Thursday 14 December 2017 / 11:30 AM

Uncharted Waters For The Brisbane Broncos

Since Tom Drydale, Bill Hunter, Barry Maranta, Gary Balkin, Paul Morgan and Steve Williams (left to right above) officially injected the Brisbane Broncos into the NSWRL competition in the late 1980’s, the club and their extended family have never experienced such a non-defining epoch. That is until now.

Of course some of the following legends had their careers overlap, yet the changing of the guards throughout each era was quite evident. It began with Wally Lewis and Gene Miles. Then Allen Langer and the Walters brother steered the ship. Next Michael Hancock, Steve ‘The Pearl’ Renouf, Andrew Gee and Peter Ryan enforce the Broncos reputation. Afterwards it was Wendell Sailor, Gorden Tallis and Brad Thorn’s turn to lead Brisbane. Following that, Tonie Carroll, Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva welcomed the club into the new millennium. And finally Darren Lockyer’s career came to an end in 2011 after 16 years in the drivers seat. (Ahh, oh Darren).

So what era are we in now? A bloody punishing one.

I’ve been a devoted Broncos supporter since the Power’s days (for a short period I believed that Power’s was a electrical company), but it’s no secret that Broncos fans are now witnessing new and unfamiliar territory.

Gone are the days of consistent wins, back-to-back premierships, and players oozing with so much confidence they release a rap cassette.

1992 – Bronco Rap: Allen Langer, Kevin & Kerrod Walters

When supporting any club or franchise you’re often confronted with concerns, but historically for the Broncos their ladder position has rarely been the point of that discussion. Mostly their complications were generated from some off-field stupidities, injuries, or positional debates. Why did Julian O’Neill use the blackjack table as a urinal? Would the charismatic Raging Bull (Gorden Tallis) recapture his glory days after the neck injury? Should Lockyer move back to fullback after switching to 5/8 to finish his illustrious career?

Perhaps Brisbane followers are guilty of been too compassionate in recent times. The wheels have been falling off since just before Lockyer’s retirement, yet we’ve given our teams management the benefit of every decision; even if it’s a horrible one.

For most seasons, our major fear was simple; would the Broncos secure a home final? These days, uncertainties are manifested around whether or not the Broncos and their mascot Buck will even make the finals.

The 18-26 loss to Newcastle last Friday night has crushed their 2013 finals hopes. Which means twice out of the last four campaigns, the Broncos have failed to lace up their boots after round 26. A disheartening statistic, especially when you consider Brisbane’s impressive feat of 18 successive finals appearances from 1992-2009. I don’t want to drum on, but there is also that significant detail, that Broncos fans are currently living in their longest premiership draught.

2010: Broncos won 10 games.

2011: Broncos won 20 games and conceded 3.8 line breaks per game.

2012: Broncos won 12 games and conceded 4.1 line breaks per game.

2013: Broncos won 10 games and conceded about 5.0 line breaks per game.

Without a doubt the most inadequate term in all 25 years of the Broncos existence.

So who should front the blame for this decline? Well wherever you start – players, coaches, and club officials – it all filters back to the clubs’ management.

The other day my brother and I were talking and he said, “Brisbane aren’t rebuilding because they planned to, they’re rebuilding by default, Kennedy and Barba wanted to move to Brisbane, not necessarily to the Broncos”.

Holy crap balls! How spot on is that?!?!

Despite all the controversy and allegations surrounding Ben Barba, he has expressed his desire to be closer to his family in Queensland. Martin Kennedy grew up in Ipswich. Promising young gun, Anthony Milford is seeking a release from the Canberra Raiders so he can move back to Brisbane to be with his family as his father is ill (Broncos by default are front runners). Cameron Smith and Daly Cherry-Evans, the only reason the Broncos are in the conversation to maybe sign either of them when their current contracts expire is because of their wish to move north.

Not one of these players have ever indicated or hinted at, just wanting to play for the reputable Brisbane Broncos.

Cracks have finally started to appear from the Broncos administration and their incapability to implement a long-term strategy. For any club or business to be successful, there must be a perfect blend of short-term and long-term tactics.

Petero Civoniceva – Broncos legend, signed a yearlong contract with Brisbane for the 2012 season. What a great signing, but as Gorden Tallis stated, “They knew this was a short-term deal, so where was his replacement for 2013”? Why the hell was he cut in the first place? Dropping him in 2008 and luring in back in 2012, what a great long-term plan.

