The Brisbane Broncos went into the game against the Canterbury Bulldogs with a different approach as the side looks to bounce back after six straight losses, and it appears to have paid off.
The Broncos have lived through a horror mid-season suspension with players left in tears after the loss to the New Zealand Warriors last week and have finally claimed a 26-8 win, their first since March 20.
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But the side decided to take a different approach to training this week, playing golf on for the Monday recovery session as well as the players being given control in Friday’s captain’s run.
“If things don’t go right then we only have ourselves to blame because we have dictated how we wanted to train and how we wanted to play this week,” Broncos skipper Glenn told media during the week.
“The coach (Anthony Seibold) has been coaching us around that, but at the end of the day we are playing to our strengths and we wanted to train to our strengths so it is only on ourselves when we go out this weekend.”
After the win, Seibold said it was part of the plan.
“I’ve been here 18 months now and I’ve wanted them (the leadership group) to have a voice and take ownership of the team,” Seibold said. “Our two big work days this week, they’re things I don’t compromise on but the start of the week with our recovery day and the end of the week with our last session, they’re things I’ve been wanting to hand over to the guys.”
Seibold said starting at a golf club early in the week was “a mental freshen up for the players” while the players had the option of what they wanted to work on during Friday’
It was a good start for the Broncos as well, running out to a 10-0 lead over the Bulldogs within 15 minutes after Corey Oates broke his try drought, while Tevita Pangai Jr. scored an opportunist try, toeing forward a grounded pass and diving on the loose ball.
While all the mistakes weren’t gone from the Broncos’ game with Brodie Croft dropping a ball over the sideline off the kick-off after Pangai’s try but against the last-placed Bulldogs, Brisbane have put in a solid start.
But the side also left the door open once again with the Broncos scoring in the corner, sending the teams to the break at 10-4.
The second half went the Broncos way as well for the first 20 minutes with Jamayne Isaako chasing down a long range kick from Anthony Milford, while a sideline conversion and a 37m penalty gave the Broncos an 18-4 lead against the Bulldogs who average just 10.8 points per game.
The training issue was still a hot topic before the game with Yvonne Sampson asking the Fox League panel whether the “unbelievable” plan was “a player revolt or some sort of radical break through”.
Kangaroos coach and rugby league Immortal Mal Meninga said it was all about distraction.
“I just think it’s a way of trying to evolve the team and trying to get the team back on track,” he said. “We’ll see how they play tonight on the back of that.”
Former NSW hooker Michael Ennis interjected: “My concern with that is that Mal is that I think some things need to stay in-house. I felt it was a real inexperience from Alex Glenn and his leadership as captain of the club to then put that out into the media and add further fuel to the fire.”
Meninga agreed as Ennis continued.
“It’s a no-win situation for Anthony (Seibold) now. If they win this afternoon like they should, does that mean the players don’t have faith in Anthony Seibold and the staff? And if they don’t win the pressure once again comes down on Anthony Seibold for letting the players run the asylum. There’s been no greater example of such a powerful club struggling with leadership than the Brisbane Broncos this week, it’s blown me away.”
Ennis said the comments over Seibold’s contract to the training questions has once again exposed the leadership vacuum.
Former Broncos great Gorden Tallis said the strategy was likely to put the onus back on the players to stand up.
“In rugby league, there’s no secrets,” he said. “They should be quiet until they win. You be humble until you win and then when you win you be even more humble. Nothing surprises me out of the Broncos at the moment because there’s no leadership and no ownership on what’s happening. I’ve been in that situation, we’ve gone to training and got hammered and we’ve gone go-karting and we go play golf because there wasn’t the restrictions that are around these guys.”
Meninga added that sometimes they just had the week off.
After the 26-8 win finally returned the Broncos to the winner’s circle, the jokes quickly came out.