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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The 2012 Vision-Part 3: Simply The Best-A Broncos dynasty

The official Twitter hashtag for this post is #2012visionBBD (Brisbane Broncos Dynasty).

This post is dedicated to John Miller, ex. 4BC, State Affair, 4BK, who passed away on   September 7, after a fall at his home two weeks earlier. He was 59. He will be missed by the Brisbane community both in television and radio circles.

Welcome, to the grand finale, of the 2012 Vision, on NRL Grand Final day 2012. As we look forward to the Melbourne Storm and Canterbury (two teams who have made history as the two clubs who took the quickest time to win a inaugural premiership after being admitted into the top flight of rugby league in Australia: Melbourne won their first premiership after two seasons in the NRL in 1999, and Canterbury won their first premiership after three seasons in the (then) NSWRFL in 1938) going out on the grand stage at Stadium Australia, and trying to etch their names in rugby league history, there are probably many Brisbane Broncos fans, who are remembering this year, due to one match, that sparked a dynasty. It was 20 years ago this weekend: that the Brisbane Broncos won their first premiership, in the Sydney competition (as it was then).

We start this story of a dynasty, with a recap of that fateful grand final, and the events that led to it.

Final Five fever:
It's hard for today's fan to comprehend, but the NRL twenty years ago, had a system, where only the top five teams in the competition played finals football: along with a minor premiership worth winning. Brisbane, coming off a 1991 season where they missed the finals, struck back with a vengeance, claiming the minor premiership, which entitled them to the first week off (to play a semi final in Sydney during the second week of finals, which they won, entitling them to a spot in the 1992 Grand Final), while St George earned their grand final spot, the hard way: losing a qualifying final in the first week, winning a semi final and ending up qualifying for the grand final, in a low scoring preliminary final. So the stage was set, 27th of September 1992 at the Sydney Football Stadium: Brisbane's first grand final, against St George, who had not appeared in a grand final in 7 years, and not won a premiership in thirteen.

The 1992 decider: birth of a powerhouse.
Brisbane, and Queensland sat glued to their TV screens, as the Broncos stepped onto the field for the first half. That first half, saw Allan Langer score a try, along with a St George try, with numerous scoring attempts prior to half time: The score at halftime was 6-4 to the Broncos. However, it was the second half, that would give the Broncos the victory, including a screamer from Steve Renouf, who ran 90m down the field, to score the penultimate Broncos try, and at the end of eighty minutes: the score was 28-8, to the Broncos, along with Allan Langer (in his first year of captaining Brisbane) winning the Clive Churchill Medal. For the first time in the 84 year history of the Sydney competition, the NSWRL championship would not just be going north of Sydney, but to Queensland. The party went on into the night, including receptions in Brisbane. However, the party ended: and Brisbane went on to win the World Club Challenge against UK champions, Wigan, a feat made more remarkable, as it was the first time a Australian club side defeated a British club side in the WCC, on British soil.

The winds of change: 
The end of November 1992, saw the announcement of four new sides to come into the competition in 1995: Auckland, North Queensland Cowboys, Western Reds and the team that would have a impact on the Broncos, the South Queensland Crushers. It was also around this time, Brisbane had begun work on their own proper leagues club, similar to what the NSW clubs had, and made plans to move from Lang Park at Milton, to QEII Stadium, at Nathan in 1993. The next year would cement the Broncos as a rising force, coming from fifth to qualify for the grand final, which led to a rematch against St George.

1993: The rematch, that had to happen.
A few days earlier, Sydney had won the 2000 Olympics: and the city was still in celebration mode by the time the NSWRL Grand Final hit on the 26th of September. There was a added attraction to the 1993 Grand Final: Tina Turner, whose advertising campaign helped bring RL into new markets, would be performing. The first half picked up where the 1992 GF left off, with Brisbane running away to a 10-2 lead by halftime. The second half, had two goals by St George, bringing the Dragons within a converted try of leading: until Willie Carne, scored what turned out to be the match winning try for Brisbane. Not only had the Broncos won their second premiership, crashed Sydney's party, they also had Tina Turner join in the celebrations after recieving the premiership trophy, and achieving the feat of being the first team to win the NSWRL premiership from fifth spot (effectively playing every week, during the finals.)

