Prince: Time for Hunt to take charge
They've been one of the most active clubs in the player market during the off-season but retired great Scott Prince has laid the responsibility for resurrecting the Brisbane Broncos on their young players, starting with 23-year-old halfback Ben Hunt.
Prince played the final season of his 16-year career at the Broncos in 2013 and has pinpointed the continued development of the club's young players as the key to reversing their fortunes. Names such as Ben Barba, Martin Kennedy, Todd Lowrie and Daniel Vidot have been added to the roster but Prince insists that it is up to the likes of Hunt, Josh McGuire, Alex Glenn and Josh Hoffman to repay the faith shown in them by coach Anthony Griffin.
"2014 is an important period for the club, more because of the fact that the young guys within the team have had some experience playing first grade," Prince told NRL.com.
"Some of the kids are now up around 50-100 games and you'd have to say that with the faith Anthony Griffin has shown in them to develop these guys, it's time for them to really aim up and show why they're there."
Prince finished his 300-game career playing five-eighth outside Hunt and with 89 NRL games now under his belt, he says the 2008 under-20s player of the year has all the tools necessary to take charge of the Broncos.
"He's been in the fold now for quite some time and he's done it in the past with the under-20s, but NRL is a totally different ball game," said Prince.
"He's had experience playing six, he's had experience playing seven, I think he's come off the bench and played a bit of hooker but 'Hook' (Anthony Griffin) has got him there at halfback and given him every opportunity to make this team his own.
"He's a skilful bugger and now it's time for him to settle in and take hold of the reins and basically drive the team around. I think he's ready for it and only time will tell whether he's going to be the man to take them all the way.
"Right now, I don't think there's anyone else at the club that will be ready [to play halfback] other than Ben Hunt."
In terms of season wins, 2013 was the worst year in the Broncos' storied history and with the Titans narrowly missing the eight and the Cowboys bowing out in controversial circumstances in the first week of the finals, the NRL is in desperate need of a resurgence north of the border.
Despite finishing 12th on the premiership table the Broncos' average home crowds of 30,480 still ranked first in the competition, but Prince has no doubt that TV ratings suffered as a result of the poor seasons by the three Queensland-based teams.
"I've played for all three and I've got a soft spot for all of them and I think as far as Queenslanders are concerned, especially with the Origin and how supportive they are, [it has to have an effect] in terms of viewing on TV and all of that," he said.
"It's important from an overall perspective as far as watching on TV [that Queensland teams are successful]. It's always nice from a Queensland point of view to see the Queensland teams being successful and being involved in September football.
"The Broncos have been a very successful club from the get-go and I don't think it's the pressures externally that drive them, it comes from within.
"What the teams have done in the past, there is this aura around the team and hence as a player who puts on a Broncos jersey, you feel that it's your duty to do your job and do it well to follow in the footsteps of the players that have worn that jersey and that have become a successful team."