Premiership success has come quite often for the Brisbane Broncos and during those times, they have boasted some of the best players of the modern era of rugby league. Since their inception into the league in 1988, one man has been the front-runner behind it all – Wayne Bennett.
From the fans perspective, the Broncos have had many exciting players that can be called Broncos legends and this is our take on the best 17 players that have ever donned the Broncos jersey. Just note, although some of the players selected may have had tenures with other clubs or in other codes, the article will focus on their time and career with the Broncos only.
So, without further adieu, here is the team:
1. Justin Hodges – A Broncos veteran, Hodges is revered by fans of all ages for his leadership, tenacity, aggression and quality play/performances. Born and raised in Cairns, Queensland, he was signed by the Broncos at a young age and made his first-grade debut in 2000. His first stint was short and ended abruptly, and so a move to the Sydney Roosters from 2002 took place. Success immediately followed Hodges, after he was a part of the Roosters 2002 NRL Premiership win and the club’s 2003 World Club Challenge victory. After a mixture of poor form, training no-shows, long-term injuries and another grand final appearance – this time a loss – Hodges returned to the Broncos ahead of the 2005 season. A rejuvenation in 2006 saw Hodges move to fullback and it was the spark the then struggling Broncos needed, as they eventually clawed their way back, made the grand final and won it, giving Hodges his second premiership. In that same year, the veteran centre made his international debut for Australia. 2007 saw Hodges awarded with the Dally M Centre of the Year Award before the following year, fate struck a cruel blow. A long-term shoulder injury that required surgery kept Hodges sidelined before he eventually returned in 2009. 2010 struck an even crueller blow, as Hodges ruptured his Achilles, effectively ending his season before it even began. After two more successful years from a personal level in 2011 and 2012, injury struck yet again – another Achilles injury. He fought his way back once more and was recently a part of the Queensland Origin series win, his final series to focus on club duties.
2. Wendell Sailor – One of the best wingers to have ever donned the Broncos jersey, it was all about swagger, confidence and power with Wendell Sailor. Growing up in Sarina, Queensland, with his adoptive parents, his first foray with the Broncos side came in 1993 when he played a handful of games but had limited involvement over all. Despite that, he won the Broncos Rookie of the Year award and the 1993 RL premiership. The rise was quick for Sailor and before long, not only was he a fan favourite but he cemented a spot in the first-grade side and proved his worth on a regular basis. His first taste of international footy came in 1994 when he was selected in the Australian side to tour Europe, before his first official Test cap came in a match against Great Britain. 1995 brought about the Super League War and as a result, Sailor was ineligible for State of Origin duties during that time. The tune changed in 1996, though, and Sailor made his QLD debut in that same year. 1997 marked the start of a rebel competition – one the Broncos partook in – and Sailor excelled in that year, playing for Queensland and Australia in the process. When the dust settled and the Australian rugby league community unified, Sailor was a part of the Broncos side that won the inaugural NRL premiership in 1998. Sailor’s success continued to grow as he was part of the Australian side that won the 2000 Rugby League World Cup and his name is etched in Broncos folklore. Sailor
3. Michael De Vere – A born and bred NSW-Welshman, not something we saw every day but Michael De Vere was just that. He forged a successful career in Brisbane despite being from across the border and in that time with the Broncos, he too became a favourite player of many. Coming through the ranks with the Appin Dogs in the Campbelltown region of NSW, he was graded by the St George Illawarra Dragons but never actually played for them. In 1996, De Vere wrote a letter to Broncos coach Wayne Bennett and requested a trial, to which the Supercoach – who had a knack for spotting talent – offered the wiry centre/winger an incentive-based contract. That did the trick as De Vere took the opportunity and won the club’s Rookie of the Year award in 1997 and won the Super League grand final in his first year with the club. He was also a part of the Broncos 1998 NRL premiership win, after being brought into the side because of injury to Michael Hancock. He then won another premiership in 2000, making it two NRL premierships in just four seasons. His first taste of the Origin atmosphere came in 2001, when he was selected to play for NSW against a large number of his Brisbane team-mates, something that only four other players have done. His Australian Test debut came two years later when he was picked in the centres, with his last Test coming in 2004. After 8 seasons with the club and numerous successes, De Vere departed the club and made a foray into England. In 2009, after a couple of years of retirement, he did make a return to the club but it was short-lived. After just one game, he opted to retire once more, this time for good.
