In the second part of our in-depth interview with Broncos CEO Paul White, he discusses the arrival of Ben Barba, the pressure on coach Anthony Griffin and whether Brisbane is big enough for a second NRL team.
Q. Expansion is regularly discussed throughout the game, would you welcome a second Brisbane team into the competition?
A. I came into this role four years ago and I've probably been asked this question once a month for the past four years and from that day until now nothing has changed. There has never been, in a formalised way, tenders sought for a second side based in Brisbane; there hasn't been an articulated strategy on expansion or where we need to be taking the game. There are always opportunities to take the game to new frontiers but the work the game needs to do is to work out whether that is done through expansion or done through the use of our existing resources, which is 16 clubs, or a combination of both. The thing we have to be really clear about and really confident about is that if we're going to grow our elite competition by more teams, we've got to have a very, very high level of confidence of the sustainability of an increased model in our competition. We're currently two years into a new broadcast rights deal and there are still clubs struggling financially and getting their structures right, their governance right, their business models right and I think we need to make sure as a game that we get that work done and embedded and confident that it is going to be able to sustain an expanded structure and until we do that... It's not a matter of whether you support another team or not, it's whether the competition can support another team and I haven't seen a model put in front of me that can articulate or give me confidence that our game's ready for more teams at the moment.
Q. Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle was quoted on NRL.com saying that with regards to the negotiations to get Ben Barba to Brisbane "the perfect outcome would've been that we would've ended up with another fullback and everyone would've moved on". Was Josh Hoffman ever on the table in the form of a trade deal?
A. Never. Never discussed, never contemplated, the answer's as simple as no.
Q. Does coach Anthony Griffin need to make the finals this year to keep his job?
A. People talk about 'Hook' and pressure on the coach and it's a constant at this club. Is Anthony under pressure? Yes. Are the players under pressure? Yes. Am I under pressure? Yes. But that's just the nature of this club and if we were firmly entrenched in the top four now the pressure would still remain. Externally there will always be pressure but it will actually never reach the same levels of expectation and internal pressure that we actually put on ourselves. When I talk to our members and supporters – and I know at times they can be disappointed if you aren't exactly where you should be – but we're unashamedly a club that is measured on results and with results comes pressure and if you're going to work for our organisation you've got to be prepared to embrace that.
Q. Do you believe he's the man to return the Broncos to a position of power again?
A. Definitely. He's had a long apprenticeship as a coach through his time in regional areas, the Queensland Cup, his time in Melbourne and then ultimately through the 20s system and into the first grade squad here so he's done the right sort of apprenticeship. His first year he finished a game short of the grand final having taken over in some difficult circumstances and the last couple of years have been tough but I now think, although the results may not have shown to this point in the season, the way our players have approached the pre-season and now the season, we're certainly a side that will be in every game and that's a sign we're heading in the right direction.
Q. A lot of changes were announced by the NRL recently with regards to the salary cap and marquee and veteran players, what to you were the key points to come out of those changes?
A. The most positive one to me was the move with the veteran player allowance. If you're a development club like ourselves and you're developing young men and they come through your system and you turn those players into first grade footballers and Origin players, their value in the market starts to go up. If you know long-term that the club is going to be able to retain them and reward them through additional incentives, that's important. I like it and I'd like it to continually be reviewed and continue to reward our elite players who have earned that right at the back-end of their career that they can remain at the club.
Q. With regards to NRL CEO Dave Smith's new powers to attract or keep marquee players in the game, are you confident that a strong financial club such as the Broncos will receive the same consideration as a club that is perhaps struggling financially?
A. I think it was a statement of intent. I do understand that there are two sides to the argument but ultimately the biggest test will be the first time it's applied. Essentially that will form the yardstick to the application of the rule. I did think it was a bit of a statement of intent from our game to say that we're not going to sit idly by with no tools at the game's disposal to retain what we've got or to bring back what we've had.
Q. Will you need help to get Karmichael Hunt back to the Broncos?
A. Who's talking Karmichael? You mention Karmichael, other people have mentioned Israel Folau, I think we also need to turn our mind to what we've got within our game and be careful that we don't set up a mad rush where everyone is going to shop their best client to Super Rugby as well. There's a balance between how you apply it, who you apply it to and what are the criteria. It will be interesting when the first test case arrives but I'm not here to speak specifically about Karmichael or any other player or what we may or may not be doing.
Q. Are you more confident the game can get those players back now than you were a month ago?
A. Yeah I'm more confident. I'm more confident that the game's got a mind to more aggressively pursue... This club has probably lost more than any other if you look at Wendell [Sailor], Lote [Tuqiri], Karmichael, Israel, have all been lost to our club to competitor codes and we probably really didn't have a formal mechanism in the game to at least be able to put forward a position that gave us the ability to retain in some cases. We simply had to accept the reality that we weren't able to compete, and I don't think that's a good thing either.