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Broncos at the Heart of Brisbane
10 March 2023 - Brisbane play North Queensland in round 2 of the NRLM season in the prime time Friday night slot at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Wet. It’s wet. It’s the first thing I noticed about this game. There’s the mugginess in the air causing a perpetual trickle of sweat under my 100% polyester jersey1, both at the pub before the game and the walk to the stadium. There’s water on my seat which immediately seeps into my shorts and then more slowly into my boxers. Don’t forget the intermittent rain on my face during the game because why bother with a poncho if I’m going to sweat under it anyway? It’s the fact that I know that I won’t be dry until I get home in a few hours’ time. The weather gods usually bless Broncos home games but even they can be taciturn.
The second thing I noticed, and perhaps the more interesting than the moisture content of the air, is that the Broncos seem rather passive aggressive about the fact there is another NRL team in the greater Brisbane metropolitan area.
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Since the lighting at Suncorp was upgraded to LED, the Broncos have had a pregame lights show. There’s the thumping music - last year’s was Tiësto’s Let's Get Down To Business - an animated video rolls on the big screen - usually it’s a flaming horse rolling down the Brisbane River, past a recognisable version of the CBD skyline to the Story Bridge - while the field lighting ramps up and down, the electronic hoardings that normally show ads light up in maroon and gold and fireworks detonate in the middle of the stadium.
This year’s theme is HEART OF BRISBANE.
The ground announcer - who also does Dolphins home games at Suncorp - made sure to yell at me that Broncos are both the geographical and sporting cultural heart of the city, epitomised by the insistence that musical vacuity, Sheppard, were a similarly important part of the fabric of the city. For a city with a mural to The Saints on Petrie Terrace, just down from The Barracks, and a long tradition of fine rock music since the time of The Saints, to put Sheppard up on any sort of cultural pedestal feels, to put it mildly, like a misstep. They didn’t say who might be rivals to the heart of Brisbane but it’s pretty obvious.
For what it’s worth, the Dolphins have a very similar pregame ritual, although their video doubles as an Acknowledgement of, or possibly a Welcome to, Country. An Indigenous styled dolphin goes past the Story Bridge and Redcliffe and other flashes of what I assume the Dolphins claim to be their country. It's more red and gold than maroon and gold, and less HEART OF BRISBANE and more WE’RE HERE. Overall, the impression is still the same.
An unfair analysis might conclude that this is insecurity on the Broncos’ part. A more correct analysis would conclude that it is marketing, taking an opportunity that the Dolphins’ lack of defined location has opened for the Broncos to stake their claim to the literal heart of the city. Coincidentally, the Broncos’ City Jersey2 is now on sale ($170 RRP). Here's Broncos captain Adam Reynolds - born in Sydney, 231 games for South Sydney and two for New South Wales - modelling the jersey and talking about how he's "proud of the city we're from".
The Battles for and of Brisbane will have to wait for a few weeks until round 4. Much of the discussion around the ground centred on who really was the big brother out of Queensland's now four teams: the more recently successful Cowboys or the older blueblood Broncos. Seemingly, the only agreement reached is that the Titans should be fired out of a cannon to land somewhere south of the Tweed.
The rain intensifies and the ball is kicked off. The Cowboys begin the game fiercely and as the Broncos struggle to make any metres in the first few sets, there’s a familiar sinking feeling as it looks like the huge win against the Panthers was an aberration and we were back to the 2021-22 editions of Kevball.
The Broncos resisted the urge to wilt under the light rain and heavy pounding from Taumalolo and his wrecking crew. Reynolds was barely visible. Mam kept dropping the ball. We waited.
After fifteen minutes, the Broncos had clawed their way back to parity on the field, hit parity on the scoreboard just before halftime and from there went on to dominate the rest of the game. By the time Taumalolo came back on, the Broncos were ten in front and it was good night.
It’s no coincidence that when Taumalolo was off the field, Paix was on the field and the rain stopped, that the Broncos started moving up through the attacking gears and moved to take the lead. The literal instant Paix is on and Walters is off, there’s a try opportunity that goes begging. When that situation reversed later in the game, the Cowboys began to rev up again but it was too late. North Queensland already looked gassed with five to go in the first half. By the end of the game, the Broncos finished with more than 400 metres and 12 points over the Cowboys.
Payten’s strategy was to blitzkrieg the Broncos into submission early, relying on the spine and intestinal fortitude that’s been absent since Seibold’s arrival to be still AWOL. That’s not this team though. The Cowboys tide was turned back and they didn’t have the ordnance to keep the Broncos contained. It was a strategic error from a general that still has them in his footlocker from time-to-time, despite the rapid rise up the ladder during the 2022 campaign.
The Broncos have long relied on confidence, and given their run of results, it’s been a terribly counterproductive facet of their personality. But when that’s tempered with some patience, and some experience, and some belief in themselves, then this is what happens. The Broncos showed the resilience, the unbreakable spirit, that they themselves say is inseparable from the very nature of Brisbane and its denizens.
So did Kev outcoach Todd? Who can say?
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I had hoped it would wick away the moisture.
A concept lifted from the NBA.