WELCOME to Wayne’s World — the revolution that has transformed Red Hill and made the Brisbane Broncos an NRL powerhouse again.
Here is the proof that Wayne Bennett’s Broncos have only just been edged out by Melbourne as the NRL’s most dominant club of the past three years.
Since returning to the Broncos in 2015 following six years at St George-Illawarra and Newcastle, Bennett has brought Brisbane’s aura back.
The Broncos have won 51 of 77 games (66.2 per cent) in the past three seasons — only Craig Bellamy’s Melbourne have a better record with 56 wins in 77 games (72.7 per cent).
The Broncos were NRL finals regulars during Bennett’s first stint at the club but in the six seasons he was away they missed the play-offs twice, under both Ivan Henjak (2010) and Anthony Griffin (2013).
Bennett, 67, immediately led the Broncos to their first grand final since 2006, going within a few seconds of winning the club’s seventh title in a gripping 2015 decider against the Cowboys.
The Broncos secured a crucial top-four finish this season and have the opportunity to land a home preliminary final when they face the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
Captain Darius Boyd has played his entire 266-game NRL career under Bennett and said the seven-time premiership winning coach’s influence could not be ignored.
“It’s a lot to do with Wayne, the culture he brings and expectations of what the jersey means,” he said.
“I wasn’t here when Wayne wasn’t here, but I remember my first year back and everyone was saying how much things have changed for the better since Wayne came back.
“We went to the grand final in that first year (2015) Wayne was back which exceeded peoples’ expectations. We were a few seconds away from getting the job done.
“The club hasn’t changed for me but the guys who were here during that time would say a few things have changed.
“I put it down to Wayne, what he brings and the standards he drives.”
Henjak was sacked after leading Brisbane to a 10th-placed finish in 2010 and the Broncos slumped to 12th in 2013, Griffin’s penultimate season in charge.
Broncos powerbrokers opted to punt Griffin after the eighth-placed finish in 2014 and lured Bennett home from Newcastle.
He wielded the axe on Ben Barba, Martin Kennedy, Josh Hoffman and David Hala, pushing them out of the club as he welcomed Anthony Milford, Adam Blair and Boyd.
With recruitment chief Peter Nolan back at the helm, Brisbane has netted bargain buys in Korbin Sims, Tautau Moga and Herman Ese’ese while snaring a blue-chip signing in NSW Origin star Jack Bird for 2018.
The Broncos struggled in the years following the retirement of club legend Darren Lockyer in 2011 but they have again found the stability of the glory years.
“It’s a whole of club effort,” chief executive Paul White said.
“We’re all driven to on-field success and everyone knows what role they can play in that.
“We’ve had real stability over the last three years since Wayne’s been back at the club.
“He’s a real steady hand. That’s given everyone confidence within the club and external to it.”
Lock Josh McGuire was in the under-20s during Bennett’s last season in charge of the Broncos in 2008 before making his NRL debut the following year.
He experienced the Broncos during through their lowly seasons before re-emerging as an NRL giant in 2015.
“He demands success,” McGuire said.
“He’s a good manager and knows how to get the best out of his players. You can tell from over the years of his coaching, he’s got a lot of players to a new level.
“It’s very important to play good footy at this club and Wayne’s not scared to make big decisions on players. As players you know that and you need to perform every week.”
The Broncos are a different beast with Bennett back in charge but there is still one final step before his Red Hill redemption is complete.
“We haven’t tasted that premiership success yet which we want so desperately,” said White, in his seventh year as CEO.
“I’m really proud of what the club’s done over the last few years but you’re never satisfied until you win a competition.
“There is a deep and burning desire among the whole organisation, particularly our players and coaches to win a competition. I am no different to that.
“I am proud of where the club’s at but we can’t sit still, not now or ever. You enjoy the moment but are always looking to the future as well.”
And that future includes Bennett until at least the end of 2019.