Brisbane's Corey Parker says the players have a lot of faith in under-pressure coach Anthony Griffin
Broncos star Corey Parker has launched a passionate defence of the team's coach, Anthony Griffin, who has been under fire from critics in the wake of a failed season.
The worst season in the proud club's history will end on Thursday night, when the Broncos take on Canterbury in the opening match of the final round at Suncorp Stadium.
Whatever chance the Broncos had of making the finals disappeared for good in the previous two rounds, when they lost back-to-back matches to the Panthers and Knights.
The Broncos are in 13th place on 23 points, from nine wins, 13 losses and one draw. They can't finish any lower than that regardless of results in the final round. They could finish as high as 11th if they won and other results went in their favour.
Griffin is in his third year as coach. He took the team to the finals in his first two years, but only just last season. This year they have really struggled.
The Broncos are yet to recover from the retirement of one of their greatest-ever players, Darren Lockyer, at the end of 2011.
Griffin was always going to be a target for arrows with the team going backwards, and another of the club's former greats – Gorden Tallis – was scathing in his assessment of the club in his column in The Courier Mail newspaper on Thursday.
Declaring that the club needed "a massive shake-up", Tallis questioned the coaching, as well as the player development and recruitment strategies at the club.
"If Anthony Griffin stays, which the club says he is, there needs to be some help around him. It’s as simple as that," Tallis wrote. "To me it’s like there is no-one there that can take his job or is aspiring to get his job.
"Does the team need new voices around them and around the coach to get the desired changes? This year has been a hurtful one for everyone who loves the Broncos.
"Nobody can accept what has happened this year. If nothing really changes then everything remains the same. If this season is repeated then everybody’s job, from the very top to the bottom, must be in jeopardy."
Referring to development, Tallis wrote: "Brisbane has backed the development of their players, but I don’t think guys like Alex Glenn, Andrew McCullough, Matt Gillett and Ben Hunt have gone to the next level. Is that the coach or is that the player?"
And on the subject of recruitment: "Darren Lockyer retired in 2011. Since then Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Daly Cherry-Evans are three superstar playmakers, all Queenslanders and all have been on the open market. Yet Brisbane did not sign any of them."
But in the wake of the loss to the Knights putting the Broncos out of finals contention, Parker was asked about speculation regarding Griffin's future.
"The media will put external pressures and influences on the side, the players and the coach individually," Parker said. "But within the inner sanctum we are very at ease.
"I can't speak highly enough of 'Hook' (Griffin). He is a wonderful man manager. You know exactly where you stand and that is important in today's game. I can't speak highly enough of him, he has a lot of faith in the playing group and we have a lot of faith in him.
"There have been a few curves in the road so we have to find a straight patch and move on."
Asked if missing out on the finals stung him and the rest of the team, Parker replied: "Absolutely. It means a fair bit to us (making the finals). This club has been built on success, hard work and expectation.
"We have all that ambition in the group, but this year we haven't been able to consistently put it together."
The 31-year-old Parker has had a strong season himself, and really excelled in another State of Origin campaign for Queensland. He is hoping to be picked as one of the back-rowers in the Australian squad for the end-of-season World Cup tournament in the UK.
Griffin, at his Thursday media conference, was asked about Tallis and other critics getting stuck into him. He refused to enter into a slanging match.
"We are fair game at the moment," Griffin said.
"Everyone is singing like canaries so we will just let them go. That was always going to happen."
The fifth-placed Bulldogs can't finish any higher than that, but they would drop to sixth if they lost and Cronulla won or drew on the weekend. The Bulldogs are keen to win well and go into the finals with momentum.