Simmering tensions:
The battle lines for rugby league were about to change however. Brisbane had a great season in 1994, just missing out on the threepeat, but mid way through the 1994 season, a entertaining night at QEII, happened, what would turn out to be the last time the World Club Challenge would happen as a standalone event for six years, and the last time to date it was held in Australia. Brisbane, again facing Wigan, this time at QEII, in front of nearly 60,000 fans, saw a great contest, with Wigan picking up the win 20-14: becoming the first and only English side to have won the World Club Challenge to date on Australian soil. 1995, finally saw the start of the 20 team ARL, a shortlived cross-town rivalry, and the biggest battle in rugby league in Australia, since it's inception 87 years earlier.

1995: League's battle lines are drawn.
The start of the 1995 season for the ARL was a wakeup call, especially when it came to television rights. Although, Nine and Kerry Packer proudly claimed they owned all television rights, News Ltd approached the ARL, with a deal to purchase subscription TV rights for the fledgling Foxtel service. The ARL refused, and set the stage for the greatest battle in the game's history. Meanwhile, the first cross-town derby was played on March 31, with a thrashing by the Broncos of the South Queensland Crushers. Within weeks though, the Broncos signed with Super League... and the Super League war had begun in earnest. A heavy penalty was put on the Broncos, with no State of Origin (but a Broncos-deprived QLD team with Paul Vautin coaching and Trevor Gillmeister from the South QLD Crushers captaining, did the impossible: won the 1995 SOO series 3-0), but a shining light debuted, on June 29, who would eventually replace Allan Langer, as the face of the Broncos and Queensland rugby league in general: Darren Lockyer. The Broncos, then went into the finals, the first played under a top eight system, and lost to the eventual premiers, Canterbury Bulldogs in the second week of finals. Meanwhile Super League tensions boiled into court: and the first effects would be felt at the start of the 1996 ARL season.

1996: Screeching towards two competitions.
Just before the 1996 ARL season started, a victory for the ARL occurred, in which it was ruled by the Federal Court that Super League couldn't start until 2000. Not long afterward, the first round of the season was marred by the Super League allied teams, inc. the Broncos (who was facing fellow Super League team, Auckland) forfeiting their matches, and while there were ups and downs, the Broncos cruised into the finals, but repeating 1995's problems, by losing in the second week of finals, to Cronulla. Another notable moment was when Gorden Tallis, decided to sit out the last year of his contract with St George (while also contracted to the Broncos for Super League) instead of playing the 1996 season. The final great moment of that year was the ultimate victory: with the Super League ban being overturned by the Federal Court, paving the way for the 1997 Super League season...

1997: The first, last, the only season of Super League.
The 1997 season for Super League kicked off with high hopes, with Gorden Tallis joining the Broncos, and a rise of another Broncos legend, Shane Webcke, and the success that followed sealed it. That season, the Broncos were un-defeated at home, won the World Club Challenge (with clubs from both Super League Europe and Super League Australia competing for the prize) and most importantly, won the first, last, and only Super League grand final, the first and only top flight Australian Rugby League grand final, to date, held in Brisbane, and woke people up to a need for Brisbane that needed to be scratched.

The 1997 Super League grand final.
The 20th of September 1997 will be forever remembered as the only Super League grand final but had one major achievement already notched: the first ever night grand final, in the top flight of rugby league in Australia, in front of the largest rugby league grand final crowd in twenty years (a record that would be eclipsed in 1999, with the largest RL crowd of all time at the first ever NRL grand final held at a pre-Olympic capacity Stadium Australia in Sydney). Brisbane relished the wet conditions at their home ground, and won over Cronulla 26-8. But, as 1997 ended, the warring factions in rugby league called a truce, paving the way for a new competition: the NRL, although without a second Brisbane team, as the South Queensland Crushers folded at the end of 1997's ARL season.

