When Brisbane opened their 25th season with a home loss to Manly, there was no shortage of critics. So coach Anthony Griffin asked his players to join the ranks of those taking pot-shots at the premiership’s most successful franchise.
“We had a talk about how we felt and rated ourselves a five out of 10,” back-rower Alex Glenn told NRL.com in the wake of Friday night’s 22-6 win over St George Illawarra – which came despite the Broncos’ bench being reduced to one man for 20 minutes.
“And you know, that’s not acceptable. ‘Hook’ (coach Anthony Griffin) and all the coaching staff... we had a meeting and it was blatantly honest with ourselves. We didn’t want to beat around the bush.
“Each week – and I know it’s a long season – we want to be putting in the effort and getting a 10 out of 10.”
In a fortnight which has seen quicker rucks lead to some teams being buried without a trace, the Broncos overcame their poor start to the season against a side with just as much pressure and expectation of success hanging over it.
Glenn, who made his 100th appearance in the game, said: “The history of the Broncos – it’s a big year for the club, 25 years and six premierships. It’s a great record and all the legends that have come through the club, you’ve got to respect that.
“Every time we put on that jersey... me personally, I have a think about all the past players who’ve put on this jersey and what it means to me.”
In Round 1, the Cook Islander says: “It hurt to see our fans leaving the stadium [early]. That’s something that we don’t want to happen, especially at our home ground.
“It was definitely a stab in the chest, that second half, and we were in the sheds with our heads down. We couldn’t look each other in the eye.
“We can look each other in the eye in the dressing shed [now] and say we did our job out there. I don’t think you can get a much tougher game than that – I think we did 11 sets in a row on our own try line.”
While some other teams – Wests Tigers and Sydney Roosters come to mind – have fought back from inglorious starts to the season and won matches so far in the young season, others like Canberra and the Dragons have been consistently worked over.
The cleaner rucks under new referees boss Daniel Anderson allow the likes of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk to shine – but critics say they also allow teams to ram home an advantage gained from early momentum.
Stand-in Cronulla coach Peter Sharp says the rucks are just too quick.
“You’re rolling out a lot of yardage and you’re rolling 70 or 80 metres, which is not usually done,” he said after his side’s 14-12 loss to South Sydney in Monday Night Football.
“You’re flat-out just keeping your line intact. The game, certainly, has quickened up – a bit too much for my liking.
“I’m not sure anyone’s really sure how to be effective with the ball at that sort of speed, other than run from dummy-half – and that’s what it promotes.
“Quickness of the ruck promotes running from dummy-half. If that’s what you want, well that’s what you get. [Souths] did it very well... other teams will do it very well. But putting quality on the back of that dummy-half run is going to be the issue for me.
“I’d like us to strike a bit better balance in the ruck between this year and last year. I think we’ve got a little bit too far in the speed of the game. Sides are just rolling down the park against you.”
With scorelines like 36-0, 32-0 and 32-10, Peter’s observations seem particularly sharp.
BEST OF ROUND 2: The epic battle between Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston at 1300SMILES Stadium.
WORST OF ROUND 2: Some slightly disappointing attendances – particularly at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday (just 9,175).
WEIRDEST OF ROUND 2: Souths captain Michael Crocker was fascinated by a pink, glitter-covered iphone in front of him at the MNF post-match media conference.
CLEVEREST OF ROUND 2: Cooper Cronk preventing a certain Cowboys try to centre Kane Linnett. He can do anything.
WHAT I SAW: Albert Kelly give a wonderful ‘all-in’ interview with journalists on Sunday night at what used to be called the Titans Centre of Excellence.