From early joy to the heartbreak of a Round 26 loss, the St George-Illawarra Dragons 2017 #NRL seaso...
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If you deconstruct Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, you can actually see many parallels between that and the state of rugby league over the years. Oh, and I'm not referring to Tonie Carroll and his uncanny likeness to another form of ancient species millions of years ago.
In a nutshell, Darwin's theory of evolution stated that as time went on, only those who could adapt to change would survive. This is how we became the civilised race we are today after evolving from a bunch of smelly, dirty, incoherent Neanderthals who argued all day about who had the biggest bone. Then again, maybe not that much has changed after all...
But a lot certainly has changed in the game of rugby league, from the way the game is played, to the way the game is refereed.
So with all of these developments over the years, the style of play and more importantly - the style of coaching - has had to accommodate these changes.
In 1988, the Brisbane Broncos were entered into the ARL amidst quite a buzz. A young Wayne Bennett had been appointed as the flagship coach, and his daunting task was to build a winning team for a franchise that had a lot of expectations on its shoulders. Within just a few years, Bennett had crafted the team into a dynasty with names like Langer, Walters, Renouf and company. Just like the early human race thousands and thousands of years ago, the Broncos became stronger, they became smarter, and it was all thanks to Wayne Bennett who had established himself as the best coach in the game.
Wayne Bennett has been with the Broncos for an unprecedented 17 seasons. When you think of the Broncos, you think of Wayne Bennett. It's just how it is.
But that may not be such a good thing anymore.
Over the last few years, the Broncos haven't been the same. When you think premiership favorites, unlike previous years, you don't think of the Brisbane Broncos. Sure, the Broncos haven't missed the finals for over a decade. They are one of the most consistent teams every year. They are undoubtedly affected by the State of Origin period. But when you have a team as talented as the Broncos, and when you haven't won a finals game for a couple of years, you have to wonder if it's the coach - not the cattle - that is the problem.
Take Tim Sheens, for example. He achieved the ultimate goal with the Canberra Raiders in the late 80's and early 90's by winning three grand finals in a five year span. He, like Bennett, brought through a core group of young players that would become stars in their own right, and he completely revolutionised the way the Raiders played. But years later, things changed with him as well. His approach became weary on a group of players who had worked under his tutelage for as many as eight years. How many ways can you motivate the same players year after year? How much more can you teach a player if you've been telling him the same things for years? It was then that Sheens' approach became stale, and he left the Raiders.
But now Tim Sheens has gone through the cycle of evolution once again. He's got a new lease on life at the Wests Tigers, and he's moulded a bunch of young talented players with potential into a dominating and premiership winning team. All of this success came because of a change of scenery, but the philosophies he used had stayed the same. Change can do wonders to a coach's career, and likewise, it can do wonders to a player's career.
The Broncos recently fired three high-profile coaches in Kevin Walters, Gary Belcher and Glen Lazarus, and they have been made scapegoats for the lack of success in Brisbane.
There is an old adage - the more things change, the more things stay the same.
Wayne Bennett is still in charge, but he'll still have the same old approach, and he'll still experience the same old results. History shows that for a club to move forward, it must be willing to take a risk and embrace change at the very top of the organisation, no matter how long that individual has been with the club.
Wayne Bennett, just like all the other long-term coaches of the past, will soon become an extinct species.
That's just evolution.
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