It’s been a strange season so far. One of the strangest things has been Brisbane’s downfall. Accustomed to success in their 30-plus year history, they’ve only won three games from 11 in 2020 and are second-last.
They started with good wins over North Queensland and Souths, then the two-month COVID-break happened. It was horrible timing for the Broncos.
The revised draw saw them host Parramatta (who belted them out of last year’s finals) and the Sydney Roosters at a crowd-less Suncorp Stadium/Lang Park: both Channel Nine Thursday nighters (of course). They lost 34-6 to the Eels, and 59-0 to the Roosters.
Back-to-back games on the Central Coast resulted in a 20-18 loss to Manly (after leading 18-0), and a 27-6 loss to Newcastle.
After four straight losses, they looked like catching a break with games against the struggling Titans, Warriors, and Bulldogs. Surely they’d win all three and stay in touch with the top eight?
They lost to both the Titans and the Warriors (and were criticised for “not hurting enough” when they joked with Titans players at full-time), but beat the Bulldogs.
Any relief was short-lived: the Bulldogs win was followed by a 48-0 loss to the Wests Tigers, and a 46-8 loss to Melbourne. While there’s no shame losing to Parramatta, the Roosters, or Melbourne, the Tigers game was embarrassing.
Now coach Anthony Siebold is under huge pressure, given an target of five wins from the last 10 games to keep his job. On current form, he won’t be there in 2021, with ex-Cowboys coach (and former Bronco) Paul Green a possible replacement.
While most neutral fans have some sympathy for struggling teams, that’s not the case here. Opposition fans – sick of the Broncos hogging Thursday and Friday nights (yes, they’re a high-rating team with consistently big crowds at Lang Park, but Channel Nine’s favouritism is beyond blatant) – have gleefully sunk the boot in. Social media has erupted with each loss as fans, commentators, and even former Broncos legends ripped into them.
So what’s happened to the once-proud club who arrogantly dominated the 90s and early-2000s, and have only missed two finals series’ since 1992?
For starters, Brisbane’s 2020 injury toll is horrific (look away, Broncos fans):
Kotoni Staggs (hamstring, round 11)
Herbie Farnworth (leg cork, round 11)
David Fifita (knee, round 12)
Jake Turpin (leg, round 12)
Matt Lodge (knee, round 12)
Issac Luke (suspended, round 12)
Jesse Arthars (knee, round 12-13)
Alex Glenn (knee, round 15-17)
Tesi Nui (wrist, indefinite)
Corey Oates (leg, indefinite)
Jordan Kahu (shoulder, indefinite)
Sean O’Sullivan (knee, indefinite)
Keenan Palasia (knee, indefinite)
Jack Bird (ACL, season)
With so many troops out, it’d be unfair to blame the remaining healthy players for Brisbane’s downfall.
While the Broncos have recovered from poor starts before to scrape into the finals, their season looks done, especially with only nine rounds left and upcoming games against top four contenders Canberra (away), the Roosters (away), Penrith (home), and Parramatta (away).
Looking back further, the rot started after the heartbreaking 2015 grand final loss: the Broncos were literally one minute from their seventh premiership before Kyle Feldt scored, Ben Hunt had that drop in Golden Point, and Johnathan Thurston sealed his legacy with the winning field goal. It also ruined Brisbane’s enviable six-from-six grand final record.
They finished fifth in 2016, knocked out the Titans, but lost to the Cowboys in another XXXX classic.
They made the preliminary final in 2017, and were slaughtered 30-0 by the Storm.
They were finalists in 2018 and 2019, with both campaigns ending in huge elimination final losses: 48-18 to St George Illawarra (2018), and 58-0 to Parramatta (2019).
With the Broncos struggling, is now a good time for a a second Brisbane team to enter the NRL? The poor South Queensland Crushers never had a chance against a mid-90s Broncos at their arrogant peak, but a second Brisbane team could do well today, capitalising on frustrated Broncos fans tempted to jump ship or Queenslanders who hate the Broncos.
With a proud history, the Broncos won’t be down forever (expect Channel Nine to help them out again, giving them the lion’s share of free-to-air games in 2021), though fans may have to put with some more pain before things improve.