Crash: Pokies debacle shows Broncos’ lack of leadership
An essential part of successful rugby league teams is having your mate's back and that is the most telling failure of the Broncos' ill-fated visit to Parramatta.
Twice in less than 24 hours the Broncos players failed to look out for each other - in the 58-0 thrashing by the Eels and at a nearby hotel the night before the game.
One of the triumphs of Justin Langer's Australian side in England is that he moulded them in to a team which, while far from flawless, bonded on and off the field, and the force of that cohesion - plus Steve Smith's brilliance - enabled them to withstand raucous local crowds and win the Ashes.
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If your team does not cover each other's backs, it tends to lack the one quality you need to win a title - a soul.
The Broncos players committed no crime in playing the poker machines up the road from the team hotel the night before the game.
But for the senior players to let 19-year-old David Fifita play on alone close to or beyond midnight was a significant and inexcusable leadership failure.
Can you imagine Cameron Smith leaving a teenage teammate alone with a poker machine late at night outside the team hotel on match eve?
No. It's why the Storm are the Storm.
You would have thought one member of the leadership group could have been bold enough to say "c'mon mate, big game tomorrow''.
Players chill out in different ways on away games and the argument has been used "that's the way the boys roll these days''.
But with eight losses out of 10 games in the Sydney-Newcastle-Canberra region, including some horrible results in Sydney, there is no evidence to suggest this method is working for the Broncos.
Many years ago a young Ricky Ponting was knocked out in a bar in Sydney after going out alone.
When a group of Australian players watched footage of Ponting on the news in the days after the event, there was a grim silence.
They were angrier at themselves than at Ponting and one of them piped up with "none of this would have happened if one of us was with him''.
LISTEN! Matty, Finchy and Kenty address "Pokies-gate" and the Broncos self-combustion, Joey Leilua's fireworks mishap, and how Wayne Bennett and Des Hasler know exactly how to get the best out of their individuals. PLUS, the Roosters had a sleepover at the SCG?
Thankfully for Fifita it was a drama-free night, with no alcohol or incident of any kind. But it was a bad look.
Former Socceroo Robbie Slater was one player from a rival sport who was surprised the Broncos could be outside their hotel at such an hour.
"When I was playing for Australia we had Oceania Cup games where we knew we could win 14-0 the next day, but you still would not be out around midnight - it would not happen,'' Slater said.
The Broncos are craving a strong leadership group and there is a feeling the club leaders have been too weak for too long.
The Melbourne Storm has used former Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell to foster leaders of the future and it has helped them set standards which are unmatched.
Some observers feel the club hasn't been the same since the likes of Petero Civoniceva and Shane Webcke retired.
Who drives the culture now? And what exactly is that culture?
The 58-0 loss and the pokies story may yet prove a good thing for the Broncos if it prompts Brisbane to lift its standards.