Brisbane Broncos: All-Time Greatest XIII
The Brisbane Broncos are in their 30th season in the NRL/NSWRL, after joining the competition in 1988 along with the Newcastle Knights.
The club began with a host of stars from the Queensland State of Origin team and the Brisbane club competition, like Wally Lewis, Gene Miles, Greg Dowling, Greg Conescu, Bryan Niebling, Allan Langer and Joe Kilroy. By then, some of those players were in the later years of their careers, but they played a crucial role in establishing the credibility of the Broncos from day one.
The club became a powerhouse in the 1990s, winning premierships in 1992, 1993, 1997 (Super League) and 1998. The Broncos triumphed again in 2000, before claiming their most recent title in 2006.
Unsurprisingly, players from those premiership-winning teams feature heavily in my all-time greatest XIII. I’ve also taken advantage of the versatility of some players and selected them in positions where they only played a part of their career, just so that I could fit other greats in.
The club has had so many elite players over the years that there are dozens of superstars I haven’t been able to squeeze in. Players like Chris Johns, Darren Smith, Willie Carne, Lote Tuqiri, Julian O’Neill, Justin Hodges, Brent Tate, Karmichael Hunt, Darius Boyd, Shaun Berrigan, Terry Matterson, Trevor Gillmeister, Mark Hohn, Sam Thaiday, Andrew Gee and Glenn Lazarus (Lazarus, though, was named in our Canberra Raiders’ Greatest XIII). None of them would be out of place in this all-star Broncos line-up.
The stats I’ve listed below for each player only reflect their matches for the Brisbane Broncos, not for any other club or representative teams.
Fullback: Darren Lockyer
355 matches (1995-2011), 123 tries, 341 goals, 21 field goals.
Darren Lockyer began his career as a superb fullback before he became a champion five-eighth, and it’s at the back that I’ve selected him in this all-time greatest team. He won the Golden Boot award for the world’s best player in both positions during his career, and played in four Broncos’ premiership winning teams. In three of those grand finals Lockyer played fullback, including when he won the Clive Churchill Medal in the Broncos’ victory in the 2000 decider against the Roosters.
‘Locky’ captained the club to their 2006 premiership win and still holds records for the most NRL matches played and most appearances for Australia. At the time of his retirement, he also held the record for the most State of Origin appearances (since broken by Cameron Smith). A long term and successful captain of his club, state and country, Darren Lockyer is justifiably discussed as a potential future rugby league immortal.
Winger: Michael Hancock
274 matches (1988-2000), 120 tries.
Michael Hancock simply hated being tackled and often riled his opponents with his aggressive antics when trying to break the line or play the ball quickly. He made his debut for the Broncos as an 18 year old in their very first match in 1988 against Manly. A year later, he became the then-youngest State of Origin player, scoring two tries on debut for Queensland. His form for the Broncos and Queensland earned him Test selection while he was still a teenager. At the time of his retirement, he held the record for the most appearances for the club, and he played in five Broncos’ premiership teams over thirteen seasons – an enviable record by any standard.
Centre: Steve Renouf
183 matches (1988-99), 142 tries.
Steve Renouf had a phenomenal try-scoring strike rate, and he’s still the Broncos all-time leading try scorer. ‘The Pearl’ is rightfully considered one of the best centres of all time. He had great pace and a strong fend, and his ability to put himself in a gap to receive an ‘out’ ball from five-eighth Kevin Walters became a trademark Broncos play in his era.
Renouf was a big match performer for the Broncos, scoring a memorable 95 metre try in the club’s first ever grand final win in 1992, and a hat-trick in the Super League decider of 1997. The fleet-footed indigenous star scored four tries in a match an incredible five times during his career, which shows just what a threat he was.
Centre: Tonie Carroll
218 matches (1996-2000, 2003-09), 55 tries.
Tonie ‘Tunza’ Carroll was a versatile player who won premierships for the Broncos as both a backrower and a centre. I’ve taken advantage of that versatility and chosen him as a centre in this all-time greatest line-up.
Carroll was a great ball runner and an extremely punishing defender – he was one player whose defense was just as threatening as his attack. His imposing presence certainly made opposition teams think twice before targeting his cordon of the field. Carroll was another big match performer for Brisbane and Queensland. Many believe he should have won the Clive Churchill Medal that was awarded to Gorden Tallis in the Broncos’ 1998 grand final win over Canterbury.
Winger: Wendell Sailor
189 matches (1993-2001), 110 tries.
Wendell Sailor was the prototype for the modern day winger, being able to use his size to his advantage on kick returns and to take pressure off his forwards early in the tackle count. ‘Big Dell’ was also a great finisher, scoring tries in the Broncos’ 1998 and 2000 grand final victories.
Sailor was a regular in State of Origin and Test teams throughout the 1990s, establishing himself as one of the game’s greatest ever wingers, before becoming a dual international when he left the Broncos to play rugby union.
