Craig Bellamy, coach of the Melbourne Storm looks on during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Goschs Paddock in Melbourne, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (AAP Image/Scott Barbour) NO ARCHIVING
Craig Bellamy, coach of the Melbourne Storm looks on during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Goschs Paddock in Melbourne, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (AAP Image/Scott Barbour) NO ARCHIVING

11 greatest talents to never wear a Broncos jersey

THE Brisbane Broncos will attempt to bounce back from last week's horror 59-0 loss to the Roosters when they face Manly on the Central Coast.

The Broncos will come up against Manly No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans, a player who could have easily been wearing a Brisbane jersey.

Here are nine of the best players that never wore a Broncos jersey despite coming through the grades in south east Queensland - plus one of the game's greatest head coaches.

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JOHNATHAN THURSTON

Thurston was a "skinny kid" from Sunnybank when scouts from multiple clubs took one look at him and moved on. It was the Bulldogs and Ricky Stuart who decided to take a punt on Thurston and brought him to Belmore, where he made his NRL debut in 2003.

The Cowboys snared the biggest signing in their history in landing Thurston from 2005, with North Queensland qualifying for the grand final in his first season at the club.

Thurston went on to play 323 NRL games and become a legend of the game. He is one of the greatest players to have ever represented the Maroons and Kangaroos and he was plucked from Brisbane's southside.

JT turned out to be pretty handy! Picture: Nev Madsen/The Chronicle
JT turned out to be pretty handy! Picture: Nev Madsen/The Chronicle

CAMERON MUNSTER

The Rockhampton product was a young gun in Brisbane's system, making his Intrust Super Cup debut at just 17 for the Broncos' feeder club the Central Queensland Capras.

In 2013, Munster was so keen to play for the Broncos he attended a development day to trial for a scholarship. After running the rule over him, Broncos development chiefs refused to offer him a deal, believing he lacked the speed to make the NRL. One scout even remarked that Munster had a weird running gait and walked like a duck.

Now a Queensland and Test star at the Melbourne Storm, Munster confirmed he was rejected by the Broncos.

"I went down to the Broncos' development program for a couple of days and did the sessions and then they came back and my manager goes, 'Nah, they're not too interested anymore'," Munster recalled.

"My heart sunk a little and I was like, 'Oh. No worries'."

CAMERON SMITH

Cameron Smith was a shandy away from joining the Broncos. Picture: AAP/Scott Barbour
Cameron Smith was a shandy away from joining the Broncos. Picture: AAP/Scott Barbour

The equation was simple for Smith when he was graduating from Logan to an NRL system - Brisbane or Melbourne?

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett met with a teenage Smith in 2000 and offered him a $10,000 contract. But the Broncos had Luke Priddis at hooker and Smith and his family couldn't see a pathway to the NRL at the Broncos and opted for the Storm.

Smith went on to become the NRL's most-capped player, racking up an incredible 415 games and counting.

Smith contemplated returning to Brisbane to sign with the Broncos at times during his career but ultimately remained loyal to the Storm.

"It was a reality that I was going to end up playing there (Brisbane)," he said.

"Thankfully we (wife Barbara) had that conversation and I went back to the Storm to tell them I was staying on."

GREG INGLIS

One of Brisbane's most mysterious recruitment misses.

The Kempsey flyer was born in NSW and briefly attended Hunter Sports High before he moved to Queensland at 17 to attend Wavell Sports High. Inglis made his Intrust Super Cup debut as a 17-year-old for Norths Devils, who for the past decade have had feeder-club ties with the Broncos. But in 2005, the Devils were linked with the Melbourne Storm, who subsequently gave Inglis his NRL debut.

In 2010, the Broncos, finally, thought they had their man. The Storm salary cap scandal ripped the club apart and Inglis was forced to go. Inglis held talks with Brisbane and agreed to terms with former Broncos football manager Andrew Gee. Brisbane were so convinced of the deal that then Broncos centre Justin Hodges drove to Brisbane airport to officially pick up Inglis.

There was just one problem _ Inglis never boarded the plane. He eventually stunned the Broncos by signing a contract at the eleventh hour with South Sydney.

It was later revealed Inglis got cold feet after meeting with then Broncos coach Ivan Henjak. Inglis wasn't convinced he could work with Henjak, who was sacked just three months later.

DALY CHERRY-EVANS

The current Queensland Origin skipper somehow slipped the Broncos net. 'DCE' was a kid from Redcliffe who played for the Dolphins from the age of five before moving to Mackay with his family as a 12-year-old.

Cherry-Evans returned to Brisbane in his teens and attended Redcliffe State High, but the Broncos never came calling.

In 2008, with a raft of clubs snubbing him, Manly gave him a chance and placed him with their Queensland-based feeder club on the Sunshine Coast.

