Broncos aura must be earned: Lowrie
NRL veteran Todd Lowrie has warned Brisbane teammates that the return of coach Wayne Bennett doesn't necessarily mean a return to the Broncos' glory years, insisting they still have to earn the respect of opposition teams.
Ten years after picking a fight with Gorden Tallis and helping the Knights to upset a Broncos team laden with Test and Origin stars, Lowrie was sweating it out in his second Brisbane pre-season on Thursday still waiting to spend some quality time with Bennett.
The return of the seven-time premiership-winning coach back to the club he helped to build into the most feared team in the competition along with an aggressive marketing campaign has spirits buoyed in the Queensland capital.
The recruitment of anointed superstar Anthony Milford has put the Broncos on the back page for all the right reasons with 18 per cent of respondents to a poll currently running on NRL.com naming the Broncos as having the strongest-looking team for Round 1, ahead of the 2014 grand finalists in South Sydney and Canterbury (both 12 per cent).
But as he goes through the torture of an NRL pre-season for the 13th time, Lowrie said that it was up to the current playing group to reinstate that intimidation factor for which the Broncos were so well known.
"[Bennett] has only been back two weeks and we've only been running around a field as you've seen so that's not something that's just given out," Lowrie said of the Broncos' recapturing the aura they once had.
"You've got to earn that sort of respect and that's not something that just comes with a change of coach or a change in media opinion can provide. That's something that you've got to earn and us as players that have got the responsibility of wearing the Broncos logo at the moment have got to earn that, and that's something I know personally I will be and I'm sure the club will be certainly striving to get back that."
Lowrie was a 20-year-old back-rower at Newcastle the first time he lined up against the Broncos in 2004 when he faced off against a forward pack coached by Bennett and containing Shane Webcke, Corey Parker, Gorden Tallis, Dane Carlaw, Tonie Carroll and Sam Thaiday at Suncorp Stadium in front of more than 32,000 fans.
An under-strength Newcastle team given no hope of causing an upset that night got away with a 17-16 victory courtesy of a wobbly Kurt Gidley field goal but Lowrie conceded that when he first came into first grade lining up against the Broncos was as daunting as any challenge in the NRL.
"It was very exciting but very intimidating as well. A lot of those guys that you mentioned were idols and heroes and Origin stars and it was very intimidating playing against all those guys," said the 31-year-old.
"Back then it was very intimidating and certainly brought out your best footy because you were playing against guys you had always looked up to and you certainly had to try and make sure you held your own out there.
"I remember that day, we had a bit of an attitude of everyone giving it our best and not taking a backward step. He wouldn't remember but I remember having a bit of a verbal thing with Gordie on the night because, silly me, being immature and being a young buck trying to push our way in, that's what we did back then.
"That will still go down as one of the best wins of my career. I think Ben Kennedy might have pulled out on the eve of the game or he might have got hurt really early on, we were without 'Joey' (Andrew Johns) and a host of our main guys and no one had given us any chance up against a star-studded line-up that you just named."
The return of Bennett and the stamp he has already put on the club has many believing the Broncos are positioning to re-establish themselves as one of the NRL's true powerhouses.
They have failed to progress past the first week of the finals since Darren Lockyer's final season in 2011, and after 12 years in the NRL Lowrie is excited to finally have the opportunity to play in a Wayne Bennett-coached team.
"Wayne's a guy who I've met a couple of times through my travels but I've never had anything to do with him football-wise," said Lowrie, who said his encounters in pre-season thus far amount to little more than "walking past him once or twice".
"He's a guy who probably throughout my career I was hoping to be coached by at some stage but I certainly didn't think it was ever going to happen. I never thought I'd end up at the Broncos but I'm here now and really enjoying it.
"After being coached by some really good coaches he is a guy who I probably thought I'd never get the chance to be coached by but I really wanted to and I'm glad that I've got the opportunity.
"It's certainly exciting, changing things again and seeing how someone else operates, and obviously one of if not the best in the game. I'm excited to be coached by him and pick his brain on some things and see how he operates and how hopefully I can get the best out of myself under him."