The Brisbane Broncos were once the premier club of Queensland and a major force in the NRL.
Entering the competition in 1988, they’ve won six flags – in 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2006 – and have become a franchise and brand that all young Queenslanders supported and dreamt about playing for.
But now the Broncos are struggling, and receiving a first wooden spoon in 2020 is an unacceptable situation for a club that was often in the premiership conversation.
So how can the Broncos return to finals contention given the club haven’t won a grand final since 2006 and haven’t competed in a grand final since the narrow loss to North Queensland Cowboys in 2015?
I suggest five strategies for the club to achieve success in the immediate future and the long term.
First, given that all successful clubs have strong cultures staff and players enjoy being part of, Brisbane must also embrace their former players to encourage important interaction between them and current players to pass on vital skills and pride for wearing the Broncos jersey.
While Kevin Walters has already attempted to do this through a race day for former and current players, Gorden Tallis (160 games for the Brisbane Broncos) rightfully expressed concern when senior management at the club cancelled the day.
It’s a no-brainer that their young forwards can learn much from Petero Civoniceva (235 games), Shane Webcke (254 games) and Corey Parker (347 games). The backline would also benefit greatly from being mentored by players such as Steve Renouf (183 games), Darren Lockyer (355 games), Shaun Berrigan (186 games) and Justin Hodges (195 games).
Second, the Broncos need to build their side around key players in the current squad: Tom Dearden (halfback), Kotoni Staggs (centre), Xavier Coates (wing), Payne Haas (prop), Jordan Riki (back row), Patrick Carrigan (lock) and Thomas Flegler (prop).
Six of these core players already have the talent, drive and top-level representative experience to be leaders of a successful club. Carrigan and Coates were in the Queensland Origin squad (2020), Haas has been in the New South Wales Origin set-up for the last few seasons, Riki played in the Maori All Stars (2020-21), Flegler played in the Prime Minister’s XIII (2019) and Staggs has played for Tonga.
While lacking representative experience at this stage, Dearden is one of the best young halves coming through and is a genuine contender for the number 7.
Third, the Broncos must be methodical in signing players for the future, a crucial aspect that may explain the club’s downfall in recent years.
By chasing quick rather than long-term success the club have gathered too many players in the squad through huge money based on untried NRL potential rather than the necessary quality experienced players.
The club should clear out underperforming and overpaid players. Anthony Milford, Brodie Croft, Ben Te’o, Alex Glenn, Matt Lodge and even Corey Oates need to be released to make way for the future.
Milford, Croft and Te’o are underperforming given the value placed on them. Glenn has not been performing up to his previous standard. Lodge has spent more time on the sidelines than playing in recent years despite taking up a considerable portion of the salary cap space. Oates, because of his desire to play in the back row and the club’s reluctance to play him there, should be allowed to explore his options elsewhere, which would also provide some salary cap space.
Fourth, Brisbane need to identify and attract marquee players who can strengthen the squad, in line with other key players identified earlier.
I have identified four possible players and a franchise player to fill key holes.
Cameron Munster (franchise player) (five-eighth)
Munster will add a wealth of experience in club games as well as big games. He’s a devastating ball runner and game-changer at both club and representative level. He would be an ideal fit outside of Dearden.
Dane Gagai (centre)
Gagai has a wealth of experience that can add talent and composure to the side. He’s proven himself as a damaging centre for Queensland and club. With such depth and talent at South Sydney, attracting him to Brisbane could be a real possibility.
Dale Finucane (lock forward/prop)
Funicane, albeit currently injured, can add many positive attributes to the Broncos outfit. He has an unbelievable work rate in defence as well as inspirational talent and the experience and calmness that would aid an inexperienced Broncos pack.
Nathan Brown (lock forward/prop)
Brown has been one of the NRL’s best lock forwards for the last few seasons, as evident by his call up to the 2020 New South Wales origin side. He is aggressive and loves making the hard yards in the middle for his team. Adding him to Brisbane’s middle alongside Haas and Carrigan could prove a formidable combination.
Will Kennedy (fullback)
Will Kennedy is an underrated fullback. When provided an opportunity to play first grade, he looks comfortable and composed. He has done a magnificent job for Cronulla. When the Sharks have a fit roster, Kennedy is not the first-choice fullback. He would be a bargain buy for the Broncos and would have an immediate impact on the team.
Fifth, Brisbane needs to add five to eight solid players to fill the void during the representative season and to cover injuries. This would include recruiting youth players from the Queensland Cup system along with the new signings. Youth players could include Ethan Bullemor, Corey Paix, Keenan Palasia and Kobe Hetherington. Fringe players adding depth to the squad could include Lloyd Perrett (Burleigh Bears), Kurtis Rowe (Burleigh Bears), Patrick Kaufusi (Townsville Blackhawks) and Javid Bowen (Northern Pride), just to name a few.
Based on the above points, which includes key existing and new signings, my best 17 for the Brisbane Broncos would be:
With the help of Chris Lewis I have offered some ideas about how Brisbane can revive their great past and look forward to seeing the Broncos return to their previous position as a major NRL force.