Old heads keep Broncos in check

Between them they have almost 2,000 games of coaching and playing experience, so it comes as little surprise that Brisbane's current crop of stars are absorbing as much knowledge as they can from their coaching staff.

 

Wayne Bennett's return to the Broncos saddle in 2015 has transformed one of the Telstra Premiership's unpredictable teams into a well-disciplined and well-oiled winning machine.

Brisbane's current tally of 30 competition points is their best points haul after 18 rounds of competition in their 27-season history. 

Optimism that a seventh premiership could be heading Brisbane's way at season's end has soared even further after the club came through all six games of the Origin period undefeated.

Bennett – the so-called Clint Eastwood doppelganger – is the man with his feet firmly in the stirrups, but behind every sheriff there's his deputy, three in Brisbane's case.

In no particular order, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly understudies who are working feverishly behind the scenes at Red Hill to ensure Brisbane's squad keep charging towards their ultimate goal are assistant coaches Stephen Kearney, Kevin Walters and Allan Langer.

Kearney is no stranger to the coach's box; the current New Zealand boss has led the Kiwis since 2008 and also coached Parramatta in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Walters mentored the Ipswich Jets and Toowoomba Clydesdales at Queensland Cup level and spent two seasons coaching Super League club Catalans Dragons in 2009/10.

Langer has never held a head coaching role but has been involved on and off since 2009 as Brisbane's halves and assistant coach.

One Bronco benefiting from the 1,953 games (and counting) of rugby league expertise is hooker Andrew McCullough.

Into his eighth season at NRL level the 25-year-old doesn’t consider himself a senior player at this stage of his 164-game career.

However, Brisbane's captain-in-waiting may have to step up into that role sooner than he thinks depending on the playing longevity of 33-year-old's Corey Parker and current skipper Justin Hodges.

As the Broncos gallop towards a potential fifth minor premiership, the Dalby product says Bennett and his deputies are ensuring every player understands their role within the team.

"The senior players, Wayne, 'Alf' [Langer] and Stephen Kearney have the job to do that," McCullough said.

"For myself, I just need to go out there and perform and do my job. I have the confidence everyone else can go out and do their job and that’s something Wayne's really implemented into our team – that everyone just needs to do their job and not worry about someone else.

"The way we are playing, we are certainly playing for each other."

A team-orientated, week-by-week philosophy is what Bennett has quickly installed into his young squad, who have an average age of 25, and McCullough is trying to remain grounded despite the Broncos flying high on the ladder after the notoriously tricky Origin period.

"It all counts for nothing at the moment – it's about a process for us to keep improving as a team," he said.

"There's another eight weeks to go and anything can happen. It's a long way off yet – you see teams in the past that are dominant all year then fall come the finals.

"We aren't getting ahead of ourselves and Wayne's not letting us do that."

Even senior players like Kiwi international Adam Blair – who has played in two grand finals, 33 Tests and 205 NRL games – are benefiting from the tutelage of Bennett and company.

"Wayne and the staff have really been onto us about making sure we do our jobs and not worrying about anyone else," Blair said.

"It's really important at the back end of the season to build some momentum. We've got some tough teams [to come] but in saying that it gives us a good indication to see where we are at. 

"Everyone will be prepared and Wayne and the staff will make sure of that."

Bennett's mantra is built on defence and the Broncos are currently ranked fourth in the NRL for the fewest points conceded, while their attack continues to flourish with the club ranked second for points scored.

Blair, who scored his first Broncos try against the Bulldogs last weekend, says the club's attacking prowess doesn’t come solely from the training paddock, but more as a flow-on effect from the level of excitement building throughout the squad.

"The coaching staff have been really good about making sure we're enjoying ourselves at training and that shows out there on the field," he said.

"Every week we seem to be upbeat and training is good. We are working hard for each other and having fun with our football. 

"At the end of the day it's a football 'game' and you've got to enjoy yourself out there. 

"There's a long way to go but we seem to be on the right track." 

Video courtesy of broncos.com.au