‘Broncos crumble amid in-fighting, big egos’
THE Brisbane Broncos are crumbling under internal fighting, bulging egos and a lack of humility.
For the second straight year, the Broncos were bundled out of the NRL finals in a 30-point thrashing.
Brisbane's season ended in a 48-18 shellacking to the St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium last Sunday, a team that limped into the finals with only three wins in their last nine games of the season.
Last year it was the Melbourne Storm that sent Brisbane packing in a 40-10 thrashing at AAMI Park in the preliminary finals.
When designing the club's $27 million headquarters at Red Hill, chief executive Paul White wanted Brisbane's six premiership trophies on display in the lobby with an empty stand waiting for a seventh.
The search for that seventh title will enter a 13th season next year, extending the longest premiership drought in Brisbane's 30-year history.
The Broncos have been left behind by the mighty Storm, who will next week play their fourth straight home preliminary final and are odds-on to make a third consecutive grand final.
Melbourne is far and away the benchmark team in the NRL.
It is why the Broncos chased Storm coach Craig Bellamy to replace Wayne Bennett next year.
Bennett, 68, is on his last legs at Red Hill and knows it.
White and chairman Karl Morris are manoeuvring to push the seven-time premiership winning coach out of the club he helped build and it hasn't sat well with the influential Broncos coach.
In March, Bennett fired a shot at the media following Brisbane's Round 2 win against North Queensland after the Matt Lodge saga engulfed Brisbane.
"You'll never divide us, guys, so stay out of it," he said.
"Our strength is our club and our people."
Six months later, the Broncos are a club divided and Bennett's actions have had plenty to do with that.
Bennett has been incensed by White and Morris looking for a new coach without keeping him updated with their every move.
White and Morris have lost the public relations battle after bungling the process and losing control of the narrative to Bennett.
The infamous "barbecue wars" last month was a comical way to sum up the division of the Broncos.
Bennett claimed there was nothing sinister in hosting a team gathering to rival White's annual employee get-together, but it was symptomatic of what is crippling the Broncos.
When captain Darius Boyd told Bennett he wanted to ditch White's party and head to Bennett's, the coach should have killed the idea and urged his skipper and players to keep the peace.
Instead, Bennett fuelled the fire, further dividing a club that was already on the brink of imploding.
Bennett's decision to invite former club official Andrew Gee, who quit hours before a salary cap investigation was launched in 2014, into his coaches' box on Sunday without the knowledge of White was another sign of the division and power struggles.
Bennett's decision to invite Gee may have been innocent, but could have easily been viewed as an "up yours" to the NRL, fuelling a sentiment that the Broncos are too arrogant for their own good.
The Broncos finished the 2018 season where they deserved. Injuries hurt their premiership quest, but the distractions and volatility at Red Hill undoubtedly affected the team's ability to perform.
The Broncos cannot suffer through another season of drama when Bennett enters the final season of his contract next year and have two options to fix this mess.
Sack Bennett now and ride out the repercussions of axing the biggest figure in the club's history or grant him the one-year extension he is craving to end his coaching career on his terms in 2020.
Only one side of the division will win this battle and the Broncos' hopes of filling that empty trophy stand in the Red Hill lobby depend on the war ending now.