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Webcke: Time for Broncos players to fix 'mongrel mess'

Broncos legend Shane Webcke says the players will be defined as people and footballers by how they handle the final two months of what has been a dire season.

Webcke spoke to NRL.com about the approach needed by the players in the final seven rounds and provided some thought-provoking insights into what the Broncos as an organisation have always historically stood for.

He made it clear he did not have all the answers, but would assist the club, if asked. 

The Broncos are 15th with the worst defensive record in the Telstra Premiership, having conceded 401 at 30.8 each match, the worst defensive numbers in club history.

After starting the season with back-to-back wins, they've lost 10 of 11 matches since the NRL restarted at the end of May, only beating last-placed Canterbury.

They are on track for the lowest ladder finish in the club's 32-year history, a nadir set in 2014 with a 13th placing.

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Their woes off the field sunk further when Tevita Pangai jnr attended a barber shop opening and breached NRL biosecurity rules in the process.

He has since been suspended indefinitely by the NRL and fined $30,000 after behaviour Webcke described as "as dumb as it gets".

Webcke said what the Broncos do in the next seven weeks would define the team and the individuals in it.

"What they really need to remember is that they are going to be remembered for what is going on, and they are going to be remembered for how they deal with it,” Webcke told NRL.com.

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"All things in life don’t go as smoothly as we’d like them to. They will be judged for how they come out of this as individuals and players.

"It is not always about winning premierships, but it is about how people remember you and the effort that you have and how you dealt with adversity.

"We are all good at dealing with things when they are going right. When we are called to question, and when we are really able to be judged for what we have got, is when things are going crap."

That sums up how things have been going for Brisbane.

Pangai, who was suspended for four weeks for attacking the head of Justin O’Neill in round one, has now missed 13 games due to suspensions since the start of 2019.

Joe Ofahengaue missed two weeks for a shoulder charge and another two in a club-imposed penalty for one off-field.

Issac Luke, Pat Carrigan, Kotoni Staggs and Thomas Flegler have each missed a game through suspension.

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Assistant coach Allan Langer and two other support staff members are in a COVID hold after breaking NRL biosecurity rules while coach Anthony Seibold is also in isolation after leaving the team's bubble to attend a family matter in Sydney.

Matt Lodge is now out for the rest of the season with a leg injury while young winger Xavier Coates has been sidelined for the next week or two after a training mishap on Thursday.

While Webcke believes the past glories can inspire, as he was by the 1992 and 1993 premiership-winning teams when he arrived at the club, he also makes the point that players must create their own legacy.

Things can turn quickly, as the four-time premiership-winning prop experienced in 1999 when the club was 17th after round 10 before winning 11 straight to make the finals.

Shane Webcke takes a hit-up for the Broncos in the 1998 grand final win.
Shane Webcke takes a hit-up for the Broncos in the 1998 grand final win. ©NRL Photos

"We stuffed plenty of things up. It happens to all clubs and sides," Webcke said.

"I remember plainly 1999 and how bad a year that was and how we dug ourselves out of it. That was a monumental effort.

"If something clicks in the next two weeks and they get on a winning run until the end of the season then people will forget this and think 'that is the Broncos that we remember’.

"That is what our supporter base is looking for.

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"It is their time to show what they are as people. Yes, you are a rugby league player, but playing rugby league says a lot about character and what kind of character these players have.

"Forget about the past and all the ex-players. They want to think about the legacy they are providing of themselves, what type of player they are and how people will speak about them."

The Pangai problem

The recent lack of discipline by Pangai, the brazen nature of it, in clear contradiction of instructions given to the Tongan international inside the previous 24 hours, makes Webcke's blood boil.

"That is an easy one. I don’t need to know anything about anyone to know that it is absolutely evident to everybody what the consequences are of that if something goes wrong," he said.

"That is as dumb as it gets. Whatever penalty is coming his way is not enough. Talk about selfishness, well that is as bad as it gets.

"We have all been young and we have all made stupid mistakes, but that is beyond that. That is a conscious decision to break a rule as far as I am concerned and that is no good."

Helping hand

Webcke said he would assist the club in any way he could but stressed he did not have the answers or regard himself as some kind of Mr Fix-it.

He is not sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring, but if it does he'll go straight to Red Hill.

His sentiments reflect the Broncos' Old Boys network where the former players want only what is best for the club.

"I don’t hold myself in high enough regard to think they should say 'we are in crisis, let’s see what Shane Webcke thinks', but if they ever thought I had some sort of use, I’d be there in a flash," he said.

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"In any capacity if the club every asked me to do something, I would do it. I owe them that for what they have given me, such is my loyalty and indebtedness to the club.

"I think it would be quite arrogant for me to think I could waltz in there and impart something to them that could make the difference, but I love the place and I hate seeing where it is at the moment.

"I am concerned about it. I worry about it. I long to see it turned around but it is other people’s business now."

Webcke, who runs a farm and works as a presenter with Channel Seven, said the club looked chaotic from the outside looking in.

It is just such a mongrel mess at the moment.

Shane Webcke

"To know what is going on is to be with those players day-in and day-out and to see how they are going," he said.

"It is just such a mongrel mess at the moment and add in the drama that Seibs is going through which I believe is of a personal nature and quite serious.

"I feel for him because he is fighting a war on a few fronts at the moment. It is just a tough time and I think they can do without ex-players weighing in and giving our two cents worth, unless it is asked for."

The Broncos way

Webcke played in sides that did not win premierships but no Broncos team during his career from 1995-2006 missed finals football and all of them gave their all until the final siren.

It is the defensive frailty and constant falling away at the tail end of games that has the club's Old Boys concerned.

There have been plenty of performances this year that have been un-Bronco-like and Webcke got to know as well as anyone what the club stands for in his 254-game career.

"There is a Broncos way of doing things and there always was," Webcke said.

"Often times that was about winning. What it was always about was playing until the end. Even if you were getting your backside handed to you, you kept turning up.

Broncos coach Anthony Seibold.
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"That was instilled in us. I don’t think that will ever get old fashioned. It was always 'we go until the end'.

"They have shown glimpses of it this year, but if they play like that it won’t matter if they are winning or losing. People will respect them for the effort.

"Winning will start to come when the effort levels are matching that. The true measure of where they are at is their defensive efforts.

"When you see them defend terribly and defend without any sort of passion or meaning that will tell you where the club is at.

"It is really simple things which will cure this. All they need to do is roll their sleeves up and go to work and people will respect that."