Sean Fagan of RL1908.com
story of rugby league in Brisbane begins back
in 1908. Over the next 80 seasons the city developed
its own local club premiership that was second
only to Sydney as Australia's top rugby league
At times the playing
standard and crowd support was at least comparable
to Sydney, if not higher. A much smaller state
capital than Sydney, Brisbane's support for rugby
league on a per capita basis far exceeded the
interest levels seen in the NSW capital.
From the 1950s onwards
Brisbane clubs suffered from the drain of local
talent to the cashed-up Sydney teams. Nonetheless
it continued to be a strong competition.
While State of Origin
was meant to allow Queensland to draw players
from the Sydney clubs, many of the rising Maroon
stars were from Brisbane clubs. This produced
criticism from the blue-side of the border that
players such as Wally Lewis, Gene Miles, Mal Meninga
and others would not be able to survive the weekly
grind of Sydney club football.
While this reaffirmed
the southern ignorance of the playing standard
in Brisbane, it gave rise to the question of the
entry of a Brisbane club into the NSWRL premiership.
After plans for a
Brisbane club hit the headlines in 1986, the issue
became a reality in early 1987 when the NSWRL
announced a Brisbane club would enter in 1988
alongside Newcastle. The winning bid though needed
to have the support of the QRL who could veto
The eventual winners
were the consortium led by Barry Maranta and Paul
Morgan, though the process was not without its
dramas. Once the key signing of Lewis was made,
quickly followed by Miles, the remainder of the
Queensland based Origin players came on board
including Colin Scott, Greg Dowling, Bryan Niebling,
Greg Conescu and Allan Langer. If not for the
mid-1980s move south to Canberra of Mal Meninga,
Gary Belcher, Peter Jackson and the Walters brothers
the initial Brisbane side would have been instant
favourites for the premiership title.
The club was announced
as the Brisbane Broncos after considering the
name Brumbies. The extended colours synonymous
with Queensland, maroon along with gold and white,
were adopted for the jersey. The red and white
of Brisbane rep teams were passed over without
mention as the club undoubtedly went for state
While the predominance
of the gold colour in the jersey over maroon didn't
please all, the playing strip had to differentiate
itself from the standard Queensland jersey along
with the maroon and white of the Manly club.
The Broncos secured
the services of Wayne Bennett as coach, who had
taken Canberra to their first Grand Final in 1987.
Remarkably, in a position that sometimes has a
very short tenure, Bennett has remained Broncos
coach until the present.
Of any new club to
enter the premiership the Broncos were in the
best position ever seen. They had an established
rugby league community behind them, a talented
squad of players to back up Lewis and Miles, an
intimidating ground in Lang Park and strong financial
backing. For all that, the pressure on the coach
and players must have been extreme.
In their opening
trial match at Lang Park over 10,000 spectators
saw the Broncos, without Lewis, outpoint Canberra
22-16. The Broncos made their premiership debut
against premiers Manly at Lang Park in a much
anticipated clash. In the end, it was no contest
as the Brisbane club - primed for their debut
- absolutely smashed the best team of 1987 winning
It immediately gave
notice to all that the Broncos were going to be
a top club right from the start. The doubters
suggested the Broncos couldn't be consistent,
but even they were quietened by the end of the
sixth game as Brisbane were still undefeated.
The critics though
came out of the woodwork as Brisbane first fell
to Balmain, then they were smashed 38-8 by Cronulla.
By the time they came through the representative
season the Broncos had fallen to the fringes of
the play-offs. A ‘local derby' loss to the Gold
Coast side proved fatal. The Giants were also
a new club in 1988 and they included many players
unwanted by the Broncos. Unable to win a game
all season, the Giants stepped up to knock off
the Broncos 25-22. Missing out on the two points
cost Brisbane a semi-final place.
The 1989 season again
saw the heavy load during the representative season
take its toll on the Broncos. They won their first
trophy with a win over Illawarra in the Panasonic
Cup, but lost a play-off for fifth place against
Cronulla. One or two more wins during the season
would have positioned the Broncos for a serious
assault on the Grand Final.
The 1990 Bronco
season was troubled by Bennett's decision to take
the captaincy away from Lewis and install Miles
in his place. Miles had retired from rep football
and Bennett was hoping to remove the team's reliance
on Lewis. It largely worked as Brisbane finished
in 3rd place without Lewis for much of the season,
due to injury as much as rep duties.
in the semi-final victory over Manly when Bennett
left Lewis on the bench. Lewis was desperate to
play to prove his fitness for the upcoming Kangaroo
tour. Lewis got on the field in the Final against
Canberra, but not before the Raiders had the game
won (32-4). Lewis soon signed with the Gold Coast.
After Brisbane missed
the 1991 play-offs captain Gene Miles left for
Wigan and new era began under the leadership of
Allan Langer. The acquisition of power front rower
Glenn Lazarus from the Canberra Raiders was pivotal
to the Broncos success over the next two seasons.
The forwards now comprised Lazarus, Trevor Gillmeister,
Terry Matterson, Mark Hohn, Alan Cann, Gavin Allen
and Kerrod Walters. The backline included Kevin
Walters, Langer and the rising star of Steve Renouf.
