Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston all escaped Brisbane Broncos recruiters.
Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston all escaped Brisbane Broncos recruiters.

Recruitment fails plague Broncos

ANTHONY Seibold was quite right to come out in support of Darius Boyd this week. The last thing he needs is for his stop-gap five-eighth to drop his bundle.

After all, there's no-one else to fill the spot. Which raises the question: Why?

How is it that reputedly the richest and best-supported club in the NRL has been reduced to trying to turn a 32-year-old fullback into a No.6 halfway through the season?

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Surely there must be something wrong with the Broncos' recruitment policy if the club finds itself with arguably the most exciting batch of young forwards in the game but not one top-class playmaker.

The Broncos, with the great Cyril Connell at the helm and almost an entire state to choose from, once boasted the best junior production line in the business.

Right now it looks like that production line is in serious need of an overhaul or, at the least, a grease and oil change.

The Broncos' last great playmaker, Darren Lockyer, retired in 2011 and the club still hasn't unearthed a successor.

Makeshift Broncos five-eighth Darius Boyd.
Makeshift Broncos five-eighth Darius Boyd.

Now needless to say up-and-coming playmakers don't come along every day but when one emerges in your own backyard, you would have to think you're a good chance to get him.

Not so with boom 16-year-old Sam Walker, whose father and two uncles all played for the Broncos. He signed with the Roosters.

And then there are the likes of local juniors Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith they let slip through their fingers at a time when they didn't cost an arm and a leg.

Thurston was available for next to nothing when he was spotted at the Australian under-17 championships but Wayne Bennett reckons he was talked out of signing him because he was "too small, too slow and too wild".

Johnathan Thurston could easily have become a Bronco. Picture: Adam Head
Johnathan Thurston could easily have become a Bronco. Picture: Adam Head

On his recent podcast, Matty Johns asked Cameron Smith why he had played 400 games for the Storm and not the Broncos.

"I'm not too sure," he said.

"There obviously wasn't a lot interest in me being there and it was disappointing for a young fella who absolutely loved the Broncos and followed their team ever since I remember.

"I'd go to nearly every home game and I idolised a lot of their players through the years.

"I played with guys who were handed Broncos scholarships. We've heard JT speak about a similar story.

Cameron Smith slipped through the Brisbane recruitment system.
Cameron Smith slipped through the Brisbane recruitment system.

"These blokes were getting Broncos tracksuit pants and Broncos gear and getting invited to training days. I wasn't a part of that and it hurt a little bit and probably gave me a little more drive to try and make it in the NRL."

Which he did, of course, just not in his home town.

"I was selected in the Brisbane under-17 side and we played a carnival in Rockhampton and as they do, all the scouts go to these games," he said.

"Anthony Griffin was there. He was working for the Storm at the time and he was the one who spotted me at that carnival and he contacted my parents. Storm were really the ones who showed significant interest."

Anthony Griffin recruited Cameron Smith to the Storm.
Anthony Griffin recruited Cameron Smith to the Storm.

Johns makes the point that the Broncos are both blessed and cursed with the huge numbers of juniors they have to sift through each year and Smith notes, quite rightly, that all young players develop at different times.

"Clearly my best football was ahead of me," he said.

Clearly, but there is another obvious point as well - the Broncos had scouts at that carnival. They missed Cameron Smith, Anthony Griffin didn't.

Maybe it isn't better players the Broncos should be trying to recruit. It's better recruiters.

News Corp Australia


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