Three years since Brisbane’s pristine training field was inundated with hundreds of wooden spoons, star centre Kotoni Staggs says the side’s NRL success in 2023 has been all about a ‘Kevolution’.
Staggs will line up in the centres at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night in an NRL qualifying final against Melbourne for a Kevin Walters-coached side very few pundits predicted would finish second on the ladder.
The day after the season finished for the Broncos in 2020, when they came last for the first time, a club staffer picked up a plethora of wooden spoons someone had hurled on the training ground. They filled a rubbish bin to the brim.
Disgusted supporters dumped club shirts and other Broncos paraphernalia at the front door of headquarters.
As media gathered outside the building, including league legend and former Broncos captain Wally Lewis, one man walked up with a Brisbane jersey and hurled it onto the ground. Then, in the presence of the great ‘King’ Wally, he stomped on it and walked off.
Contrast that with Monday of this week, the day after the end of the regular season. There was a mood of optimism as key starting players Staggs, Ezra Mam, Kurt Capewell and Billy Walters engaged in media duties on the side of the training field with their eyes on the ultimate prize.
Staggs was there in 2020 in the bad times. He could have left the club the next year. He chose to stay.
The 24-year-old had interest from other clubs but in May of 2021 he re-signed with the Broncos until the end of 2025.
“I love this club. It has always been a club that I wanted to be a part of. I just knew that there were good things coming and I am glad I re-signed,” Staggs said.
“There are a few boys that have been through it all, and the season where we got the wooden spoon was tough.
“Kevvie is a legend at this club and it was just a matter of time before us boys got together and did what he wanted us to do.”
What Walters wanted them to do, when he took over as head coach in 2021, was improve their defence.
In 2020 they conceded an average of 31.2 points per game; they have brought that down to 17.7 this year. He also wanted the team to showcase their skill.
From electrifying fullback Reece Walsh right through to bench forwards such as the unsung Tyson Smoothy, the players have responded. All have improved.
Walters, who won five premierships as a player at the Broncos, has reinforced a mantra that when you play for Brisbane you play to win titles.
“We are all on board with it. In previous years I don’t think we took ownership,” Staggs said.
“We weren’t all on board. This year, having Kev and our new (coaching) staff we all know what we are doing and we all know our roles.
“We have still got things to do. I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks.”