Lost generation the key behind Brisbane’s fall
The Brisbane Broncos have overlooked an entire generation of NRL talent, leaving the competition's youngest roster to be bullied by the game's top teams.
On the back of Thursday night's record 59-0 loss to the Sydney Roosters, The Sunday Mail has explored the lack of experience which is costing the Broncos.
While the club has some of the hottest young players in the game like Payne Haas and David Fifita, the Broncos are devoid of seasoned NRL professionals.
Only captain Alex Glenn (260 NRL games) and ex-skipper Darius Boyd (321 games) have cracked the 200-game milestone.
Instead, coach Anthony Seibold is relying on the NRL's youngest squad to be competitive against the likes of the back-to-back premiers Roosters.
In contrast, the Roosters had only three players with less than 30 games under their belts.
Broncos legend Shane Webcke said the current group looked vastly different to the successful Brisbane teams of the 1990s and early 2000s.
"That is what they sorely missed," Webcke said.
"When I was a young front rower coming in, Glenn Lazarus was the other front rower. We had guys like Andrew Gee.
"The Broncos are now all young. There's barely an experienced player in the club at all.
"I'm not suggesting that's poor management or bad recruiting, it's just very different to the club I grew up in.
"We had the great advantage of having a steady turnover. Players would retire and go elsewhere and others would pop their head in. The transition was far more orderly from year to year and era to era.
"The reality is, we've got all young players all at once now and that's very difficult. Particularly when you come up against the Roosters who have a mix of good young players and brilliant old heads too."
The Broncos have systematically opted to invest in youth over experience - but the pendulum has swung too far.
They have overhauled their roster under Seibold, offloading veterans like Josh McGuire and Andrew McCullough while Matt Gillett was suddenly medically retired.
McGuire was released to North Queensland a fortnight before Seibold was officially appointed to replace sacked coach Wayne Bennett.
Queensland legend Wally Lewis was stunned by the Broncos' decision to push McGuire out the door.
"I couldn't believe it," Lewis said at the time.
"He's a performer. I like him as a player, he has a dig every game.
"He plays well above his weight. He's a bloke that dictates respect from the opposition. You are always going to get a hard battle.
"He could come up against his father and smash him to bits and wait until full-time to ask his dad how he was feeling.
"That's the bloke you love having in your team."
Apart from Glenn and Boyd, five-eighth Anthony Milford (171 games) is the only other player to have cracked 150 NRL appearances.
The Roosters have won three NRL premierships under coach Trent Robinson, who said it was crucial to have a mix of experience.
"There are three tiers of players - the rookies, 50-150 games and senior players," Robinson said.
"A good balance of all of that is really important.
"In 2016 (finished 15th) we decided to go really young and develop. Sometimes the results don't go your way.
"When they don't go your way you've got to play a certain way as well. That's really important."
On their day, the Broncos have the talent to blow teams off the park.
Haas and Fifita are the two best 20-year-old forwards in the NRL. Centre Kotoni Staggs can be untouchable at times.
But a proud club like the Broncos risks damaging its reputation and the development of rising stars if they are exposed to drubbings like the Roosters game and last year's 58-0 finals loss to Parramatta.
Hooker Cory Paix made 44 tackles in his first NRL game against the back-to-back premiers while debutant Tesi Niu was caught on camera sobbing in the dressing rooms post-game.
Seibold is hoping this short-term pain will result in the Broncos snapping a 14-year premiership drought in the not-too-distant future.
To do that, the Broncos must find the right mix of players to challenge the NRL's best teams.
In the meantime, the fans want to see the current group trying their best to compete.
"It's difficult not to blame the players out there because if you're good enough then you're old enough - they've been picked to play," Webcke said.
"That doesn't mean you expect they can win and do amazing things, but they are entitled to tackle.
"We all could have lived with being beaten soundly by the Roosters if they had displayed a little bit more in defence and turned up."
Originally published as Lost generation the key behind Brisbane's fall