Greatest Teams Ever Pt 1: Brisbane Broncos

Every team has players that will remain forever etched in the history of that club and in our first installmentt of many, we will look at the Brisbane Broncos and some of the greatest players to have ever played for the club. With so many quality players over the years since their inception to choose from, narrowing it down to just 17 players was no easy task. Also, whilst some of the players selected may have played for other clubs in their careers, these players are chosen based on the impact they had on their team and the game whilst at the Broncos.

Though after hard deliberation among us and careful consideration, we put together who we believe are the 17 greatest players to have played for the Broncos for varying reasons. Without further adieu, here they are:

1. Darren Lockyer: Needing little introduction, Darren Lockyer is regarded as one of the greatest players to have played rugby league in the modern era. Equally adept as both a fullback and five-eighth across all forms of the game (club, state and international), he was revered as a player by many Broncos fans and fans of rival clubs as well. One of few players to have dominated and performed in two separate positions, Lockyer’s time at fullback saw him win a Golden Boot Award, four premierships, a Clive Churchill Medal and a World Cup. After the shift to five-eighth, Lockyer went on to win another NRL premiership, a second Golden Boot award and a record sixth straight Origin series. Starting out as a fresh 18-year old, Lockyer’s first season was solid at the club and he took out the club’s Rookie of the Year award in 1995.
Lockyer received the ultimate praise from many throughout his career, though a quote from another rugby league legend in Tim Sheens resonates with most.
“Darren pioneered the ball-playing fullback, the No. 1 who can play like a second or third five-eighth,” Sheens said.


2. Michael Hancock: A strong, powerful winger, Hancock remained a mainstay of the Broncos side for roughly 11 years, though his role did change as the years went on. Scoring a mountain of tries over the course of his career, like Lockyer and many others to come in this list, they were a part of the Broncos side that dominated the 1990’s winning five premierships across the decade.
To go with his strength and power as a winger, he also had a touch of finesse and pace, impressing many fans and critics. Still only a teenager, he represented both Queensland and Australia after strong performances for the Broncos. He also took out a Broncos Rookie of the Year Award, winning it in 1988. At the turn of the century, a change beckoned for Hancock and in a bid to prolong his career, he became a quality impact player off the bench and increased his playing repertoire to cover back-row. He was one of the first four former players to be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.


3. Justin Hodges – For as long as he was in the league, Hodges was regarded as the elite centre. The centre that every other would aspire to play like and the one that everyone tried to stop but had a hard time doing so. A powerful centre, Hodges was known for his craftiness out of dummy half, trying to catch opposing teams off-guard.
Although many would have wanted to see Hodges play for just the Broncos, he did have a stint of three years at the Sydney Roosters, causing some bad blood with coach Wayne Bennett in the lead-up to it. But no matter what club Hodges was at, when healthy and fit, he was in fine form. He was a part of the Roosters side that won the 2002 NRL premiership and the 2003 World Club Challenge.
Hodges and Bennett then reconciled in a move that saw Hodges return to the Broncos. He maintained his standing as an elite centre over the next period at the club and continued to perform at all levels. With further NRL premierships to boot and Indigenous All-Stars appearances, after a long, successful career, Hodges retired from the game in 2015. His last game was the 2015 NRL grand final.


4. Steve Renouf: One of the best centres to have played rugby league, Renouf was a mainstay of a strong Broncos side throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s. In the process, like so many other Broncos in this list, he won numerous premierships over that period, signifying the dominance the Broncos had at the time. Of Aboriginal and European descent, the centre ended up with a remarkable try-scoring rate of 142 tries from 183 games for the Broncos and 43 tries from 59 games in two years for the Wigan Warriors.
Famous for donning the headgear each week, the man nicknamed ‘The Pearl’ had it all. A brilliant player blessed with speed and ability, Renouf had to dig deeper than most when he was a young player. Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes that could have derailed his rugby league career, he persisted and found a way to cope with the illness to forge a long, successful rugby league career. Renouf was also named in the Indigenous Team of the Century and will forever be remembered as one of the greats of the Broncos.


