Kevin Walters may have the most difficult job in all of rugby league, as he attempts to rebuild the once mighty Brisbane Broncos.
Appointed the new head coach after the sacking of Anthony Seibold last season, Walters has his work cut out for him – but one would struggle to find a more passionate and dedicated individual to turn around what has been a catastrophic year for the NRL’s glamour club.
The Broncos finished season 2020 with the dreaded wooden spoon. Recording just three wins, 17 losses and a points differential of -356 (268 for and 624 against) which was by far the worst in the competition and by far the worst season in just about every statistic in the club’s 32-year history.
And it was not just on-field performances that turned the club into a basket case, it was also a series of off-field controversies and unbelievably poor management that added to their horrific down fall.
It will almost certainly be a long, arduous process and it is important that the Broncos board and the club’s supporters give Walters the time he needs, show patience and have faith that this proud club will become a powerhouse again.
Walters expressed many concerns prior to his appointment, including a disconnect between the club and their members, sponsors, corporate partners and the entire Brisbane community.
He is looking to overhaul a badly mismanaged roster; top heavy with forwards, youth and inexperience, as well as players who have not lived up to their lofty salaries.
There will likely be some tough conversations and home truths in regard to the attitude problems shown by the players who perhaps do not understand or appreciate the privilege of putting on the Broncos jersey and the responsibilities that come with it.Embed from Getty Images
The culture within the team had become rotten to the core but Walters has always been praised, particularly during his tenure as Queensland Origin coach, for his man management skills, building strong relationships with his players and his ability to create a team culture of hard work, but also a team environment where players can enjoy themselves and have fun together.
Walters, who won five premierships at the Broncos as a playmaker, will endeavour to get the best out of maligned five-eighth Anthony Milford and continue the development of young halfback Tom Dearden.
Milford played his best footy in 2015 and helped guide the Broncos to the grand final that season. Many attribute Milford’s previous success to Walters, who was the halves coach at the time under former coach Wayne Bennett.
Dearden is widely regarded as the Broncos long term halfback and he will benefit greatly under Walters’ tutelage.
New recruit and former Titans halfback Albert Kelly was signed to a train-and-trial deal and will provide quality depth in the halves, but Walters sent him packing back to a Broncos feeder club because he arrived at training overweight. Walters is setting high standards and Kelly will have to adhere to those standards, especially fitness wise, before he re-joins his new teammates.
It will take time for Walters to balance out the roster get the team he wants. The club has already offloaded Jack Bird, Joe Ofahengaue and Sean O’Sullivan; and have recruit former Broncos flyer Dale Copley back to the club to bolster the outside back.
They have 10 players off contract at the end of 2021 including Milford, Andrew McCullough and Alex Glenn.
Walters is optimistic about returning the club to its winning culture and qualifying for the finals next season, but that will be a tall order from what we saw from the side in 2020.
Realistically, what does progress look like in 2021 for the Brisbane Broncos?
Resilience, attitude, toughness, dedication and hard work at training and on the field. To back themselves and their ability. To enjoy footy again. To play for each other and their supporters.
That may not be enough for this current team to qualify for the finals next year, but if they can replicate what the Gold Coast Titans did, going from last in 2019 to ninth in 2020, that is positive progress.
The Broncos have always expected success and their supporters have always commanded success. But every club at some point will go through a rough period. The Broncos did not get themselves into this situation overnight and they certainly will not get themselves out of it overnight either.
Broncos sponsors, members and supporters can rest assured that Walters is the right man for this job and there is more than enough talent in the squad and coming up through the ranks to achieve long term, sustained success. Finals in 2021 will be a long shot, but 2022 – 2023 could be looking good for the Broncos as long as Walters is given the time and support.
In Kevvie, we trust!