The rise of the Brisbane Lions has coincided in the fall of the Brisbane Broncos.
Every man, women, child, dog and most vocally ex-Broncos players are lining up right now to have a go at the club as they endure their worst losing stretch in 8 years with six losses on the trot. I'm not going to rewrite the same article that you have likely read 10 times over but rather look at two similar qualities I see with Brisbane sides when things go wrong - inexperienced coaches, poor background decisions and players with egos.
The Broncos - Kings of the city and the best team in the country!
There was only one hot sporting ticket in town and that was the Brisbane Broncos! A side brimming with talent in every position. Shaft Wally Lewis and in walks Wendall Sailor and Darren Lockyer. By 1998 the club had won it's 4th premiership (16 of the 17 players were rep players, sorry Phillip Lee) since its inception in 1988. Central to the teams success was a strong proven coach in Wayne Bennett and an experienced core of players. Gene Miles, Wally Lewis and Glenn Lazarus had set a high bar in the formative years for others to follow. John Ribot was the founding CEO of the Broncos in 1988 before starting up Super League, then six years at the Melbourne Storm - wherever he went, success followed.
The 1998 Broncos, not a bad side!
The Brisbane Bears/Lions - The "Bad News Bears"
Across the Brown Snake and based at the Gabba was the "Bad News Bears" who entered the AFL one year prior in 1987, yet struggled on and off the field. With around 5000 members and never finishing higher than 10th until 1996, the Bears struggled. Walking down the street no one would know who the players were. A merger with the Fitzroy Lions went through in 1998 and the team bottomed out to claim the wooden spoon. In 1999 Lethal Leigh Matthews became head coach and a new era dawned.
The Bears never tasted any sort of success. Source: Brisbane Lions Website
Brisbane is a winning town!
The Broncos continued their great run, claiming the 2000 premiership with a side that had 22 representative players! They continued their success despite a turnover of older players to win the 2006 competition whilst the city was able to jump on a winning team in AFL when a dominant midfield mixed with key position guns combined for a three peat of premierships from 2001-2003. The mighty Lions! Favourites in both 2004 (runners-up) and 2005 (9th!), the Lions were the dominant team of a generation.
The three peat! Source: Brisbane Times
2006 - 2016
The Lions Fall
In 2009, as a first season coach, Michael Voss (a brilliant player but experienced off the field) had a great season and got the team to 6th. He went all in with the trades and created a disaster. The team traded away players, picks and culture. This took them a decade to recover from. Fevola lasted one season before being sacked, the club struggled to retain players as they built a culture of losing. The appeal of living in the sunshine state had passed, players were keen to get back home to the southern states. I remember being out one night when the Lions turned up to the bar, I was waiting at the bar to meet a friend and was bullied by a senior player who was trying to be funny in front of a bunch of 18-19 year old players. What this showed me was the culture was rotten. This player would not of played 150+ games had they been at any other club. The club failed to post a profit during this period of not winning games and had to pay overs to keep average players. What was the failure down to? Inexperienced coach(es) as rookie Justin Leppitsch followed Voss, poor club management including player retention and the apparent egos of average players.
The Brisbane Broncos Fall
The biggest, most successful, biggest fan base and most profitable club in the NRL is the Brisbane Broncos. There is an expectation of success. They might not have 22 internationals but 12 representative players is a pretty good start. There are mixed messages everywhere at the moment but what it comes down to is the same problems the Lions experienced.
Put simply, Anthony Seibold is an inexperienced coach. This is his 3rd season as an NRL coach. He had the best cattle in the comp in 2018 and the Bunnies exited the finals in straight sets. Clearly looks to have lost the dressing room right now.
On top of the decision to put Seibold at the helm has been obvious failures in club management, including retention of key players. A lot has been made of the big money the club is apparently paying Million Dollar man Milford, always injured (not his own fault), Jack Bird and 'over the hill' Darius Boyd, crazy to think he got big money despite the fact his hamstrings were clearly shot! But what about the talent they've let go? Surely there is a bit going on behind the scenes. Josh McGuire left at 28 years old and in his prime as soon as Seibold arrived, while 260 game hooker Andrew McCullough has been sensational in his 5 games for the Knights since he was moved on. As Wayne Bennett publicly said last week, a rookie coach wouldn't leave a better roster behind at Souths to go to a poor roster at the Broncos.
Jai Arrow has been one of the few players to get better since moving to the Titans, he had to move clubs as his pathway was blocked behind (now retired) Matt Gillet and current skipper Alex Glenn. Should the Broncos have let one of the older players leave for a paycheque down the M1 to keep Arrow - I certainly think so.
What about the egos? Everyone has an opinion and none of us are right or wrong. Who's to blame for the roster - four signed off on it originally so each have 25% of the blame including Bennett. What about Seibold's 5 year deal - thats a big error by the board but they won't admit it. Former players want to offer their two cents, those offers of help haven't been accepted, not yet.. Recently retired players and now media commentators lament the lack of leadership at the Broncos. Wouldn't it have been up to old heads like Hodges, Parker and Thaiday to set a good example to the players? Maybe it was their lack of example that is currently letting the 2020 Broncos down? 150 game player Corey Oates had a whinge in the media last week about being 'pissed off' for being dropped yet didn't play a great game to back it up. Egos are ruining the Broncos from the top down, management, coaching staff and players. Let's get old school, work hard and get the basics right.
After another loss do the Broncos laugh or cry in 2020? Source: MSN
The Lions in 2020 - Premiership favourites
It's the opposite story in the AFL with the Lions the current favourites for the first time in 15 years. While a rookie as a head coach, Chris Fagan has many years of life experience as a person and learnt from the best in the business in Alistair Clarkson. He's built a successful culture at the Lions. They recruited players such as Neale and Cameron who wanted to come to the Lions. There is a cut throat culture of performance as seen by their dominance in the NEAFL in 2019. They tackle hard and don't stop trying. Best of all they are the most enthusiastic and best team to watch in the 18-team competition. They work hard and have fun at it. Maybe that's what the Broncos need to do - work hard off the field but remember to have some fun during the game.