4. Steve Renouf – Hailing from Murgon, Queensland, the man nicknamed ‘The Pearl’ dazzled Broncos fans with his consistency and incredible try-scoring strike rate. The Broncos were the only club Steve Renouf ever new for some time as he plied his trade within their system to grow and develop as a player, before his first major first-grade opportunity came in 1989. His first try for the club came in 1990 and he went on to set numerous try-scoring records for the club and was the club’s top try-scorer for several seasons in a row. 1992 saw Renouf win his first major trophies, after the Broncos won the-then Winfield Cup and the World Club Challenge. It was not long before his Broncos heroics were noticed by Queensland and Australian selectors with his debuts coming in 1991 and 1992 respectively. He again enjoyed premiership success in 1993, when the Broncos won their second straight title with a win over the St George Illawarra Dragons. Renouf scored four tries on five occasions throughout his career and until 2008, he was the only player to have scored three tries in a grand final. A move to centre was on the cards in the 1998 NRL grand final, which the Broncos again won. Over a decade with the Broncos and in that time, Renouf amassed 142 tries in just 183 games, an incredible strike-rate.
5. Michael Hancock – Hailing from Stanthorpe, Queensland, it was an early stint with the Toowoomba Clydsdales at age 17 that kick-started the career of Michael Hancock. The next year in 1988, he was playing first-grade and held down the spot for the next 13 seasons. A year later in 1989, Hancock was in such good form that he was selected for QLD, the youngest player footballer at the time to have played in a State of Origin game. It was the sheer pace, the brute strength and his evasiveness that served him well during his rugby league days, as he burst onto the scene into a big way. In the same year, Hancock’s rise continued as he made his Test debut as well. As the steadiness in his game was maintained, it all nearly came to an abrupt end in 1996 when he was cut from the Brisbane Broncos side. Appealing to coach Wayne Bennett that he deserved a chance, Hancock asked to be able to train with the side and eventually worked his way back into the team, repaying the faith to Bennett. Following that and after numerous premiership successes, his representative career eventually came to an abrupt end. His role as a player changed at the turn of the century, when Bennett opted to utilise him as an impact winger and back-rower, effectively prolonging his career. His career did finish on a high, though, when in 2000, his fourteenth season with the Broncos, the club won the premiership before Hancock made a move to Salford.
6. Darren Lockyer – Regarded by many as one of the greatest players to have ever played rugby league, any such thought is 100% justified when you think about one simple fact. Lockyer was the only player to achieve success at every level in two different positions – fullback and five-eighth. Hailing from Brisbane, Queensland, Wayne Bennett saw Lockyer for the first time a carnival in Ipswich and after signing a scholarship with the Broncos, Lockyer eventually signed his first contract with the club. Making his debut in 1995, Lockyer was named Rookie of the Year, before spending a lot of time in 1996 playing off the bench. In 1997, came the big change in Lockyer’s career. He was named as first-choice fullback. He had immediate impact as a player and goal-kicker and went on to represent Queensland in that year, as well as winning the Super League premiership. 1998 saw the coveted Test debut come around and yet another premiership, the Broncos second straight. 2000 was another successful year for Lockyer, that saw him guide Queensland to a series whitewash in Origin, another NRL premiership and a Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground. After continuing to assert his dominance and showcase his skills over the coming years, his feats as a fullback were finally recognised worldwide when he won the Golden Boot award in 2003. As a veteran in 2004, life in rugby league changed for Lockyer. He became a full-time five-eighth. Many applauded the move and he picked up where he left off. Excelling. He was named International Back of the Year in the 2004 RLIF Awards. Many believe that 2006 was the greatest year of Lockyer’s career. With many believing he no longer had the natural ability to play, he eventually proved all naysayers wrong as he remarkably guided the Broncos to a premiership win when all seemed down and out, as well as helping QLD win the Origin series in the same year. For some icing on the cake, Lockyer won his second Golden Boot Award and after several more successful years with the club, 2011 was the closing of the curtain. To cap off his career, he helped Australia to victory in the 2011 Four Nations. His name will be etched in both rugby league folklore and Broncos folklore. Rightfully so.
