THE WEEKLY: The Dolphins will give you one good half of football
Dolphins pack it in, Broncos and Titans play out The Classic, Cowboys barely show up, the Broncos keep printing money, QCup notes and the 1976 BRL grand final
The Dolphins will give you one good half of football
The Dolphins are a team that will give you at least one (1) good half of football in every game, but it tends to be the first half. In their two previous losses, against the Dragons and the Broncos, Redcliffe were only down four at half time. They even led at half time against South Sydney. But they lack the gas to go the whole way unless they really want to have a dig.
While they managed to defeat Raiders and Knights sides still finding their feet, and managed to run down and run away with, respectively, each game, that’s not been an option in the second month of the NRL season. The plan seems to be to get in front by enough at half time that they can manage the chase in the second half to still be in front by the end of the game (e.g. at Cowboys).
If they don’t build up enough of a buffer, Thursday night’s game against Souths is what we get. The Dolphins didn’t have much of a buffer, what they had didn’t last long and when Bromwich got binned, while down 6 with 19 to go, it was going to be an impossible ask and that was before they conceded three tries in ten minutes. Fortunately, Souths eased off the accelerator and since no one expects much from the Dolphins, it seems fine - sensible even! - for them to pack it in and save their gas for another day.1
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Moment of the Weekend
I’ll admit that I didn’t get to watch a second of Cup this weekend due to family commitments and a horrified fascination with what the Cowboys insist on doing to themselves in a game I hadn’t planned to write up.
Nonetheless, Jack Smith of the Souths Logan Magpies stood out on the scoresheets for his four tries against Redcliffe2 on the way to an absolute thrashing being dished out. He was so on fire today, standing at the end of a backline outplaying their opposition in every conceivable way, that he was credited with five tries, despite Tyler Coburn scoring just after half time. The above is a supercut of his tries, made incredibly grainy by Substack’s image file restrictions. Perhaps the real highlight is the clearly audible "FUCK YEAH” picked up by the ref's mike after the second try.
Completely unrelated to the game itself but the Titans did some content last week about how Foran is excited to dig into this derby that’s new to him. This piece makes it clear that said derby needs a name because the only rivalry actually referenced by name is one played in a different state.
Considering Brisbane versus the Gold Coast is Queensland’s oldest derby in this league, you’d think that it would have a name by now, or at least a better name than the “South-east Queensland Derby”3, which is cumbersome, or the generically corporate “XXXX Derby” that applies to six different permutations now4 or “Maccas Local Derby”.
There hasn’t been much of a chance to develop this fixture from derby into rivalry, which is partly down to the Gold Coast collectively being terrible since 19885, and also non-existent from 2000 through 2006. In order to inject a small sense of pride into this, I propose we adopt The Classic (or Queensland Classic) and The Oldest Rivalry (or Queensland's Oldest Rivalry, when necessary to distinguish). Let's class the joint up a little.
It’s best not to talk about what happened in Auckland
Good lord, the Cowboys have been crap. Everyone seems to have clued in by now - 2-5 is a pretty big hint - but I don't think anyone has articulated exactly what's gone wrong from 2022’s annus mirabilis to 2023’s anus. Having had my pet theory shot to bits, I’m going back to the drawing board to find out who’s to blame.
The Broncos are still printing money
The Broncos AGM is coming up and unlike the last few years, things are going relatively well on the field. As a disclaimer, I hold about 1,000 shares, or roughly 0.001%, which is why I end up going through the Broncos’ annual report, even though my shareholding is objectively insignificant. Here’s the vaguely interesting stuff so you don’t have to read it.
Market cap for the Broncos, at time of writing, is $104m. For comparison, the Knights and Titans both last changed hands for less than $10m each and the Warriors sold a few years ago for about $20m. Now that the NRL clubs are all profitable thanks to head office largesse, valuations for the other clubs should increase but it seems unlikely that would be enough to close the gap to the Broncos.
Gross revenue was just under $60 million, of which only $18.7m (less than a third of revenue) was spent on football operations. Profit was $3.2m after tax, up about 10% on last year. Merch sales are up 30%. The NRL grant was apparently up 5% due to the two NRLW seasons played in 2022 (although later in the report, the grant from the NRL in 2022 is stated as less than in 2021), running at $16.2m, or just over a quarter of all revenue.
The Broncos have a lease with Stadiums Queensland until 2034. There’s no minimum spend but Stadiums Queensland takes a cut of tickets, signage, corporates, etc and based on attendance and so forth. The Broncos spent $6.5m last year on “stadium operations”, or about half a mil per home game.
News Corporation owns 68.87% of the Broncos. The next biggest shareholder is BGM Projects, which owns 22%. There are 886 individual share holders, of which only 16 each hold more than 100,000 of the 98 million shares. The 14 not named above collectively hold a little under 4%.
CEO Dave Donaghy makes $500k/yr6 plus super and a car and can add up to 50% of his salary for meeting on and off field KPIs. Donaghy made an extra $75k in bonuses last year. Head of Football Operations Ben Ikin makes $300k/yr plus super and another $20k in non-monetary benefits, which I assume is a car. Ikin had no bonuses last year.
Darren Lockyer owns 43,778 shares, or about 0.04%. His “arm’s length” engagements for “licencing and endorsements” (about $80k/yr in 2015-17) and “leadership consultancy services” ($33k in 2020) seem to have disappeared. Lockyer makes $32k/yr plus super to be a non-executive director.
The dividend payout is 1.5 c/share which sounds like very little, and it is, but it is pretty good for the Broncos, who are traditionally very miserly.
