The team is at a turning point and questions are arising about club culture, writes Greg Cary.
After the Broncos’ final game of the year, coach Anthony Griffin said he was leaving the club in good shape and talked positively about their culture.
It’s hard to know exactly what he means.
Anthony has been sacked; senior players are unhappy and many fans are upset about the return of Wayne Bennett and how it has all been handled.
Anthony is entitled to take satisfaction from how his team performed in most of their games this year. He also earned respect for the dignity he showed under a variety of testing circumstances. Sadly, his public defensiveness never allowed the fans to get to know the man behind the coaching mask.
So what exactly is the culture at Red Hill? Not sure, to be honest.
From the outside it seems as if Griffin as coach wanted to instil certain values – hard work, loyalty, a sense of team. To some extent he succeeded, but to do that he let go a number of excellent club men and good players, some of whom have excelled elsewhere. Loyalty is a much talked-about but diminished currency in professional sport, where the demands for success are relentless.
And now Darren Lockyer says the business of the team should be all about winning. Darren misses the point of his own outstanding career. It was never just about winning but rather the attitude, values and style that led to victory.
Winning can never be the only aim. Clubs do not exist simply to win, particularly in sport where to exist means accepting the reality of losing. There is much more to it. Indeed, Wayne Bennett has often talked about this – taking care of your side of the scoreboard. So what to make of recent events?
Wayne used his first press conference upon his return to signal he wanted Russell Packer and Darius Boyd. This raises important questions, not least whether coaches establish culture or are stewards of it. Wayne didn’t exactly make some players feel secure when he added that he “had to deal with the roster he had”. Not quite a heartfelt show of confidence.
Darren, too, seemed supportive of the push for Packer, who remains in prison for a vicious assault committed after being signed to play for the Knights.
That the Dragons beat Brisbane for his signature is less worrying than that they wanted him in the first place. What kind of culture is it exactly that thought him a good fit?
Redemption, of course, is a compelling theme and Packer has the potential to reform. Bennett admits with his usual candour that clubs were chasing Packer for what he offers on field but goes further, saying that “… he is no mug”.
I would disagree. Any person who stomps on the head of another (whether influenced by alcohol or not) is, by definition, a mug. Only future actions will change that definition.
Peter Mulholland, recruitment manager at Newcastle, says Russell is a good father and husband and points to his dreadful upbringing. I’m not sure how we are meant to reconcile the notion of “good father and husband” with the stupidity and selfishness of the actions that led him to prison where he can be neither. It’s also true that many experience sad childhoods without reverting to brutal violence.
The attempt to rationalise the hiring of Packer was cynical. Say it for what it was: a desire to win at all costs. Some will agree, some won’t, but at least it’s the truth.
It might also tell us a bit about their culture.