7. Kevin Walters – Born in Rockhampton, Queensland, the first club that Walters played for was surprisingly not the Broncos. Rather, it was the Canberra Raiders. After a couple of seasons there, ahead of the 1990 season, he was signed to play for the Broncos. With Walters playing alongside brothers Steve and Kerrod, the trio soon became known as the Ipswich connection. With his arrival to the Broncos in 1990, Walters slotted straight into five-eighth which forced coach Wayne Bennett to move Wally Lewis into the lock position. He made immediate impact, winning the club’s Player of the Year Award before being selected for the 1990 Kangaroo Tour. He and brother Kerrod were the only twins to play for Australia, before the Morris brothers replicated the feat in 2009. Walters played a crucial role in helping the Kangaroos retain the Ashes in 1992 during the Great Britain Lions Tour and he was also a key player in the Broncos premiership success in the same year. Success did not end there in 1992 for Walters, he again performed well in the 1992 World Cup won by Australia and then capped it all off with a World Club Challenge win. He also played key roles in both the 1993 and 1997 seasons for the Broncos, which saw the club again win premierships. That was followed in 1998 by another premiership, the first NRL grand final. He was then appointed captain from 1999 and again proved to be a crucial player in the Broncos success in 2000. He is an official inductee into the Broncos Hall of Fame and is in the club list of the best 20 players to ever play for the Broncos.
8. Shane Webcke – Hailing from Toowoomba, Queensland, it was in 1993 whilst playing as a schoolboy that a hulking, young prop by the name of Shane Webcke caught the eye of Broncos coach Wayne Bennett. Webcke immediately warmed to Bennett as a father figure and hails him as the greatest influence on his career, particularly after his own father passed away when he was just 19. It would be a couple of years before Webcke made his ARL debut but he did so in 1995 and within two seasons, he had his first premiership when the Broncos won the 1997 ARL grand final. His first Maroons appearance was in 1998 where he won a man-of-the-match award in the decider. In the same year, he also made his Australian Test debut and remarkably, from the time he made his Origin debut to the time he retired after Game 3 in 2004, no other player wore the number 8 jersey for Queensland. A successful few first years was capped off by another premiership win, the first NRL premiership in 1998. 2000 very nearly became unstuck for Webcke after he broke his arm in the finals series but still managed to play in the grand final, yet another win for the Broncos. After several more consistent appearances for the Broncos, QLD and Australia, 2006 came around, where the Broncos won yet another premiership. 2006 would be Webcke’s last in the NRL when he announced in April of that year that he was going to retire.