1998: The first ever NRL season.
The great split in rugby league had ended, and the 1998 season started with one new team: originally destined for Super League's second season, but ended up in the NRL, the Melbourne Storm (who went on to make their own history the next year: becoming the fastest non-foundation side to win a premiership, overtaking Canterbury's 60 year old record of three years between debut and premiership). Brisbane again had a dominant season, including winning the minor premiership, and a trailblazing finals campaign with one minor hiccup: losing to Parramatta at QEII, but rebounding to not just beat Melbourne the next week: but run roughshod over the Sydney City Roosters at QEII to qualify for the first ever NRL grand final.

The 1998 NRL Grand Final.
September 27 1998, would be the day of the first NRL Grand Final, but also was the last ever grand final to be played in the Moore Park area of Sydney, as the NRL Grand Final, much like the Sydney Showgrounds (which relocated earlier in 1998, while the old site was transformed into Fox Studios, and RL is still played at the SFS to this day, with NSW SOO home games also relocating in 1999) Sydney Olympic Park. Brisbane faced off against Canterbury, with the Broncos as un-assailable favorites. By half time, Canterbury were leading by a goal, but it was the second half that would seal the game in NRL folklore: Brisbane turned a 2 pt deficit, into a 26pt lead during the second half, including many Darren Lockyer conversions, and the Broncos had won their fourth premiership in six years, with the score being 38-12 at full time.

The great stadium debate...
Brisbane rolled through 1999/00 with a few hiccups, and some tears (Allan Langer retiring, then went to England to play) and a triumph: the 2000 NRL Premiership, whose grand final was held in August due to the Olympics. But the other big debate in Brisbane which stretched back as far as the 1997 Super League grand final, was where to build a proper replacement for QEII and Lang Park to serve Brisbane for the early part of the 21st century. Many sites were mooted, including the RNA Showgrounds, in a 80,000 seat facility as well as a rebuild of Lang Park. By the time the Sydney Olympics soccer organization began to take shape however, the Brisbane stadium debate was still on politicians minds and planners paper... but Brisbane needed a all-seater venue for the event: Thus it was held at the Gabba, which had gradually replaced all their stands with modern facilities, since the early 1990's, to not just fit in cricket: but the AFL as well. It wasn't until 2001 that a decision had been made: to redevelop Lang Park. It took two years, including two SOO games which were moved to QEII in it's twilight years as the Broncos home (the first SOO match played at QEII, Game 3 in 2001, will be remembered for Wayne Bennett calling back Allan Langer from England to play for Queensland) and on June 1 2003: the Broncos returned to Lang Park, completely refurbished, and became the great evener: with rugby union (after two Wallabies tests in 2001-2 held at the Gabba), and football (although the NSL grand final in 1997 was held at Lang Park), eventually abandoning their traditional homes in Brisbane: rugby union's being Ballymore, and football was relocated upon the launch of the A-League in 2005, to join the Broncos and QLD at Lang Park. With the all-seater advantage, Brisbane became the apple in the eyes of sports fans, with major matches with the Socceroos and Wallabies now being held in Brisbane, as well as stadium-based concerts beginning to choose Suncorp over QEII in 2006 (especially since the athletics track was re-instituted at QEII for the 2001 Goodwill Games reduced capacity, not to mention the ease of transport to Suncorp), along with the economic benefits that comes with sell out crowds: not just for Brisbane, but for Queensland as a whole. 

Twenty years ago, the Broncos showed Sydney how it was done on the football field. Now we are outstripping Sydney attendances at RL games, consistently getting large crowds, and for this we have the Broncos of '92, to thank for kicking this off, with that grand final win.


This clip above is the Brisbane Broncos's contribution to the great history of QLD novelty singles. Released in 1992, this track, with two of the three Walters brothers, Kerrod and Kevin, (at the time their older brother Steve, played for Canberra), and Allan Langer, under the band name of "The Ipswich Connection" (a term referring to their junior RL days), and included a reference to the QEII move.

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