The Broncos finished
the 1992 regular season in a flourish and won
the minor premiership by 6 points. It appeared
the Broncos juggernaut was going to deliver the
results it had promised back in 1988. Brisbane
were largely untroubled by Illawarra in the major
semi-final, winning 22-12 to take a place in their
first ever Grand Final.
The St George and
Illawarra clubs fought out a tight Final with
the Dragons winning 4-0. The St George side looked
as though it lacked the fire power to match the
Broncos and after scores were near level at half-time,
Brisbane ran away with the match 28-8. After five
seasons the Broncos had taken the prize of the
Sydney rugby league title back to Queensland.
and a sponsorship dispute with the Lang Park Trust
resulted in a move to the QEII Stadium (ANZ Stadium).
Brisbane had to settle for a fifth placed finish
for the 1993 play-offs, requiring a rewrite of
history if they were to win the premiership from
outside the top three.
Broncos blasted Manly away 36-10, then Canberra
30-12 to reach the Final against minor premiers
Canterbury. The Bulldogs edged ahead at half time
by six, before Langer scored a try to level the
game at 16-all. Langer then kicked a rare Bronco
field goal, before Alan Cann sealed the win with
a bulldozing run to the line and a Broncos 26-23
Again facing St George
in the Grand Final, the Broncos scored two first
half tries before three penalty goals edged the
Dragons to four points behind (10-6) with twenty
minutes to full time. Saints were unable to break
the Broncos defence and Willie Carne scored another
Brisbane try to seal the win 14-6. It was back
to back titles for the Brisbane club.
The Broncos were
largely uninspiring in 1994, rising from the lower
part of the competition table at the end of the
season to grab 5th place and hopefully a repeat
of 1993. They beat Manly 16-4 but fell to a North
Sydney field goal in a 15-14 loss despite Wendell
Sailor scoring two tries.
The Super League
war arrived in 1995 and Brisbane were right to
the fore of it. The disruptions through the season
didn't hamper the Broncos to any great degree
as they finished in third place behind Manly and
Canberra. Brisbane had the advantage of a semi-final
at Lang Park but lost to Canberra 14-8.
They then met Canterbury
who were proving to be tough opposition at the
business end of the season. Darren Smith scored
a Bronco try early in the second half to place
Brisbane 14-10 behind the Bulldogs. A controversial
no-try ruling against an Alan Cann touchdown was
quickly made worse for the Broncos when it was
followed up by a Canterbury try to seal a 22-10
The off-field dramas
continued to plague rugby league through the 1996
season, as the Broncos made a quick exit from
the play-offs losing to Norths and Cronulla. The
1997 season dawned with two competitions, with
the Broncos playing in the ten team Super League
Brisbane easily won
the minor premiership and then smashed the Sharks
to secure a spot in the Grand Final. Few expected
Brisbane to be troubled in the decider against
An exchange of penalty
goals saw the game locked up at 2-all after twenty
minutes. Lockyer kicked another Bronco goal which
was soon followed up by a try from the ever present
Steve Renouf. The Broncos were ahead 10-2 at half-time
and kicked on to win 26-8. Brisbane also won the
World Club Challenge by defeating the Hunter Mariners
in the Final in October 1997 in Auckland.
The NRL was formed
in 1998 as the competitions merged into one. Brisbane
were determined to end the criticism that their
1997 title was earned cheaply in a split competition.
The Broncos secured the minor premiership ahead
of 1997 ARL winners Newcastle with a better for
The Broncos had played
well all season despite the heavy burden of being
favourites throughout. Reaching the Grand Final
against Canterbury, Brisbane produced an awesome
performance to take the game 38-12 to claim their
fourth premiership in seven years.
the upheavals of the most turbulent time in rugby
league history, the Brisbane Broncos continued
to relentlessly set the standards.
The Broncos were
back in the Grand Final again in 2000 against
Sydney Roosters. The game was an emotional farewell
to Kevin Walters who had served the club so well.
Fullback Darren Lockyer was the standout player
as Brisbane did enough to keep the Roosters out
of the game, eventually winning 14-6 in a dour
It was the Broncos fifth premiership in less than
a decade, marking their 1990s team amongst the
greatest in the history of the competition.
the first decade of the new century Brisbane continued
to be ever-present in the play-offs, though 3rd-place
finishes in 2004 and 2005 couldn't be converted
into premiership glory.
2006 seemed destined to produce the same outcome,
particularly after the Broncos lost five games
in succession after the Origin series, and then
their opening play-offs game against the Dragons
(20-4). Emphatic wins in Sydney over Newcastle
(50-6) and Canterbury (37-20) put Brisbane into
the Grand Final against Melbourne.
Broncos' inconsistent form saw the Storm as warm
favourites to win the first ever non-NSW Grand
Final. Brisbane though kept Melbourne quiet for
most of the game, edging out the Storm 15-8 to
take the Queensland club to six premiership crowns.
the 2008 season foundation coach Wayne Bennett
ended his two decades long tenure with the Broncos,
moving to the Dragons.