The Broncos are under siege. Picture by Peter Wallis.
The Broncos are under siege. Picture by Peter Wallis.

Five steps to fixing the broken Broncos

The iconic Jack Gibson, one of rugby league's greatest coaches, once said winning starts in the front office.

It's a cautionary line for rugby league teams and one the Broncos board, led by chairman Karl Morris, must never forget as the NRL's richest club picks up the pieces from last week's Roosters debacle.

In the wake of the 59-0 defeat, I called for an inquiry into the running of the Broncos. I believed it a fair appraisal given the Broncos, a club with more resources than any team in the league, have suffered two 50-point humiliations in their last 400 minutes of football.

If the Broncos board was in touch with their 37,000 members, they might discover a disenchanted collective asking why a team with a monopoly in southeast Queensland hasn't won a premiership in 14 years.

At halftime last week, with the Broncos trailing 29-0, the club's official website was bombarded by 2000 comments from furious fans.

The Broncos' perennial underachievement is staggering. There is cultural malaise at Red Hill that has brought the once-mighty Broncos to the position of vulnerability in which they find themselves today.

At their next board meeting, these are the agenda items Morris and his executive should investigate:

 

1. THE COACH'S CONTRACT

In 23 years covering this sport, the five-year deal handed to Anthony Seibold is one of the most irresponsible acts I have seen from a club board.

This is not a shot at Seibold. Coaching is a fretful, insecure profession. If Seibold can clinch a deal that can set his family up for life, good on him.

But in the history of the NRL, no rookie coach has ever secured a five-year contract. Not Wayne Bennett. Not Trent Robinson. Not Craig Bellamy, whose first deal with Melbourne was three years.

The function of a board is to provide governance. Was sacking Bennett, the code's greatest coach and Brisbane's only premiership mentor, in favour of a one-year NRL greenhorn on a five-year, $3 million deal good governance?

Why didn't someone on the executive push back on such a risky deal? If the Broncos miss the finals this year, the board will have to consider parting ways with Seibold. Given the length of his contract, the payout will be significant.

Can the Broncos ever rise again? AAP Image/Darren England.
Can the Broncos ever rise again? AAP Image/Darren England.

2. DEVELOPMENT

The Broncos have not unearthed a superstar playmaker since Darren Lockyer was spotted in country Queensland 25 years ago.

That's unacceptable.

Despite being a $52 million empire armed with development weapons no other NRL can match, the Broncos have failed to leverage their power and adequately mine the enormous talent scattered throughout the state.

The three best playmakers of this generation - future Immortals Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk - are Queenslanders. They all grew up in Brisbane's backyard.

None of them wore the Broncos jumper.

Cameron Munster turned up to a Broncos development day as a teenager. He was told by a Broncos scout he wouldn't make it because he lacked speed and walked like a duck.

He is now an Origin and Test superstar, having won a premiership at the Storm.

Brisbane's primary problem at the moment is their scrumbase. Until their scouts find a champion halfback (hopefully Tom Dearden can be one), the Broncos will not win their seventh title.

3. RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION

Seibold has consistently referred to Brisbane's youth for the past 12 months, but the Broncos have created their own episode of Young Talent Time.

In the past 18 months, the Broncos have released five players with 791 games of NRL experience. It started with Josh McGuire, an Origin player, a grand-final campaigner and the one true hardman now missing at the Broncos.

James Roberts, Andrew McCullough, Kodi Nikorima and Korbin Sims have since left, but the biggest mistake was releasing McGuire.

McGuire was 28 when he stunned the Broncos by requesting a release. He had two years left to run on his deal. He wanted a further 12 months, but when the Broncos baulked at that, the Cowboys came to the party.

Someone in the Broncos' front office had every right to demand McGuire honour his contract. Either he was let go because of poor leadership, or because club hierarchy felt he was dispensable.

Jack Bird, who has played just 17 games in three years due to injury, is currently on $900,000. At his best, Bird is a fine player, but he is not worth nearly $1 million.

Brodie Croft was given the captaincy too early. Picture by Peter Wallis.
Brodie Croft was given the captaincy too early. Picture by Peter Wallis.

4. LEADERSHIP

Darius Boyd has many critics but I maintain his sacking as captain was flawed and has created more problems than it has solved.

Alex Glenn is a ripping bloke and a great servant, but six months ago the Broncos wanted to cut his salary in half and shopped him around to other clubs.

Suddenly, he is the captain. When he is injured, his co-captaincy fill-ins are Pat Carrigan and Brodie Croft. They have started 10 times for the Broncos.

The Broncos are putting their emerging group through leadership training but nothing beats on-the-job learning.

NRL players learn from their peers. Thurston looked up to Lockyer in Origin camps. Souths players were inspired by Sam Burgess.

Watch the Broncos this week. Their young players still gravitate towards Boyd, who is the club's only current 300-gamer and two-time premiership winner.

5. THE OLD BOYS

I find it baffling that the Broncos are constantly under attack from the icons who delivered their six premierships.

Gorden Tallis. Chris Johns. Glenn Lazarus. Steve Renouf. A litany of club greats have lined up to hammer the current squad, Seibold and his methods.

Two years ago, club founder Barry Maranta was not invited to Brisbane's 30th year anniversary. Bennett, their foundation coach, has a toxic relationship with the club now seemingly beyond repair.

The club should be ashamed at that breakdown.

They say you should never forget those who dug the well.

If the Broncos board won't make the tough calls, and cherish the club's past in building a prosperous future, they should step aside for an executive that will.

Originally published as Five steps to fixing the broken Broncos



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