9. Allan Langer – Born in Ipswich, Queensland, Langer’s journey into the NRL took a slightly different turn compared to some of the other former greats of the club. Whilst playing for Ipswich, then-QLD coach Wayne Bennett made a left-field selection and selected the enigmatic, budding half to play for his state in 1987. Questioned by many, it ended up being a master-stroke, when he was man-of-the-match in the deciding game. His performances led him towards his first NRL contract, when he signed with the Broncos in 1988. He continued to excel at Origin level and made his Kangaroos debut in 1988. 1989 saw him suffer a broken leg, effectively ending his season. In 1992, Langer was made captain of the Broncos side and in the same year, helped Australia retain the Ashes, as well as winning the Rothmans Medal for the best player in the then Winfield Cup. Nicknamed the Little General for his attacking smarts, Langer won the Clive Churchill Medal in 1992 for best on ground in the Broncos premiership win and also captained the side to victory in the 1992 World Club Challenge. He was at it again in 1993, when he guided the Broncos to another premiership win, the first team to finish 5th in the regular season and achieve the feat. After some tough years from 1994-96 and the Super League War that followed, 1997 saw the Broncos reborn when they won the Super League grand final and the World Club Championship. When the dust all settled, the Broncos won the first NRL premiership in 1998, again highlighting their dominance of that decade. That 1998 season was Langer’s best and one that many describe as one of the greatest individual seasons for a player in Australian rugby league history. Langer won an NRL premiership, the State of Origin series and a Test series in that year. There was a shock in mid-1999 when after a poor start to their season, Langer made a call and retired from the sport effective immediately. He returned with a brief stint at the Warrington Wolves and whilst there, he was called out by Bennett to return to the QLD frame and guide them to a win, which he did, at 35 years old. He was lured back for one more season with the Broncos in 2002 and was the NRL’s oldest player that year at 36 years old and 60 days.
10. Petero Civoniceva – One of the best Fijian players to have played in the NRL, Petero Civoniceva’s foray into rugby league came via Redcliffe. In 1998, he was given his NRL debut by coach Wayne Bennett but not in the now familiar position of prop in which he forged his career. Instead, it was at centre and throughout the 1998 season, he came off the bench multiple times and was a member of the Broncos 1998 NRL Premiership winning side. After a lax year in 1999, Civoniceva returned to form in 2000 but missed out on both the Broncos NRL premiership win and the Kangaroos World Cup campaign because of injury. He did return in 2001, though, and eventually made his Kangaroos debut in that same year. In 2003, he was again selected for the Kangaroos in their last official Ashes series. In 2004, he won Brisbane’s Player of the Year Award and again in 2006, where he led from the front all season and eventually helped the club win another premiership, this time in 2006. One of just eight Broncos players to play 200 games for the club in their history, his time at the club ended abruptly when cap concessions forced the veteran out. Life took Civoniceva to the Panthers for a few seasons before he made a triumphant return to the Broncos, much to the delight of many Broncos fans. There was only one more season in him, though, and 2012 shaped as the final curtain in Civoniceva’s illustrious club career. The proud Fijian also represented his home country on numerous occasions.
11. Andrew Gee – Born in Brisbane, Queensland, it was an Australian Schoolboys stint in 1986 that put Gee on the map before he signed with the Broncos soon after. 1989 saw him make his Broncos debut and after just 1 year, he made his QLD debut. 1992 was a turbulent year for Gee – he was injured for large chunks of the season and subsequently, missed out on grand final selection that year, which the Broncos won. He was however, a part of their World Club Challenge side following the premiership win but again, he was in the reserves for large parts of 1993. By 1994, after a lengthy suspension, Gee held down a spot and became a key workhorse in the middle of the field for the Broncos side throughout the 90’s. He was involved in the Broncos 1998 NRL Premiership win and was also the club’s Player of the Year that year. At the completion of 1999, he departed and headed to Warrington like team-mate Alfie Langer, but eventually returned ahead of the 2002 season. After a couple more seasons with the club, he retired from rugby league for good. Since then, he has held and served in numerous roles within the Broncos organisation.
12. Tonie Carroll – Hailing from Christchurch, New Zealand, a move to Brisbane beckoned for Carroll at a young age and after attending Beenleigh High and playing for the Easts Tigers, the utility was signed by the Brisbane Broncos. 1996 was the true start of his rugby league journey, the year in which he won the Brisbane Broncos Player of the Year Award. Surprisingly, despite his Kiwi background and heritage, he was picked in the QLD side during the Super League Origin series. He quickly became known for putting on huge hits and was a member of the Broncos 1998 NRL grand final winning side. Just a couple of years later, he moved to centre for the 2000 grand final, which the Broncos again won.