5. Wendell Sailor: One of the very first big, hulking wingers to come into the NRL, Sailor changed the view on wingers as we know them today and with great effect. A dual code international, Sailor enjoyed an illustrious career spanning 16 years. Although he had a fair share of off-field indiscretions – most notably his run-in with cocaine – he always remained a favourite in Broncos circles and rugby league circles, for his solid all-round play but his larrikin approach and character.
Although Sailor had little involvement across the 1993 ARL season, he did enough to take out their Rookie of the Year award in that same year. His stature and profile grew quickly, though, and soon enough, he was a regular in the Broncos side on the wing. Winning numerous premierships with the Broncos and performing strongly for much of his career there, he eventually departed and opted to play rugby union, where he remained for seven years.
Sailor eventually returned to rugby league to play for the St George Illawarra Dragons where in 2009, he was reunited with his former Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, who joined the Dragons as their coach that year. His final game of rugby league came in the 2010 Indigenous All-Stars clash where he scored a try and celebrated by taking out the corner post and playing it like a didgeridoo.


6. Kevin Walters: The year was 1990 and Kevin Walters returned to the Queensland, opting to play at the Brisbane Broncos alongside brother Kerrod. Slotting into five-eighth that year, Walters form was such that he won the club’s Player of the Year award, on top of playing all three games for QLD off the interchange bench. Playing in numerous tours for the Kangaroos across his first few seasons, the icing on the cake came when he was a part of the Broncos 1992 premiership success. Success followed Walters in the early days as his utility value proved vital to not only an Australian World Cup success in 1992 but a second successive premiership for the Broncos in 1993. Walters then went on to win the 1997 Super League Grand Final at the Broncos before he was handed the captaincy in 1999 after Allan Langer retired. Whilst captain in 2000, Walters guided the Broncos to a premiership success in the same year. After a short stint at Warrington, Walters returned to the Broncos in 2001 before he retired. He was one of the first four players named into the Broncos Hall of Fame and was included in a list of the top 20 players to have ever played for the Broncos in 2007.


7. Allan Langer: The man aptly nicknamed Alfie, was one of the greatest halves the Broncos have ever produced. Making his Broncos debut in 1988, Langer slowly developed his skills and repertoire to become a better player, before unfortunately breaking his leg in the 1989 season.
After a couple of lean seasons, Langer became the Broncos club captain in 1992 and then led the side to their maiden premiership success that culminated in his capture of the Clive Churchill Medal. The club went back-to-back, again on the back of Langer’s form, winning the 1993 premiership.
Langer continued to play for the Broncos during the Super League era and eventually led the side to premiership success in 1997 before again leading the side to back-to-back premierships in the first official NRL season in 1998. Such was Langer’s form in 1998, that many regard it as one of the greatest individual performances by a player in a season.
After a poor start to 1999, Langer surprised everyone when he announced his retirement from the NRL. A brief stint in England then led to a shock return to the Origin arena before playing one final season with the Broncos in 2002 that resulted in a preliminary final appearance.


8. Petero Civoniceva: The Fijian-born prop has always been a fan favourite no matter where he has gone and always performed at the highest level. He went on to win the club’s Rookie of the Year Award in 1998 and played from the bench that same year with the Broncos winning the premiership. Missing out on the 2000 NRL premiership success due to injury, Civoniceva toiled away and maintained his good form for the club that culminated in QLD and Australian appearances.
In 2004, he was named the club Player of the Year and again in 2006, adding a premiership to his name that same year. At the time of his 200th game for the club in 2007, he was just the eighth player to reach that milestone. Salary cap restrictions then forced Civoniceva out of the Broncos, resulting in the Fijian prop signing with the Panthers.
After several years there, he returned to the club that made him famous, playing in a litany of games for the Broncos. He became the 17th player to play 300 career NRL games in 2012 and was also a winning member of Queensland’s Origin-winning series.


9. Shaun Berrigan: 1998 was the year in which Berrigan made his NRL and Broncos debut and over the course of his career, he was shifted around numerous positions to become a genuine utility. A nifty, nuggety player, he quickly became a fan favourite and never let the side down with his determination. Having missed out on the 1998 premiership success, Berrigan was involved in the Broncos 2000 premiership success and enjoyed numerous years of good form and success across different forms of the game and different positions.
2005 was an especially good year for the utility, who ended it as the club’s leading try-scorer before playing his 150th game for the club in 2006. In the same year, he ended up moving to hooker due to other injuries and was praised for his efforts in the role by former greats of the game such as Peter Sterling who said that Berrigan’s shift to hooker brought a new dimension to the Broncos attack.
Such was his form at hooker, he was rewarded with the Clive Churchill Medal in another premiership success for the Broncos in 2016. During the 2007 season, he was then named in the best 20 Broncos players to play for the club. Whilst he will be known for his time at the Broncos, after leaving the club in 2007, he went on to play for Hull FC, the New Zealand Warriors & the Canberra Raiders.


