Payne Haas has promised to help restore the reputation of the Brisbane Broncos in light of their humiliating defeat in the 2019 finals by making a formidable comeback against the Storm. He, along with Pat Carrigan, Tom Flegler and Kotoni Staggs, are the lone survivors from the Brisbane squad that suffered an 11-try drubbing at the hands of Parramatta.
Their first NRL finals appearance since that mortifying 58-0 loss to the Eels four years ago will kick off when Brisbane squares off with Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night. Disturbingly, the Broncos’ culture had to be scrutinised after the team was caught spending the night before the match playing poker machines instead of preparing.
This unforgettable defeat subsequently led to Brisbane’s worst season in 35 years, culminating in the sacking of coach Anthony Seibold and the team being awarded with the unwanted 2020 wooden spoon. They have not had another taste of the finals since, until third-year coach Kevin Walters finally ushered them back into premiership reckoning this year.
Having been scarred by their past, the remaining team members are setting their sights on snapping the Broncos‘ 17-year NRL title drought this year. Their first challenge would be to end a 14-game losing streak against the Storm, in order to earn a home Grand Final qualifier.
Reflecting on the dreadful experience of the 2019 finals, Haas stated that they have made significant maturity strides as a team since then. He also voiced his burning anticipation for this week’s match, iterating the importance of capitalising on their successful year by ensuring their triumph.
Adding to the record of events, Corey Oates, despite having been part of the disastrous defeat too, has been benched for the upcoming decisive match against the Storm. For Flegler, this will be an opportunity to make up for the humiliating loss to Parramatta, which was his first and only NRL finals appearance. Despite ambitions of putting this past behind him, he admits that memories of the hostile crowd and being the underdog still linger.
Centre player Herbie Farnworth, who joined the Broncos in 2019 but was not a part of the defeated finals team, found himself suffering the same penalty when the Broncos were preparing for the 2020 season. He believes the youngest members of that team, including Haas, have advanced significantly within the sport and is hopeful of better fortunes this time around.
Carrigan, who made his squad debut in the 2019 season, has certainly come a long way, proving his worth by becoming an esteemed player for Queensland State of Origin and the Kangaroos Test team. There may be a dearth of NRL finals experience within this Broncos team, but Carrigan possesses conviction in their talent and determination to secure victory against Melbourne and reach new milestones in the premiership race.
Carrigan is unapologetic about his and the team’s past mistakes, stating that they have grown from the experience and are now different players in a different team. He emphasised the team’s eagerness to perform well in front of the Brisbane crowd, reaffirming his excitement for the upcoming game.