Stung by criticism of his form and also that of young halves partners Ben Hunt and Corey Norman, Brisbane halfback Peter Wallace admits it is up to him and the rest of the senior playing group to turn the Broncos’ spluttering season around.
Four losses in a row – including five from their past six games – has Brisbane in danger of missing the finals for just the second time in 21 seasons, with daunting clashes against Melbourne and Manly to come over the next fortnight.
Their shock slump prompted Broncos football manager Andrew Gee to describe the recent form of Wallace and Norman in particular as ‘terrible’.
While Wallace agreed that he hadn’t been at his best during Brisbane’s losing streak, he told NRL.com that he was still disappointed by Gee’s comments and was determined to prove the former Broncos forward wrong over the final three weeks of the regular season.
“It was disappointing [to hear],” Wallace said ahead of Friday night’s crucial clash with the Storm. “You try your best and sometimes things don’t go your way and you don’t play as well as you’d like to.
“But the end of the day you can’t take it to heart.”
“We probably did drop off a little bit… and that’s fair enough – but we’ve taken responsibility and we’re trying hard to get back to the form we showed for most of the year.”
Wallace said that the senior playing group had spoken at length about what they needed to do to stop the rot this weekend.
“We know we have to lead from the front and lead by example,” he said. “We’ve definitely spoken about that.
“Last week I thought Petero (Civoniceva) and Ben Hannant were great so if we can build on that we’ll go alright.
“Obviously we were way off our best for a few weeks there but I think last week we showed we’re building nicely to something better. Hopefully we can take it one step further and get a win this week.”
Since 1991, when they finished in seventh spot to miss out on a finals berth by one spot, the only time the Broncos have failed to reach the playoffs was two years ago – a result that ultimately cost former coach Ivan Henjak his job.
But Wallace said it was unreasonable to expect this young Broncos squad to maintain their best form throughout an entire season.
Asked what had gone wrong over the past month, the veteran halfback pointed to the representative period and some inexperience in key positions as having both played their parts.
“We rested the boys pretty well all the way through Origin but it can take an effect on everyone,” he said. “Even the guys that don’t play Origin, they have to step up when the other blokes aren’t there.
“I think for two or three weeks there we were just lacking attitude and energy – all the little things that when the form is a bit off you need in order to win games. I put it down mainly to that but obviously when you start having a few losses the confidence does drop and it’s a bit of a snowball effect.”
Wallace said that it was always going to be tough for youngster Corey Norman, who has shifted to fullback with Ben Hunt returning to the halves, to replace the great Darren Lockyer while enduring the rigours of his first full season in the top grade.
“I remember when I played my first full season that it took a lot out of me,” he said. “By the end of the year I was exhausted because it had been a really tough year.
“So there is probably a bit of that, but in saying that the team as a whole has been down and when that happens it’s hard for the halves to play well.
“But as I said, I think we’re starting to come out of it now. We’ve got a tough run home but if we can come out the other side of this and get into the finals, I think it will hold us in good stead come the finals series.”