His career was not shy from controversy, though, when in 2000, ahead of the World Cup, he played for Australia because he had previously played Origin, despite being from New Zealand. As a result, he became the first player in 90 years to have played for Australia and New Zealand. Following the 2000 season, Carroll departed the club and sought a move to the Leeds Rhinos for a couple of seasons. In 2003, the utility returned to the Broncos and toiled as he always did, before being rewarded with another NRL premiership, this time in 2006. In 2007, he was surprisingly picked at five-eighth, a position that was not overly familiar to him. Retirement came in 2008 but Carroll returned to the Broncos side in 2009 when they had a slew of injuries. After that season, his retirement became absolute.
13. Wally Lewis – Born in Hawthorne, Queensland, Wally Lewis began playing in an era when there was no Brisbane-based team in the NSWRFL competition at that time. Subsequently, for some time, Lewis played for the Fortitude Valley side, the Wakefield Wildcats in the Super League and with the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls. Despite that, it did not stop him from making numerous appearances for Queensland and Australia, with the skills and talents of Lewis on display every week for all to see. Several teams were vying for his signature when teams came knocking, but it was ultimately the Broncos who won the race and there was immediate success, with Lewis a part of the side’s 1988 NSWRFL premiership victory. With the Ashes series around the corner after the premiership success, Lewis won the Harry Sunderland Medal, before numerous scintillating man-of-the-match performances in the years that followed saw Lewis’ stature and profile rise even further. With the Broncos seemingly relying so much on Lewis and his ability as a player, coach Wayne Bennett made a controversial move, stripping Lewis of the captaincy to try and have the players lead by someone else and avoid the reliance on Lewis. The arrival of Kevin Walters forced Lewis to move away from his favoured position of five-eighth and instead play at lock. Effectively kick-starting the modern day term of ‘ball-playing lock’. After a short few years at the club, salary cap issues and Bennett’s want for a younger overall team led to the departure of Lewis from the club. He made the trip North and signed with the now defunct Gold Coast Seagulls before ultimately retiring. Post-career, he coached the QLD side and had worked in the media for several years.
14. Shaun Berrigan – He may not be the first player you immediately associate with when you think of the Broncos but his role and versatility for the club over many years will not be forgotten. Shaun Berrigan, one of the first true, modern utility players the game saw, had a storied career with the Brisbane Broncos. Making his debut in 1998, Berrigan was not a part of the 1998 NRL premiership winning side but was lucky enough to be a member of the 2000 side, that also won the premiership. A centre by trade, Berrigan’s versatility was such that he could cover hooker, five-eighth and halfback. His versatility was on show over the course of 18 months when he played an entire series for QLD at five-eighth, the next series all at halfback, before playing for Australia against Great Britain at centre. Injuries forced coach Bennett’s hands in 2005 and a move was made to shift Berrigan to hooker. This was a move that many felt revolutionised the Broncos play and gave them new dimensions in attack. He was playing so well that he was rewarded for his own efforts when the Broncos won the 2006 NRL premiership, winning the Clive Churchill Medal. Much of his career may have been off the bench, but the little maestro made his presence felt and in a big way, helping the Broncos in attack and sparking them to life. At the completion of the 2007 season, the Broncos & Berrigan parted and he went on to enjoy stints at Hull FC, the New Zealand Warriors and the Canberra Raiders. He eventually retired after a decorated, versatile career, at the completion of the 2013 season.