10. Shane Webcke: Regarded as one of the best props of the modern era, from a very young age, Webcke showed just how good a player he was. In 1993, as a schoolboy, Webcke was spotted by Wayne Bennett and after that, the rest is history. Just two years later, he made his Broncos debut and then in 1997, he was a key factor in the Broncos 1997 Superleague success. Also enjoying success on the Origin arena, Webcke was a mainstay in the Queensland number 8 jersey for many years. His resilience was evident when he broke his arm during the 2000 finals series but went on to play in the 2000 NRL grand final, which the Broncos won.
He continued his good form in 2001, taking out the Broncos Player of the Year award, before again winning the award in 2005. After a career spanning 11 years and with three premierships during that time, Webcke announced his retirement in 2006. His workhorse-like nature and his hard work will be forever etched in the minds of Broncos fans.


11. Andrew Gee: Yet another big Broncos forward, Andrew Gee enjoyed a lengthy stint in the first-grade side and at the time of his retirement, he had played the most games by a Broncos forward. Making his debut with the club in 1989, he quickly turned heads and put the NRL on notice, immediately playing Origin games in 1990. Injury and some poor form led to Gee missing out on the Broncos 1992 NSWRL premiership success but he was a reserve when the Broncos won again in 1993.
He fought his way back and was a key player during the Broncos 1997 Super League success and then again in 1998, a year that saw him with the Broncos Player of the Year award. After a brief stint with Warrington, Gee returned to the Broncos side in 2002 along with Allan Langer, before retiring from the game at the end of 2003. He was the first player to reach the 250 game milestone for the Broncos and in 2009, was inducted into the Broncos Hall of Fame.


12. Gorden Tallis: He was a player at the St George Dragons before his Broncos stint and after sitting out the entire 1996 season, Tallis finally joined the Broncos in 1997. Immediately making an impact, Tallis was the most dominant forward in the competition that year, culminating in the club’s premiership success. Returning to the scene of the crime in 1998 – the Dragons home ground – he was excessively booed by Dragons fans but got the last laugh, scoring the final try in a Broncos victory.
His sustained success continued, as the Broncos won again in 1998, with Tallis scoring a try and winning the Clive Churchill Medal. After a high of personal success across club and representative games, Tallis missed out on end of season representative duties.
Tallis continued to go from strength to strength and for many years, was regarded as the best forward in the game. He was dominant in the Broncos 2000 NRL premiership success and again in international matches for Australia. In 2001, Tallis was made captain before severe injury struck when he suffered a career-threatening neck injury.
He did return to the game and announced his retirement from representative football in 2003 to prolong his club career. However, as the 2004 season wore on, Tallis’ impact was significantly affected by the neck injury that led to his retirement in that same year. At the time of his retirement, Tallis had scored the most tries by a Brisbane forward in the club’s history and in 2010, he was inducted into the Broncos hall of fame.


13. Corey Parker: When you think of club stalwarts, Corey Parker would immediately spring to mind. For 15 years, he gave his all for the Broncos and eventually became the heart and soul of the club. Making his debut in 2001, he scored a try in his first game. As he worked his way into the side as a mainstay, representative honours came in 2004 and he was a member of the Broncos 2006 NRL premiership-winning side, playing from the bench. That same year, he was the highest point-scorer for the Broncos with 142 points.
Taking over the goal-kicking in 2007 full-time, Parker again finished as the club’s leading point-scorer in 2007 and in 2008, he broke the club record for the most goals in a match when he kicked ten from ten. Injury struck in 2008 causing Parker to lose his goal-kicking status at the club but after Michael Ennis departed in 2009, he was given the role once more.
2009 marked the first season in which Corey Parker was moved to the lock position, one that made his own up until his retirement. He won the Paul Morgan Medal in the same year as the Broncos Player of the Year.
In 2010, he then reached 200 games for the club, the second youngest to reach the milestone at that time, which was then followed by his being named the best forward at the Broncos in 2011. It was not until 2013 that Parker became a mainstay of the Queensland representative side, becoming a key player in the process. Parker again won the Broncos Player of the Year award again in 2013, as well as International Lock of the Year, the Player’s Player award, the Best Forward award, Dally M Lock of the Year and Rugby League Week Player of the Year.
In 2014, Parker became just the third Broncos player to score 1000 points before becoming the club’s 2nd highest point-scorer later in the year. The milestones continued when in early 2015, he played his 300th game, which was then followed by passing Darren Lockyer to become the Broncos highest ever point-scorer late in the 2016 season.
In June 2016, Parker made a decision that it would be his last, as he retired from the game with numerous accolades to his name.