Five-eighth: Kevin Walters
242 matches (1990-2001), 64 tries.
After starting his career at Canberra, Kevin Walters was signed as the Broncos’ long term five-eighth replacement for ‘The King’, Wally Lewis. Walters grew up in Ipswich along with hooker and twin brother Kerrod and halfback Allan Langer, and together they had an uncanny understanding on the field. ‘Kevvie’ also had a great partnership with centre Steve Renouf. Walters was a part of five premiership teams, in all, and captained the Broncos in their 2000 grand final win over the Roosters.
Halfback: Allan Langer
258 matches (1988-99, 2002), 100 tries.
Allan Langer was one of the smallest players of his era, but he became a giant of rugby league at club, State of Origin and Test level. His darting runs and short kicking were features of his game, along with his partnership with the Walters twins that became known as the ‘Ipswich connection’.
‘Alfie’ was a key signing for the Broncos for their debut season, eventually becoming a long term captain and leading the team in four winning grand finals. In 1992, the year of the Broncos’ first ever premiership, he won the Rothmans Medal. He also won the Clive Churchill Medal in that year’s grand final against St George, scoring two tries. In 1996, he took out the Dally M Player of the Year award, then in 1998 he captained club, state and country to victory in one of the great individual seasons of the modern era. A member of the Queensland Rugby League Team of the Century, there can be no doubt that Langer commands a place among the best halfbacks of all time.
Prop: Shane Webcke
254 matches (1995-2006), 18 tries.
Shane Webcke’s style of play reflected his country upbringing. He was a tough, no frills workhorse who would do always his job well in the middle of the ruck. One of the greatest props of all time, Webcke was the first player picked in the Queensland and Australian forward packs for the majority of his career.
He won four premierships with the club, famously playing in the 2000 grand final win over the Roosters despite breaking his arm in the semi-finals. The 2006 grand final was his last match before retiring, and he had the fairy tale ending to his long career when the Broncos upset the Storm.
Hooker: Kerrod Walters
181 matches (1988-96), 23 tries.
The twin brother of Kevin Walters and the younger brother of Canberra hooker Steve (a member of our Canberra Raiders’ all-time greatest XIII), Kerrod played for both Queensland and Australia in his debut season in first grade in 1989. He was a key member of the Broncos’ 1992 and ’93 premiership teams, with incisive runs from dummy half and a high defensive work rate the features of his game.
Prop: Petero Civoniceva
235 matches (1998-2007, 2012), 22 tries.
Petero Civoniceva was a giant of a man who dominated the ruck area, alongside Shane Webcke, for a decade with the Broncos. Civoniceva played in two premiership-winning teams for the club, and only missed a third grand final victory lap through injury. He had a stellar representative career, making an incredible 45 appearances for the Kangaroos (16 more than the nearest prop forward).
After ten years of loyal service to the Broncos, Civoniceva was controversially squeezed out of the club due to salary cap pressures, but he fittingly returned for a final season after spending four years with Penrith.
Second row: Brad Thorn
200 matches (1994-2000, 2005-2007)
Another giant of a man, Brad Thorn had two successful stints with the Brisbane Broncos, claiming four premierships. In between, the towering Thorn became an All Black and began creating one of rugby’s most impressive resumes.
A powerful runner, Thorn’s size and aggression made him a handful for opposing sides in both attack and defence. He formed a lethal second-row combination with Gorden Tallis early in his career, giving strike power to one of rugby league’s most formidable forward packs.
Second row: Gorden Tallis
160 matches (1997-2004), 49 tries.
After playing the first few years of his career with St George, Gorden Tallis became a key signing for the Broncos during the Super League war. ‘The Raging Bull’ was a fearsome backrower, with his passion and aggression making him one of the most dominant second rowers of all time. Tallis won three premierships with the club and became a long-term captain. He was also a mainstay of Queensland and Australian teams for most of his career.
Lock: Corey Parker
347 matches (2001-16), 39 tries, 586 goals.
Corey Parker holds the Broncos’ all-time point scoring record with 1,328, amassed over sixteen loyal seasons with the club. He was a consistent, defensive workhorse throughout his career, but his attacking skills got better with age, as he developed an uncanny ability to offload the ball in traffic. That helped to earn him a recall to State of Origin football later in his career and he became a key player for the Queensland Maroons.
Parker was a member of the club’s 2006 premiership winning team, and was rewarded for his form and loyal service with the Broncos’ captaincy in his final season.
So that’s my opinion for the Brisbane Broncos’ all-time greatest 13. What are your thoughts and how do you think they would measure up against our other all-time greatest teams?
- South Sydney Rabbitohs
- St George-Illawarra Dragons
- Sydney Roosters
- Wests Tigers
- Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
- Parramatta Eels
- Manly-Warringah Sea-Eagles
- Penrith Panthers
- Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
- Canberra Raiders