David Stagg – I love Staggy, I’m even a Co-Founder of the SSF with good mate Jono Ramsay. {SSF = Stagg Strong Foundation – a foundation that recognizes unique players. Players that never cause problems, have a great attitude, and guys who have made a name for themselves via their outstanding work ethic on the paddock. But most importantly players that get caught under the ‘versatility’ banner. Only David Stagg and Chris McQueen have been inducted}. Stagg rejoined the Broncos at the beginning of this season on a two-year deal. This move cannot be classified as anything but a short-term solution. Why? The domino effect. Short term planning around Petero, meant that in 2013 the Broncos were short on talented props. Which was the reason behind the Stagg addition in November of 2012; Stagg was clearly snatched up to cover the vacancy in the backrow after deciding to move Sam Thaiday up front. Surely the $250,000 or $300,000 they spent on Stagg could have been spent more wisely? Under this new ‘solution’ Stagg was coming off the bench. Why didn’t their scouting department find a young 20-year old with aspirations to be the next best thing in the NRL, for a third of the price? Why didn’t they find someone gifted enough to play in the front row instead of playing Sam out of position?

Scott Prince – do I need to say anymore? The Broncos quickly grabbed Scott after the 2012 season. A ‘quick fix’ as the halves lacked some serious talent necessary to win a premiership. This experiment was a complete and utter disaster. When were they planning on properly developing Ben Hunt? The kid has been at the Broncos since 2009, when were they going to evolve him into the team’s permanent halfback? They labeled Hunt as the Broncos ‘long-range half-back’ when he first signed with the club four yeas ago. Yet all Brisbane has done since is use Ben as a utility; playing him out of position. The only reason Ben got a chance this season, is because Peter Wallace was told his servicing weren’t required in 2014.

What was long-term about letting go of Darius Boyd, Gerard Beale, and Corey Norman, all at the age of 22, and Dane Gagai at the age of 21?

Ivan Henjak rejected offers to personally met and greet Greg Inglis just before he was supposed to sign with the Broncos. Who the F*CK does Ivan think he is? This is totally deplorable. In what way do those actions benefit the team or club? How idiotic are you, to not understand the stern backlash from being so socially inept? What a perfect example of a boring flavoured jelly-baby suffering from a severe bout of little-man syndrome. Congratulations Henjak, your arrogance let arguably the greatest player in the game slip through your hands, you didn’t make the finals, and consequently you were let go; it’s no surprise that Ivan has dropped off the face of the planet after being showed the door at Brisbane – I think an AFL player from St Kilda lit him on fire the other day.

Why didn’t higher management step in and force Henjak to meet Inglis?

Lets stick with coaches.

A vital piece of the puzzle is the head coach. Is Anthony Griffin proficient enough to start this new journey with Brisbane? From a players managing prospective, I believe he has the required tools. Tactically? I’m not sold.

Shifting Barba to five eighth is one move that should not transpire. Playing players out of position is a terrible coaching trait of Anthony Griffin’s that must be removed.

This season alone Griffin has played Thaiday at prop, Wallace and Hunt at hooker, Norman at fullback, Hoffman on the wing, and Prince at 6. These are significant changes to fundamental positions; fullback, the halves and the hooking position. Why is this a setback? Not only is the spine of the team in disarray, these changes can displease certain players and shatters the confidence of the next guy in line for that spot. How do think Ben Hannant, an Origin and Australian representative, felt in round 1 of the season as Griffin told him how he would be demoted to the bench because he felt like starting Thaiday (out of position) in his propping role?

In 2012 Gerard Beale wanted to play fullback, as Griffin chose Hoffman we lost Beale to the Dragons (a New Zealand international). Then this season Hoffman was moved to the wing for Norman; who we lost to the Eels because he wanted to play at 6 and not at 1 – but Norman was unable to do that as we brought in a 32-year old halfback to play out of position at 5/8. To cap it off, Wallace, who at the time led the Broncos in try and line break assists, was dropped to the bench and QLD cup half way through the season.

Recap For 2014:

  • A pissed off fullback (Hoffman) will be playing out of position because of the Barba acquisition
  • A 24-year old Ben Hunt, who has started 10 NRL games or so, will be halfback and offensive coordinator
  • NOT A FIVE EIGHTH IN SIGHT!!!

Uh-huh.

broncospreimership

 Tina Turner had a better influence on the club

 

Additionally another adjustment which needs to take place is the second string captaincy role. This fixation Griffin has with Alex Glenn is an unusual one. I understand he coached Alex, Ben Hunt, Hoffman, Kahu, Lui, Dodds, McGuire, Gillett and Andrew McCullough in the under 20’s, but it’s gone too far. No way in hell should the 23 year-old Glenn be classified as having greater leadership qualities than the experience veteran Corey Parker. While Parker was a contender for QLD’s Origin player of the series, Glenn’s form in 2013 has been far from impressive (that’s being nice). Unfortunately for Glenn his career has taken a backwards step this season.

