Ryan to revive Broncos' defensive steel
Broncos legend Peter Ryan is determined to bring back the defensive mentality that lifted Brisbane to the 2006 premiership when he takes on the role of technical adviser at the club on December 1.
Ryan, one of the most fearsome and technically astute defenders of the modern era as a player, was Brisbane's defensive coach in 2006 under Wayne Bennett.
Ryan will initially be on board at the Broncos for 10 weeks when he will implement defensive systems and work with the players in the pre-season on improving their defensive clout all-round. He will then be available as a consultant whenever needed by the Broncos during the year, as Ryan also will take on a full-time defensive coaching role, as a contractor, with the Queensland Reds.
After Brisbane beat Melbourne 15-8 in the 2006 grand final Bennett came up to Ryan and told him that the defensive system and mindset that he brought to the table was crucial in the victory.
Ryan told NRL.com the victory was based on a "connectivity" and "belief" in a defensive system that had been forged to stand up to the pressure of finals football.
"In 2006 when we had Melbourne coming off their tryline we were getting off our line super-express and if someone missed a tackle we knew that someone else was going to make it," Ryan said.
"There was a belief from each person in the bloke beside them, and that grows in itself.
"Whenever there was an offload, a missed tackle or a really good short pass somebody was there to make the tackle and that just comes back to communication and the connection in each group, which is exactly what we had in 2006."
The Broncos conceded 500 points in the regular season, the worst defensive record of all the top eight sides.
Brisbane's edge defence was found wanting at various stages but Ryan said having Matt Gillett and Jaydn Su'A back from injury in 2019 would make a difference
He said he was excited by the raw talent that he had to work with while acknowledging changes were needed.
"They are not far off. I look at this group of individuals and they are already big enough, strong enough and fast enough but you can clearly see that they are a passive defensive group," he said.
"When the opposition gets tackled they are often well over the advantage line and with two passes they are into a passive defensive group on both sides of the field."
Ryan said he was confident that as players enhanced their knowledge, and with a few tweaks, that advances would be made.
"David Fifita and Tevita Pangai jnr are both big men and if we just give them a few tools to change up the way they make contact there will be a few guys coming down their channel who will be going 'holy hell, that hurt'," he said.
"I believe in the system where if you get hit under the ribs you will not be looking to offload the ball."
Ryan, most recently an assistant coach at the ACT Brumbies, is completing a post-graduate certificate in sports coaching and also has a role with the Fijian Rugby Union where he works with all age divisions.
Bennett wants Ryan back at the club because of his technical nous and to bring a harder edge to his team. The Broncos are concerned that in their last two finals games they were beaten 48-18 by the Dragons and 30-0 by the Storm. Bennett wants his players to be defensive scrooges on the biggest stage, as they were in 2006, not laissez faire.
Ryan will be preaching what he has practised as player. His tackle on David Peachey in the 1997 Super League grand final, where Ryan cut the Cronulla fullback in half after a Darren Lockyer bomb, turned the match. The ball jarred loose, Steve Renouf scored and Brisbane did not look back.
While bringing all the modern advances in defensive systems, Ryan will also be bringing a much-needed old school mentality to the Broncos.
Cowboys behemoth Jason Taumalolo told NRL.com recently that when Ryan was assistant coach at the club he was a key figure in turning him from a boy into a man. There was some tough love involved, but that is what Bennett wants Ryan to bring to the table at Brisbane.
It is that same passing down of knowledge that may yet have long-term benefits for Brisbane.
"When blokes like Petero, Webcke and Thorn came through in first grade I had been there a while and knew the Broncos system, so I made sure they knew it and were accountable for it and then they passed it on to the young guys after them," Ryan said.