14. Kerrod Walters – Perhaps the lesser known of the Walters brothers in the eyes of some, Kerrod still added plenty of value to the Broncos side in the time that he was there. Making his debut in 1989 at hooker after overtaking Greg Conescu as first-choice, he soon played for Queensland and Australia, impressing with both sides.
He played a key role in the Broncos NSWRL premiership success in 1992 and was named the Broncos Player of the Year. This was then followed by further strong performances that led the Broncos to more premiership success in 1993, back-to-back titles. Walters remained a mainstay of the Broncos side until the end of the 1995 season, before he was cut, eventually signing with the Adelaide Rams.


15. Tonie Carroll – A fan favourite during his time at the club, the man nicknamed ‘Tunza’ made his debut during the Super League years in 1996 and was named as the club’s rookie of the year. He raised some conjecture when, despite being of Kiwi Origin and with a Kiwi background, he played for Queensland on numerous occasions. Hard-hitting in defence, Carroll won his second premiership in 1998 and his third in 2000 where he played at centre.
Carroll’s international career caused much conjecture, considering that he played for both New Zealand and Australia, a move that outraged many. Despite that, he was the first player in 90 years at the time to have represented both nations. After a brief stint in the Super League with Leeds, Carroll returned to the Broncos once more and picked up where he left off.
He enjoyed further premiership success in 2006, finishing the game off with a leg injury, showing much resolve to do so. In 2007, Carroll was named in a list of the best 20 players to have played for the Broncos. An interesting move came about in 2007 when Carroll was named at five-eighth ahead of others, after an injury to stalwart Darren Lockyer.
Carroll’s first retirement came in 2008 before he returned to the side in 2009 after the Broncos suffered a litany of injuries. At the end of that season, he made his retirement from the game official.


16. Sam Thaiday – At just 18 years of age, Thaiday made his NRL debut in 2003. After toiling hard and working on his game and with the Broncos inconsistent in 2006, coach Wayne Bennett felt like changes were needed. One of those changes brought about a stint in the starting side for Thaiday and it as well as the other changes worked, as the Broncos went on to win the 2006 NRL premiership. Injury disrupted his 2007 season but he hit form once more in 2008 and after back-to-back man-of-the-match performances, he was selected in the Queensland side.
Further years went on and Thaiday continued to produce good footy before he was named captain in 2011. In the same year, he was named the RLIF back-rower of the year. As the years have gone on, Thaiday has interchanged between back-row and front-row, and from the starting side to the bench but no matter where he has played, he has been revered by Broncos fans for his work ethic, his tenacity and his loyalty.


17. Brad Thorn – The Kiwi-born Brad Thorn became an adopted son at the Brisbane Broncos and in the 1994 Winfield Cup, he made his debut. His form was so good, that the club awarded him their Rookie of the Year Award. He began his Origin career with Queensland early on and became a staple of the side in the years that he was involved with rugby league during his first stint.
His first premiership success with the Broncos came in 1997, when the side won the 1997 Super League title. He continued to produce solid play and won another premiership in 1998, and was then further rewarded with representative appearances for both Queensland and Australia before capping off his first rugby league stint with a premiership win in 2000.
A stint in Union beckoned for a few years before Thorn made a decision to move back to Brisbane and rugby league in 2005. During that time, he made further representative appearances for Queensland in 2005, won another premiership in 2006 and was then named as one of the best 20 players to have ever donned the Broncos jersey. At the end of the 2007 season, Thorn returned to rugby union.

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