Broncos draw inspiration from heartland
The pain of grand final defeat still lingers but a group of Broncos players are using a pre-season visit to regional Queensland to replenish the emotional fuel needed to go one better in 2016.
Fifteen Broncos players including Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Jack Reed, Andrew McCullough, Matt Gillett, Kodi Nikorima and Lachlan Maranta are spending two days almost 300 kilometres west of their Red Hill base meeting fans throughout the Darling Downs courtesy of club sponsor, Arrow Energy.
On Thursday Parker was among the group of players who visited the tiny wheat and sorghum town of Brigalow and dropped in on the 37 students who attend Brigalow State School for a special edition of Book Club they are unlikely to ever forget.
Other towns on the Broncos tour on Thursday included Miles, Warra, Wandoan, Gulugaba and Chinchilla with the players to spend Thursday night in Dalby before further visits to schools in Dalby, Cecil Plains and Toowoomba and a junior coaching clinic for 300 kids in Toowoomba on Friday afternoon.
Given the scrutiny on NRL players and clubs throughout the season Parker conceded that it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and appreciation for just how far support for the Broncos spreads throughout Queensland.
"Rugby league is such a great game and we have followers all around Australia and you sometimes forget those who are in our own footprint," Parker told NRL.com.
"It's good to get out here and see the faces of the kids because it's certainly something they'll talk about for a long period of time.
"Particularly in Queensland, you just notice their following for rugby league, whether it's the Broncos, Titans or Cowboys.
"When we've travelled around with the Maroons, if you go north-west you tend to find a little bit more support for the Cowboys but certainly out this way it's very much Bronco heartland.
"You can live in your own little bubble and get caught up at times of what is happening in your own backyard in Brisbane but it stretches much further than that. I really enjoy these sorts of trips."
With the Broncos squad to be split between the Downer NRL Auckland Nines and a trial game against the Cowboys in Bundaberg next weekend, the time to move past grand final disappointment has now passed but Parker said it is important to take the lessons learned and apply them to a new season.
"What we needed to do individually and as a team was to get over last year, which we've done," said the veteran of 323 NRL games for the club.
"What we experienced last year as a group was certainly a valuable lesson and some really good experiences.
"If you said to the group last year at the start of the year that we were going to make a grand final and lose, then you'd probably take that every day of the week.
"The hard thing is the efforts and all the hard work that went into the season to actually make the grand final and lose, that is hard to take.
"The motivation for us this year is to replicate what we did and go one step further.
"We're no different to any other team, we're working extremely hard and doing everything we can to ensure that come Round 1 that we've done all the preparation."