QLD_SM_SPORT_NRL_BRONCOS_WHITE
QLD_SM_SPORT_NRL_BRONCOS_WHITE

Broncos boss: It’s time for a second Brisbane team

Departing Broncos boss Paul White has declared the NRL's flagship franchise is ready to tackle the challenge of a second team in Brisbane.

White, 53, will exit the Broncos in October after overseeing his 10th NRL season as the club's chief executive.

Ahead of his final season, White spoke to The Sunday Mail about his decade in charge at Red Hill, the quest for an elusive seventh premiership and healing wounds with club legends and ex-coach Wayne Bennett.

Under White's leadership, the Broncos have evolved into the NRL's richest club, boasting 36,000 members and a $27 million club headquarters.

The Broncos have enjoyed a monopoly in Brisbane as the city's only NRL club, but that could be about to change as the game looks to introduce a new team in 2023.

The Broncos have long opposed the introduction of another NRL team in Brisbane, but White said they were now ready to battle a River City rival.

 

Broncos CEO Paul White ahead of his last season at the club. White is leaving Broncos at end of the year. Picture: Peter Wallis
Broncos CEO Paul White ahead of his last season at the club. White is leaving Broncos at end of the year. Picture: Peter Wallis

 

"The club will be in a position to compete strongly if more competition was brought in," he said.

"That won't be my decision and I haven't rallied one way or the other, but if another team does come to Brisbane one day (we will be ready).

"If you look at what's happened interstate, particularly in the AFL, there's no doubt city rivalry creates a great local derby. Broadcasters and other people are acutely aware of that.

"It's not the Broncos that have held back a second team. There have been no public rallies from us. I've always supported the decision of the game and if that turns out to be a second team, we're really well placed to compete.

"It should give our members, sponsors and everyone who supports our club some real confidence that we're in a position to be advantaged either way."

 

A DECADE IN CHARGE

A former police officer and mining executive, White stepped into the hot seat at Red Hill in January, 2011, replacing Bruno Cullen.

A month later White oversaw the sacking of coach Ivan Henjak and appointment of Anthony Griffin.

 

Paul White with his family at home in Bardon in 2011. Emily (19), Annabel (12), Madeline (18) and Molly (14) with wife Angela. Picture: Jono Searle
Paul White with his family at home in Bardon in 2011. Emily (19), Annabel (12), Madeline (18) and Molly (14) with wife Angela. Picture: Jono Searle

 

The Broncos went through a rollercoaster period during Griffin's tenure as the club struggled to live up to the lofty expectations produced during Bennett's six-premiership reign from 1988-2008.

While the Broncos flourished financially under White, the on-field inconsistency contributed to Griffin being sacked in 2014 and replaced by Bennett.

Bennett piloted the Broncos to within seconds of the 2015 NRL premiership in his first season back at the club, but the relationship ended bitterly when he was sacked in December, 2018.

White has battled through the diagnosis of a brain tumour in 2016, which has responded positively to treatment, to leave a legacy at the Broncos in the shape of the club's state-of-the-art headquarters, financial certainty and a competition-leading indigenous and community program.

 

White during his recovery from a brain tumour. Picture: Adam Head
White during his recovery from a brain tumour. Picture: Adam Head

 

But he would love nothing more than to snap Brisbane's 14-year title drought and farewell the NRL with a premiership in his final season.

"The best legacy I can leave the club is that we are stronger in five years' time than we are today because I would have done my job well," he said.

"There's a whole lot of things I'm proud of, but I'm only one piece of this whole organisation. Anything I've achieved is through others, not because I'm the CEO.

"I want to win a game of marbles so it hurts any time we lose. I am incredibly invested in all parts of the club, particularly our performance on the field. I know that's where we are judged.

"There's a lot you can control as a CEO and some things you can't. My role is to put everything in place and remove as many barriers in the way of good performance.

"In 2015 we literally went within a few seconds of reaching the promised land but it wasn't to be.

"I'm not naive enough to think everyone can have a fairy tale ending but I would love to be a part of a premiership."

 

White with then Broncos coach Wayne Bennett at training in 2017. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
White with then Broncos coach Wayne Bennett at training in 2017. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

 

OLD BOYS AND BENNETT

White and Bennett enjoyed a three-decade relationship having first met in 1984 at the Queensland Police Academy.

They spoke glowingly of each other at Broncos functions and it seemed like they shared an unbreakable bond.

But that relationship deteriorated during the most tumultuous period in the club's history as the Broncos prepared for the post-Bennett era before the master coach was ready to surrender the reigns.

Bennett and the Broncos' divorce in late 2018 was as messy as they come, prompting criticism from club legends over the spat and the team's on-field performances. White and Bennett have not spoken since.

The Broncos have been accused of losing the club's spirit, but White strongly refutes those suggestions and says his fractured relationship with Bennett was collateral of the job.

 

 

"I don't think that (criticism) is fair, it's a very different environment than the game was," he said.

"They (ex-players) get frustrated with non-performance. The only way we can honour their legacy is do what they did - win premierships. The playing group knows that as well.

"(Bennett) is a personal thing. This role carries with it a degree of responsibility and accountability. Sometimes you lose a bit of skin along the way.

"I've lost a bit of skin at times, but I'm never a victim about that. I'm in a privileged position plenty of other people would put their hand up to do."

 

NIGHTMARE TO NEW LIGHT

The Broncos have featured in 15 finals games since White joined the club, but none were as painful as last year's horror show.

Brisbane's 58-0 loss to Parramatta was the biggest finals loss in NRL history and put the blowtorch on White and coach Anthony Seibold, who was given a five-year contract to replace Bennett.

"We knew we had to take our medicine and there was plenty of it," White said of the loss.

"We didn't lose the opportunity of having a really good look at ourselves and everything. There is no complaceny at the Broncos and we have to be better.

"I'm definitely (comfortable with Seibold's appointment). He is young in the game - this will be his third year as a head coach.

"No one was happy with where we finished last year but he's got back to work. I've had the opportunity to really watch him over the last three months and I've been incredibly impressed.

"We haven't had distractions (like during Bennett's departure). We've added to our squad and have depth in key positions which we didn't have last year.

"Everyone can see we're working hard. Plenty of people have told me they've never seen them train as hard as we've trained.

"Hard work will get us part of the way there. The rest comes down to will, teamwork and cohesion."

A father to four daughters with wife Angela, White says he is yet to plot his next career move but is determined to continue working.

His immediate focus is to ensure he leaves the Broncos in good health and ready to challenge for the NRL premiership every year.

"We all understand that we are going to be judged on the way we turn up in the first game against the Cowboys (on March 13)," he said.

"The pressure will be on again. There won't be too many excuses.

"We're the Broncos and we get that, but we're heading in the right direction."


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