Broncos reach out to fans after worst year
NRL: The Broncos will tonight bring down the curtain on the worst season in the club's 25-year history, but they intend going out with a public-relations bang to thank their 26,256 season members.
Aside from planning to beat the Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium to finish the season with just their 10th win from 24 games, the Broncos will draw the names of 17 season members who have attended every game this season, then escorted them on to the field at full-time to be presented with a signed, match-worn jersey by the players.
This gesture is one of several events planned to coincide with "Thank You" round activities being promoted by the club.
And despite successive losses to the Panthers and Knights sending the Broncos tumbling out of finals contention for just the second time since 1991, coach Anthony Griffin stayed loyal to his under-performing team in naming the same 17 that led the Knights 14-nil last week before succumbing 28-18.
The Bulldogs have named a team without several of their stars, although fullback Ben Barba - who is Brisbane bound in 2014 - may be a late inclusion.
Barba travelled to Brisbane with the Bulldogs late yesterday but still has to pass a fitness test on his injured ankle.
Giant prop Sam Kasiano, a former Brisbane Norths Aspley junior, is back following a three-week lay-off, but former Bronco Greg Eastwood (hand) and Frank Pritchard (suspended) are still missing.
The Bulldogs are fifth on percentage and a loss would be of little consequence, but the Broncos are desperate to restore some pride in those jerseys they will hand to selected members.
Pressure on the team and coaching staff was illuminated yesterday when former captain Gorden Tallis castigated the Broncos in his newspaper column, listing a raft of areas where he believed the club had failed in recent years.
Tallis said he could not sit silently and wait until the Broncos became like Parramatta, where countless factions were working against each other.
While not agreeing with the stinging criticism, Griffin conceded the club was "fair game".
"Everyone is singing like canaries at the moment, and that was always going to happen after our results this year," he said.
"Missing the finals is a strange feeling and something we are not used to, or want to go through again."
Griffin conceded things did go astray in 2013, but said one area he would never question was the commitment of his players.
In an unusual statistic, the Broncos lead the Bulldogs 23-19 in the 43 clashes between the clubs (one match drawn), but at Suncorp Stadium the Bulldogs have won seven of the 10 matches played.
Special presentations will be made to Scott Prince and David Stagg after tonight's game, in recognition of their 300th and 200th NRL games respectively.