Brisbane legend Kerrod Walters has backed his former club to defy history and win this year’s premiership from fifth place, emulating the Broncos’ unprecedented feat of 1993 in the process.
“I think they can win it,” Walters told Commentary Box Sports.
“They’ve had an up and down year, but I just think when they’re at their best they’re going to be hard to beat.
“I remember in ’93 we had to come from fifth to do it, sudden-death, but each week we just found something and we won it.”
Along with twin brother Kevin, and brilliant skipper Allan Langer, hooker Kerrod was a linchpin of defending champs’ incredible charge through the playoffs.
A final-round loss to archrivals St George consigned the Broncos to a fifth-place finish in the five-team finals series, with only two competition points separating them from minor premiers Canterbury.
But Brisbane’s big-game class came to the fore as they blew away Manly (36-10) and Canberra (30-12) in the first two weeks of the playoffs, before outlasting the Bulldogs 23-16 in a classic preliminary final and subduing the Dragons 14-6 in a dour grand final.
In securing back-to-back titles, the Wayne Bennett-coached Broncos became the first team in history to win the premiership from fifth spot.
It’s only been achieved once during the eight-team finals era – when the Bulldogs made an unlikely charge from sixth in 1995 – but a further eight teams have reached the grand final from outside the top four since.
Walters believes the current Broncos crop has the ability to go all the way, despite the looming spectre of two obvious heavyweight hurdles.
“The Melbourne Storm are the benchmark at the moment, and this weekend is a great test against the Cowboys up in Townsville,” he says.
“But if they can win that one, who knows.”
— The81stMinute (@The81stMinute) July 11, 2016
Foundation Bronco Walters, who played 183 games for the club along with six Origins for Queensland and eight Tests for Australia, is on the board of the Sunshine Coast Falcons, who are treading a similar tightrope through the InTrust Super Cup finals.
“The Falcons are in the same position, they finished fifth and it’s been sudden-death each week.
“They beat PNG Hunters up in Port Moresby, they beat Townsville (Blackhawks) in Townsville, and this week they’ve got Redcliffe in Redcliffe.
“If we win that, we’re in the grand final.”
Vantage Homes SC Falcons win 18 – 12 over the Townsville Blackhawks!!!
We are 80 mins away from the Grand Final!! https://t.co/toU1qi2N7Y
— SC Falcons (@SC_Falcons) September 10, 2016
The Falcons’ watershed 2016 campaign is the culmination of an incredible turnaround for the previously struggling club, which suffered a record 36-match losing streak that mercifully came to an end late in the 2014 season – Walters’ first year on the board.
“The first year I was involved we won one game, the second year we won seven and this year we won 12, so it’s been a massive improvement.”
Former Maroons Origin stalwart Chris Flannery has overseen the Falcons’ revival as CEO, while Sunshine Coast local Walters credited a feeder club arrangement with the Melbourne Storm and the coaching staff with reversing the ailing club’s fortunes.
“The involvement with the Melbourne Storm, that’s been a major factor in that (turnaround), getting quality players week in, week out,” Walters enthuses.
“But also the new coach, Craig Ingebrigtsen, has done a fantastic job as well.
“It’s great for the Sunshine Coast to have a team that the area can be proud of, and a team players actually want to play for.”
Walters will be hoping he has two teams to cheer for on NRL grand final day at ANZ Stadium, with the Falcons two wins away from the State Championship (against the winner of the NSW InTrust Super Premiership) and the Broncos two victories away from reaching their second consecutive decider.
Stay tuned next week for our Sounding the Siren profile on Kerrod Walters, as one of the Broncos’ greatest-ever players recounts his illustrious career in an extensive interview.