Finally and most importantly, “the term of the current [NRL] Club Agreement expires on 31 October 2023” and I, for one, can’t wait to see how V’landys, Abdo and co deal with this. I assume they will start negotiations sometime in December, considering the EA hasn't been formally wrapped up.
I beg you to not engage with the SIN BIN CRACKDOWN. It’s just not worth it. Find something else to do with your energy.
Friend of the newsletter, @footyindustryAU, posted a list of the top ten rating NRL games so far this season. Conflict on Caxton tops the list with nearly 1.5m viewers. The Battle for the Bruce was in sixth (1.2m) and The Derby in tenth (1.1m). Broncos and Dolphins appear three times each, Cowboys twice and Titans not at all, although their only FTA game was against the Dragons.
We're still waiting for two time defending premiers, the Norths Devils, to break through for their first win of the season, after going down 34-0 to the Capras. The men's side is 0-3-2. The women's side did finally notch a win, beating Central, 32-16, which is an astounding drought considering who's on that roster - I owe you a Quick Wrap for this game, expect it later this week.
Speaking of Cup, the Central Queensland Capras are currently leading the pack with an unbeaten 5-0 start to the season. The Capras started last season similarly hot and had one of their best seasons ever.
The Western Clydesdales, Toowoomba’s new Cup team, won their first game in their current guise, beating fellow unaffiliates, the Ipswich Jets, 44-28, in Ipswich. Bessie Toomaga kicked 7/7 plus a penalty goal and scored a pair of match bookending tries, for a total of 24 points. It’s a momentous achievement for the Clydesdales. Meanwhile, the Jets have to be wondering where their first win of this season is going to come from. They play the Dales again in two weeks but don’t play Norths until late July.
Max Plath signed with the Dolphins effective earlier last week, for three years. Besides being John Plath's son, Max Plath’s claim to fame is kicking the winning field goal for Wynnum Manly in the 2021 Colts grand final in golden point. That game also featured the Cowboys' Zac Laybutt and Tom Chester (at lock!) and bench middle Caius Faatili, who you will undoubtedly become familiar with if you watch a lot of Wynnum games.7 Plath's Dolphins got 60 hung on them by Souths Logan.
Titans confirmed Toby Sexton is out for four to six weeks with scaphoid fracture. Cowboys have not confirmed but Jason Taumalolo is supposedly getting a knee procedure this week.
Tamika Upton re-ups with Newcastle for five years. She’s dead to me now except for Origin and internationals. Bobsledder Ash Werner signs for Broncos NRLW, as the Broncos also add Filomina Hanisi from the Eels. The venerable Karina Brown will return to the Titans. The Cowboys have picked up 2022 QRLW grand final winning try scorer, Shaniah Power, and former Titans centre, Jasmine Peters.
Omission: Missed this last week but Deine Mariner extends to 2027 with the Broncos. He just needs Farnworth to leave now so he can get a start in first grade, where I think he will be quite comfortable.
NRL North Standings
We’ve nearly completed the first round of divisional games, with just the Titans to play the Dolphins in next Sunday’s Brawl on the Beach. A win for the Dolphins would cement their second spot behind the currently undefeated Broncos. A win for the Titans would at least move them up past the Cowboys and given how the latter are travelling, I’d be surprised if that changes back at all.
The Lineal Queensland NRL Championship was up for grabs this week and the Broncos fought off a determined Titans to keep the title. The Broncos will now get to hold it until round 17, when the Titans will get another chance to reclaim it for the first time since round 3, 2021.
On weeks when The Weekly is a little light on news, we’ll take a walk back through the ages to revisit a simpler time and rediscover some treasures from the past.
37,000 people packed out Lang Park to see the 1976 Brisbane grand final on a sunny mid-September day. The final was to be contested between the minor premiers, Easts Tigers, and the defending premiers, Wests Panthers, both having finished 1976 with a 15-6 record. This is the peak of the Brisbane Rugby League premiership before a combination of economic8, technological9 and social factors10 whittle away its significance over the next decade.
Wests’ lock John Ribot (yes, he of Super League fame and later the Melbourne Storm), Easts’ Morris brothers (Rod made 16 appearances for Australia from 1978 to 1982, and Des would play 11 games for Queensland from 1969 to 1979) and Wests’ halfback Greg Oliphant (two caps for Australia) are the most notable names on the pitch. Norm Carr rode the pine for the mud and bloods, picking up a grand final win here, before moving to Souths later in his career and winning another as captain in 1985, and earning a couple of Origin caps in the early 80s. Johnny Raper’s younger brother, Ron, is coach of Wests and, being the 70s, Des Morris is captain-coaching Easts.
The game is a perfect time capsule of the genre of 70s football, from the hair, the sponsorships, the commentary, the grainy footage, fans rushing the field to the style of play, albeit with a more chaotic edge than you’d see in the more polished Sydney competition. It’s largely one way traffic, thanks to some heroic defence, but if you want to know why I picked this to share, a glance at the final score will tell you. John Payne should have a stand named after him at Langlands.
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Like next week’s game against the Titans, for example.
Valyne Te Whare scored the only try for the Dolphins because of course he did.
The ship sailed on “Queensland Derby” (or just The Derby) in 2004, when the Gold Coast weren’t around.
The Queensland Derby is a XXXX Derby but not all XXXX Derbies are the Queensland Derby but they are all derbies in Queensland.
And their football teams ain’t great either!
Like Kev Walters, it’s less than Tom Flegler gets.
He’s the redhead with a mullett and a decent step for a big man.
The Sydney clubs had pokies.
TV made BRL players more visible in Sydney and the Sydney comp more visible in Brisbane.
Liberalisation in the 1980s created a more unified Australian culture that was less defined by state boundaries and supported a version of capitalism that was winner-takes-all.