15. Corey Parker – Arguably the greatest modern Bronco to playing the game, the last 5-6 years has seen Corey Parker become not only a club stalwart but a true workhorse of the game. In his debut game in 2001, Parker scored a try and kick-started his now budding NRL career. A versatile forward, Parker can cover the front-row and back-row and has been the primary goal-kicker for the Broncos for the better part of a decade. 2006 saw him lead the club in points scored and he came off the bench in their premiership success that year. In 2007, he was again the leading point-scorer at the club, before breaking the club record for most goals in a match with 10 in 2008. Starting out as a prop, the move that changed Parker’s career came in 2009 when then coach Ivan Henjak made a decision to move him to lock. In the same year, he won the Paul Morgan Medal for the Broncos’ Player of the Year. In 2010, Parker became the second youngest Broncos player to reach 200 games and later in the year in September, he was named captain of the Prime Ministers XIII side. Playing sporadically for QLD and Australia over the first half of his career, in recent years, Parker has become a mainstay in both sides for his workhorse-like nature, his tenacity, his leadership and his work ethic. He was again named the Broncos Player of the Year in 2013 and won numerous awards in the same year including RLIF International Lock of the Year and Dally M Lock of the Year. As it stands, he is the club’s second highest point-scorer and is on track to become the most capped Broncos player at the completion of his contract. He currently sits on 314 games.
16. Gorden Tallis – The Raging Bull often caused havoc for opposition sides and whilst the Broncos is where he truly forged his place in rugby league, his first stint was with the St George Dragons. After a somewhat nonchalant and bitter end to his time at the club, the move he was seeking for 18 months to the Brisbane Broncos materialised and he signed with them ahead of the 1997 season. In that very year, he made his international debut and in 1998, he was subsequently booed by the Dragons faithful for the way he left the club but that was water under the bridge for Tallis. Ultimately, he got the last laugh when the Broncos beat not only the Dragons in that particular game, but also won the NRL premiership in 1998, where Tallis won the Clive Churchill Medal. After many more numerous appearances for the Australian side, for Queensland – including the game where he was told to leave the field by Bill Harrigan in that now infamous Oririn game – Tallis was made captain in 2000. After performing strongly in the 2001 State of Origin series, rugby league very nearly ceased for Tallis when he suffered a potentially career-ending neck injury. He fought his way back, though, and tackled the adversity head on, to make a triumphant return to the rugby league arena. Soon after his return, he was involved in another famous Origin moment – dragging NSW Fullback Brett Hodgson like a rag-doll over the sidelines. At the completion of the 2003 season, Tallis pulled the pin on his representative career and played for one more season with the Broncos before he knew his body could no longer take the rigours of the game. He officially retired after the 2004 season and will go down as one of the club’s best ever forwards. He was inducted into the Broncos Hall of Fame in 2010.
17. Brad Thorn – Born in Otago, New Zealand, Thorn will go down as not only a Brisbane Broncos great but one of the best dual code internationals in the modern era. At just eight, Thorn and his family made a move to Australia and in 1994, he was signed by the Brisbane Broncos as a junior. Surprisingly, despite hailing from New Zealand, he represented the Australian Schoolboys side in that same year and went on to represent Australia in rugby league in all his Tests. His NRL debut also came in 1994 and he was named the club’s Rookie of the Year. 1996 saw Thorn make his Origin debut for QLD, with 1997 the year when he made his official debut for the Australian Kangaroos. His first premiership came in the same year when the Broncos won the 1997 Super League premiership and his second came a year later, when the Broncos again won, this time the maiden NRL Premiership. Further successes at all levels – including another premiership with the Broncos in 2000 and numerous appearances for Queensland Australia – continued, before he made a decision to move back to rugby union. After numerous successes in rugby union, Thorn returned to the league arena in 2005. Once again, he enjoyed further representative honours and added yet another NRL premiership to his name in 2006. But the second stint was short-lived as at the end of the 2007 season, the hulking forward moved back to the game of Union where he remained until his retirement at the end of this current season.
Best Broncos player of all-time: Darren Lockyer.