Three years later, Cherry-Evans made his NRL debut for Manly in 2011 at age 22 and steered the Sea Eagles to the premiership in his rookie year.

What the Broncos would give for his cool head and experience at halfback.

The Broncos are in desperate need of a halfback like Daly Cherry-Evans. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty
The Broncos are in desperate need of a halfback like Daly Cherry-Evans. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty

KALYN PONGA

For a brief period, Ponga was attached to the Broncos. The NRL sensation moved to Brisbane at age 13 with his father Andre and was snapped up on a scholarship with the Broncos.

But incredibly, the Cowboys snuck under Brisbane's guard without much resistance. Cowboys recruitment chief Clint Zammit spotted Ponga playing rugby for his school side Anglican Church Grammar and wasted no time launching a poaching bid. He was successful, securing Ponga to a four-year contract.

Ponga made his NRL debut for the Cowboys in 2016, ironically against the Broncos, before his big-money move to Newcastle in 2018.

He is now a Queensland Origin player and a superstar the Broncos would have wished they fought harder to keep.

COOPER CRONK

Cronk was born and bred in Brisbane but was an elite schoolboys rugby union player with St. Laurence's College.

Cronk starred for Queensland and Australia in schoolboys league but he found his way to the Norths Devils and was quickly snapped up by Melbourne, much like Billy Slater.

Cronk played in seven grand finals for the Storm, winning two premierships, and finished his career with back-to-back titles at the Roosters. He could have been Brisbane's best halfback since Allan Langer but was another that got away from the Broncos.

Four-time premiership winner Cooper Cronk could have been the Broncos’ next Alfie. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts
Four-time premiership winner Cooper Cronk could have been the Broncos’ next Alfie. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

LATRELL MITCHELL

The two-time premiership winner at the Roosters could have easily ended up at Red Hill.

In 2013, Mitchell was a 16-year-old carving up in the NSW town of Taree when a Broncos scout flew to Port Macquarie, then hired a car for a southern drive to meet with the talented indigenous youngster.

The Broncos rolled out the red carpet for Mitchell. He and his parents were invited to attend a Broncos game against the Dragons at Suncorp Stadium. He was also given a tour of Wavell High, the very school attended by Inglis, the man Mitchell is so often compared to.

The Broncos even offered for Mitchell to stay with the same indigenous family that housed a young Inglis, but ultimately the backline whizkid chose the Roosters, simply because he wanted to be closer to his hometown.

Mitchell now plays at South Sydney under former Broncos coach Wayne Bennett.

"I went up there and had a look, and it felt like home," Mitchell said last year.

"I met one of the uncles who looked after GI back in the day. I was so grateful to meet a person like that who was in GI's life. He was very genuine and wanted to help people.

"But in the end the Broncos were just too far from Taree.''

Brisbane tried to lure Latrell Mitchell north as a 16-year-old. Picture: AAP/Scott Barbour
Brisbane tried to lure Latrell Mitchell north as a 16-year-old. Picture: AAP/Scott Barbour

BILLY SLATER

The banana bender from far north Queensland was so keen to play in the NRL he drove a beaten up Magna from Innisfail to Brisbane to trial with Norths.

Billy the Kid brained it in the Queensland Cup and was snapped up by Melbourne, the club he went on to play 319 NRL games for and become a great of the game.

The North Queensland Cowboys missed out on Slater from right under their noses but he is a player the Broncos could have jumped on when he made the trip to Brisbane to pursue an NRL career.

JOSH PAPALII

The New Zealand-born Papalii moved to Australia as a five-year-old and was bulldozing his opponents as a junior player with Logan Brothers.

The Raiders had strong ties to the Logan region, including a feeder relationship with Souths-Logan, and quickly pounced on Papalii through their local scouts. Papalii is now arguably the NRL's best prop.

Craig Bellamy spent 14 years as Wayne Bennett’s assistant at Brisbane. Picture: AAP/Scott Barbour
Craig Bellamy spent 14 years as Wayne Bennett’s assistant at Brisbane. Picture: AAP/Scott Barbour

CRAIG BELLAMY (COACH)

The Broncos' inability to land NRL super coach Craig Bellamy has been a Sliding Doors moment for the club.

Brisbane have twice tried to poach Bellamy from Melbourne. Both times they have failed.

The first approach came in 2009 when Wayne Bennett left the club to join the Dragons. Bellamy was always expected to return to the Broncos, where he was an assistant to Bennett from 1998-2002, but Brisbane botched the process.

Bellamy held talks with Broncos bosses. But when they slapped a 24-hour deadline on Bellamy, it angered him and he walked away, signing a new deal with the Storm.

When Bennett fought for his future at Brisbane in 2018, the club made another secret approach to Bellamy, but he again stayed loyal to the Storm, inking a three-year extension.



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