Allan Langer knew Steve Renouf had sealed the Broncos’ first premiership. It was the 1992 Grand Final against St George and as Renouf ran 95 metres to give the side a 22-4 lead, Langer watched a sporting dream materialise with every metre of his team-mate’s run.
Back in Queensland a Year 11 student watched the same act unfold on a TV presumably not much bigger than the ball Renouf was carrying. He was just one of countless Broncos fans watching the game, but as Petero Civoniceva now thinks back to that day, you get a sense of what the club’s first premiership meant to an entire state.
Civoniceva is sitting in the away dressing room at Newcastle after his side’s win against the Knights and his thoughts bounce around amid the usual sights and sounds of the post-win sheds. A trainer is hurriedly packing up the Eskys and sandwich platters, players joke loudly, others make phone calls, and all but five metres away from Civoniceva stand two inconspicuous members of that ’92 side, Langer and Andrew Gee, wearing their club business shirts and talking footy.
“I remember it was a special day,” says Civoniceva. “I remember the vibe in Brisbane. Everyone in Brisbane was sitting by their TVs watching the game, and I just remember the homecoming at the airport. The scenes at the Brisbane airport…”
He takes a moment to retrace the day. “Did I go out there? Hmm… No, we were going to but didn’t in the end. But I remember the welcome home when they got back to Broncos Leagues Club.”
Langer remembers the homecoming well. “The build-up to the game, it just showed the support we had,” says Langer, sitting across the room from Civoniceva. “After we won we were trying to get through the airport but there were so many people, all the way up to King George Square. There were people everywhere there. There were celebrations for a month.”
The Grand Final win had come just four years after Brisbane’s admission to the New South Wales Rugby League in 1988 and had announced the club as a new rugby league powerhouse. For Langer, who had captained the side and won the Clive Churchill Medal, the game was career-defining.
“It was a highlight for me but for the Broncos it was recognition that the club was a strong outfit. It took us five years to get there. And we’ve been competitive ever since.”
Langer is full of praise for the side he captained that year. Either that or he’s shocking at mathematics, as the rugby league legend lists all 16 team-mates when asked for one standout player.
Among those team-mates were Michael Hancock, Kevin and Kerrod Walters, Terry Matterson, Alan Cann, Glenn Lazarus, Gavin Allen, Trevor Gillmeister, Andrew Gee and Steve Renouf, whose 90-metre try is Langer’s favourite memory from the match.
“The Steve Renouf long try, that sealed the game. I was trying to keep up with him but without too much luck,” says Langer, the signature side-of-the-mouth smile appearing. “But knowing him he only ran as fast as he had to and that’s what he did to get to the line.”
Civoniceva watched the grand final at a family barbecue at home like so many rugby league fans every year. He says the Renouf try is undoubtedly his lasting moment from the game.
“You could hear everyone in the street cheering when Steve Renouf scored,” says Civoniceva, also struggling to list a standout player without listing another. And another. “‘Kevvie’ Walters, Cann, Renouf, big ‘Gee Gee’ [Andrew Gee], Hohn...
“I liked the forward pack. They were the reason why they won – the engine room that could provide the platform for guys like ‘Alfie’ and the tremendous outside backs they had.
“I had to pinch myself when I knew I’d be going to that club. Even today I still feel very lucky to be around guys like Alfie, Andrew Gee and all the other club legends.”
Brisbane are still a young club but you can’t help feeling the Broncos’ heritage is as strong as any other’s.