Camp cruelty instils Broncos resolve
They are fast developing a reputation for being one of the hardest defensive lines in the NRL to crack and senior Broncos players have revealed their steely resolve was forged in a torturous pre-season military camp.
Holding the Titans scoreless for the first 25 minutes last Friday despite having just 29 per cent possession was the latest evidence of the Broncos' refusal to buckle under pressure. The only try they conceded in the first 40 minutes came directly from a Daniel Vidot error 20 metres out from his own line and they have let in just one other first half try in their past month of football.
Cronulla couldn't score a try against the Broncos in 80 minutes in Round 2, the Cowboys scored one try in the opening 40 minutes in Round 3 and the Warriors took until the 45th minute before scoring the first of their three tries.
Given the high turnover of their roster over the off-season and the return of coach Wayne Bennett it is a remarkable achievement ahead of a showdown with the Roosters on Friday night and one forged on a willingness to work for their teammates.
The entire Broncos squad was put through gruelling physical punishment while sleep deprived in their pre-season camp and while it's not the first back-rower Matt Gillett has been on, it was definitely the toughest.
"It was a pretty tough camp but everyone did it and got through it so it was good for all the boys. That's definitely the hardest one I've done. It was pretty tough but all the boys got a lot out of it," Gillett told NRL.com.
"It was just your typical Army camp, getting told to go to bed and then being woken up an hour later and you're pretty rooted. Doing sessions during the night with limited sleep so it was pretty tough that way but all the boys did a great job and I think we came together there as a team."
Hooker Andrew McCullough has made at least 40 tackles in every game thus far this season and said helping fellow squad members through difficult situations during the camp is holding them in good stead when their defensive line is being threatened.
"Certain exercises where you are a bit fatigued and you have to think at the same time or helping your teammates through a situation that they probably don't necessarily like," McCullough said of the most testing aspects of the camp.
"Physically you've got to do something you probably don't feel like doing and that can be in games as well. Some days you don't feel like turning up and playing – that happens to anyone – but at the end of the day you've got to do your job even if you like it or not.
"It's just not to let your teammates down. It can be ugly, it can be whatever but if you're willing to back your teammates up with some good defence then you're going to win a lot more games than you lose."
McCullough and Gillett both said that there had been minor adjustments made to their defensive structure under Bennett but that the cornerstone of their miserly defence is attitude.
"There's a little bit more structure with certain things but there's not a lot different to be honest," McCullough said.
"At the end of the day it's about attitude and being able to wrap the ball up and get the bloke on his back and slowing the play-the-ball up. It's a massive play and a big part of the modern game now."
Adds Gillett: "We changed a bit of our defensive structure and got everyone buying into it as a team and it's obviously working out there. That's what we want to pride ourselves on, our defence and giving the opposition little opportunity to score.
"Definitely we're working together pretty well at the moment with our defence and that's the standard we've got to keep throughout the whole year."