Hooker – Personally, I’ve never agreed with substituting a hooker in any NRL game. What’s the point of handpicking a hooker if they cannot slug out 80 solid minutes? The number 9 is a misunderstood position; it’s indisputably one of the more difficult ones to grasp. 9’s are attached to the game than anyone – the consistent ball handling from dummy half forces hookers to get a feel for the game right from the first whistle. Why break that player’s concentration and rhythm? I’m not saying it cannot work; look at James Segeyaro at the Panthers, Shaun Berrigan at the Raiders, and Issac De Gois at the Sharks – perfect examples of guys who can come on and increase the tempo of a game in its perilous moments; (by the way only one of those teams are in the top 8). Andrew McCullough is more than sufficient enough to be a fulltime hooker. Any team with decent halves and a reasonable side, are more than capably of winning a premiership with Andrew McCullough at 9.

 

Put aside the trail of below-par choices, the Broncos do have some promising prospects.

Martin Kennedy – The primary player that comes to mind. I’ll attempt to not harp on too much about the guy, as one of our journalist in Melbourne (Dion Dalton-Bridges) previously outlined why this is such an optimistic signing for Brisbane (Martin Kennedy – A Forward Step). Why should Broncos enthusiasts be so stoked about Martin? Because it’s the first civilised decision, (FYI: selling 6 players to compensate for Israel Falou was not a good decision), the club has made in quite some time; and with any luck, this is the beginning chapter to a new and fabulous era of the Broncos. Kennedy might not produce a 70-meter intercept to clinch a victory, or kick a desperate 40/20 in the dying moments when the game is on the line – but with Martin’s dynamic collisions and impressive aptitude to gain meters after contact, the team has a much greater chance of not being in these anxious situations late in a match.

 

Lama Tasi – What a hard-hitting cannon ball. We haven’t experienced too much Tasi yet, but from what we have seen he’s got a bright future. Battling with Sydney’s impressive forward pack, Lama was unable to secure a consistent spot in the side, so the 23-year olds’ request to be released was permitted and he moved to Brisbane in early July. Lama was chosen in Mal Meninga’s Emerging Origin squad in 2012 and his versatility allows him to play to prop or in the backrow. At 190cm and weighing 108kg, plus a full preseason under his belt, Lama has the right elements in place to enter the next phase of his career in 2014. An imposing presents is something the Broncos desperately lack.

Corey Oates – 8 tries in 10 appearances for the Broncos, doesn’t get much better than that. The 18-year old has not put a foot wrong since debuting in round 17. Throughout his short NRL career, he has been tested by some of the games top-flight halves (Jonathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Todd Carney, Jarrod Mullen). Under the high ball, defensively, offensively, and mentally; Oates passed with flying colours. In a side who demise is no ones fault but their own; Corey’s unexpected arrival onto the NRL scene has many Broncos members thrilled.

Ben Barba – A very troubled 24-year old individual, however his talent cannot be denied. Racking up Dally M honours in 2012, Barba has notched up 67 tries in 84 matches since 2010.

Needless to say, me rambling on about Barba’s skill-set would be almost (not quite) as senseless as Anthony Mundine’s outlandish interview where he spoke on behalf of Blake Ferguson.

  Don’t worry, I felt stupid after watching this too

 

Brisbane pride themselves on having a respectable, no nonsense culture. For Ben to thrive in his newfangled environment, the Broncos must be fully prepared to help Ben with his off-field issues.

It’s Friday afternoon and I attended the Broncos final game last night. As I downed a few quiet beers with my brother and JK, we were stoked to see the Broncos finish the season on a high. Not only because of their recent troubles, but as Suncorp was overloaded with disgraceful Bulldogs supporters.

 

Broncos allies and myself are praying that our disorientated side gets back on track in the near future. Sport is sport, you never know what could happen, that’s the beauty of it, that’s what subconsciously entices us. The Broncos could fluke something next year, or possibly the year after, we don’t know. Whenever it is, we hope their success catapults them into superstar status once again. Lets go back to those winning eras when we were so awesome we endorsed unnecessary products like Broncos Cheese Rings, just because we could.

 

alfie Burgerrings

 

It’s were us Broncos fanatics belong.

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About the author

Drew Woodhouse

Our inspirational leader, Commentary Box Sports founder Drew is a born sports fanatic – particularly when it comes to rugby league, union, surfing NBA and NFL. A Brisbane native currently working out of Sydney, Drew’s occasional writing forays reflect that fierce passion.

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