Almanac Rugby League – Sloppy Knights give Broncos an easy Monday night

When I hear the words Brisbane and rugby league together my mind first turns to the great BRL competition of the 1970s. That was another time.

A decade later, many Queenslanders fell instantly in love with the Brisbane Broncos, marketed brilliantly as an incarnation of all things Queensland. But many didn’t. The dissenters could see what was going to happen, and did: the BRL was changed forever. Many continued to support their old NSWRL team, and pined for the days of Brisbane’s Easts and Souths and Valleys and Brothers who were immediately on death row.

They say time heals. But heal is the wrong verb in the case of the Broncos. Old rugby league fans were replaced by new, for whom the Broncos were meaningful from the day the Courier Mail hit the front lawn.

I was never a Broncos fan. But I am a sports fan, and there were things about the Broncos I came to enjoy. I loved that the Ipswich boys –  Alfie and the Walters brothers – had played junior rugby league together. I liked the attacking flair of those early `90s sides. But I didn’t celebrate their premierships (unless I’d had a wager on them somewhere, like after the last at the Gabba greyhounds when a bookie would write you a footy ticket).

Superleague made rugby league even less likable; it was a strange time. And the game was changing to become all entertainment – one day cricket instead of test cricket – where flash tries were everything.

I became more interested again when I worked with Steve Renouf on his biography, by which time the BRL had drifted from the front of the mind to the back. Just as the marketers knew would happen.

So on Monday night, as I sat down to watch the Knights-Broncos fixture from Newcastle, really, I had been successfully colonised by the money men of rugby league who knew we’d all eventually forget. And I didn’t sit down wondering how rugby league might have been had the Broncos not been manufactured. I sat down thinking what an interesting NRL season this has been and who knows what’s going to happen from here. And could the Broncos help the Souths cause, and hence the cause of all those who cling to imagined history and romance.

As the image appeared on the TV screen in the lounge room the first character to come in to view was Alfie, dressed as the water boy, and still making you smile just to see him. The Knights dressing room appeared as the players were having a team hug which broke into individual hugs. My Maths suggested that was 136 hugs in total if they were diligent and covered all 17C2 combinations.

It was a damp night in Newcastle and as the game got under way conditions looked trying without being terrible. Signs weren’t flash for the Broncos in the opening minutes: they were very flat in attack and you could have thrown a blanket over them at one stage. Set after set they looked flat until I worked out that this may have been a tactic. Low risk.

In contrast to their opponents who couldn’t hang on to the pill, butchering the ball time and time again, until the weight of possession saw the Broncos with consistently good field position. Finally a bizarre skirmish on the try-line ensued as Gidley tried to force the ball, but might not have, and Wallace may or may not have put enough downward pressure  on it to be awarded a four-pointer. I could have had a shower and brushed my teeth while the video ref deliberated during which time commentator Greg Alexander showed he had a logical mind by explaining what he thought had happened. Finally the try was awarded. Parker missed the conversion.

The Broncos attacked again; the Knights coughed the ball up again. And so the pattern of the first half continued. The visitors would have scored a second time had MacDougall (looking very much like Elmer Fudd), trying to defend a four-man overlap, not jagged an arsey intercept. But, when S’au darted from the line and missed his target, they couldn’t hold Hodges out. 8-0.

It was a scrappy affair with bits and pieces of sharp attack. Hodges looked powerful. McGuire worked hard. When his prop-brother Anderson got a short off-load to him he celebrated a four-pointer, only to spot the man in pink waving for a forward pass. It wasn’t. This pleased the home fans, and the blessed respite seemed to give the awful Knights hope. They had had much to crow about; the Broncos hadn’t taken advantage of their dominance.

From a scrum on the right side the Knights went the blind side, in response to poor counting from the Broncos, who were a defender short, as if it were the Under 14s and the half had called the play from behind his hand. (“Go the blind, go the blind, go the blind”). Uate burst on to the footy to go over virtually untouched, and (weirdly) the Knights were back in it trailing by just two points 6-8.

A Broncos penalty as the bell rang made it 10-6 at half-time. The Knights were fortunate.

Early in the second half Newcastle looked to be right in it as the Broncos were going down all over the park: Hodges hurt his hamstring, McGuire got a poke in the eye, and they looked under siege. Gidley snuck through and dived for the try-line only to be held up by a brilliant McCullough tackle (reminiscent of the great Graeme McCullough at Oakey circa 1977)

The Knights looked to me to be right in it, and the game had golden point written all over it, until the Broncos went Whammo! in the face of more Knights mistakes. Yow Yeh intercepted a Costigan pass and no-one got near him. Then after they dropped the pill (again) the Broncos halves orchestrated a push forward until Lockyer insisted on getting in to dummy-half. His eye for the game, better than anyone else’s, coupled with his intensity, set Alex Glenn in and it was all over.

Rabbitohs cheered from their warrens. And to cap it off Ben Hunt scored at the death to give the Broncos a 26-6 victory, cementing their place in the top three.


BRISBANE 26 (Tries: Wallace, Hodges, Yow Yeh, Glenn, Hunt. Goals: Parker 3.) d NEWCASTLE 6 (Try: Uate. Goal: Gidley.)

Venue:      Ausgrid Stadium

Crowd:     19,412
       3 McGuire    2 Parker     1 Gidley


About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH, I discovered when I spent some time in Adelaide in the late 90s how many Croweaters didn’t like either Adelaide or Port – in fact many of them hated both teams for ruining the local SANFL. Or they stuck by their support for a Vic AFL team so the animosity was based on personal connections. Curious to know whether these days many locals in Brisbane support teams other than the Broncos or prefer to follow the local league SE Qld comp.

  2. When I was up there, until early 2003, the conventional wisdom said it was about 50/50. But I would say taht saturation Broncos coverage would mean that kids and newbies may well have responded to the Courier Mail’s marketing.

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