Tate, who played 23 games for Queensland and 26 for Australia, many alongside Thurston, said he agreed with increasing talk the Cowboys playmaker could take over Wally Lewis's mantle as Queensland's best player.
"It's a fair argument," he said.
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