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Growing up as an avid supporter of the Broncos, I?ve been spoilt with premierships, constant success and having the opportunity to cheer on some of League?s greatest players.
But success often brings expectation, and when the Broncos begin to lose matches, supporters begin to ask questions. More often than not, these questions are directed at the coach, Wayne Bennett.
Arguments range from Bennett being past his time, being out of touch with the way the game is currently played, and implementing strategies and ideas that are stale and ineffective.
All these criticisms come about at the very instant that expectations haven?t been met. In other words, one or even two losses in short space of time. This is what constant success can do to the minds of supporters, especially of the Broncos, and no doubt it may prove to have an ill effect on the sanity of some of these people when the success all of a sudden disappears.
Wayne Bennett?s record as a coach speaks for itself. Over 400 first grade victories including 5 premierships with Brisbane, as well as successful campaigns with Queensland and Australia. But statistics aside, Bennett is known for his skills in identifying, nurturing and developing young talent as well as keeping the Rugby League?s elite players at the top of their game.
Despite the beliefs of some on his abilities and decision making in this day and age, one only needs to view the history of the Broncos performances to see just how effective Bennett is in keeping a group of players in good form. Whether they be a team boasting impressive representative honours, or a team made up primarily of enthusiastic, yet greatly inexperienced youth, Bennett has shown his ability to assimilate himself and his team into the current environment.
Between 1988 and 1991, prior to the successes of ?92-?93, the Broncos average season placing was 5th. Between 1994 and 1996, before the second set of back-to-back premierships of ?97?s Super League and the inaugural year of the NRL in 1998, the club?s average placing was 3rd. Since Brisbane?s most recent premiership in 2000, the club is experiencing it?s longest period without a premiership victory, yet still enjoys strong campaigns year after year. From 2001 to 2004, a period where many experts have predicted the gradual decline of Brisbane, the club has still managed to average between 4th and 5th place come season?s end.
Overall, the average season placing of the Broncos since the club?s inception in 1988 is a remarkable 4th.
Granted, Brisbane has had more than it?s fair share of some great Rugby League names over the past 17 years, but during the periods of so-called ?rebuilding? where Brisbane have maintained their envied success, Bennett has shown his true ability to adapt, change and progress as a coach. It is a fundamental factor in why the Broncos are yet to visit the nether regions of the Rugby League ladder.
The knockers and the naysayers among us need to ask themselves what the Brisbane Broncos and the Rugby League fraternity will lose when Bennett is no longer in the picture. What knowledge, suggestions and proposals will no longer be heard and spread around by those who listen to him? And how many young and talented prospects will fail to realise their true potential both on and off the Rugby League field due to the loss of not only an influential coach, but also an influential human being?
The day will come when the once mighty Brisbane Broncos will call the dark and lonely Rugby League cellar their home. And it won?t be restricted to several matches, a segment of a season or even one whole season alone. It will be more than that, and much more painful. Consecutive years ? 3, 4, or 5 ? maybe even a decade, akin to the current predicament of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Talent, flair and genius will be adjectives used to describe virtually every other club bar our own, and the players and fans alike will look to someone to steady the ship, develop a positive culture and invite the club to rediscover what it means to be successful.
Mark these words, at some stage in our club?s history we will find ourselves in this unenviable situation.
It is during this time that we will feel Bennett?s absence the most.
For our sake, may he bless our club with his intellect, knowledge and presence for many seasons to come.
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