Why I love the Broncos

David Mansfield

Mark my words. I hate the Broncos. I hate them with a passion.

You see, I grew up in Wollongong, and before 1967 my local Rugby League team was the Dragons, and I’m loyal to a fault. My long and short-term memory hasn’t diminished either. I can recall and savour every grand final victory and still feel the pain of every defeat.

Which brings me to those two tormented years of 92-93. We’d been thirteen years without a premiership and we had a whiff of hope. But two brutal Bronco grand final defeats snuffed our dreams again.

Yes, I hate the Broncos and I always will.

But when I turn on my tellie for Friday night footy and the Broncos are playing, there’s one sight that strangely warms me. It’s the spectacle of little Alfie Langer, one of the Bronco legends. And one of the Walter’s brothers, I think it’s Kevie, another of their greats.

Where are they? You’d expect to see them in a corporate box with a XXXX in hand spruiking to their guests about days of bygone glory. Or in front of a camera giving expert commentary on some rising star’s latest hamstring saga.

But no, there’s Alfie and Kevie, the water boys, running around in sandshoes, shorts, tee shirt and a fluero vest, racing over to pour the miracle liquid down the throat of a mortally wounded player while he whispers a message from the coach in the ailing warrior’s ear.

And there they are again, doing what they can in the dressing sheds at half time to gee the troops up for another forty minutes of grinding endurance. Handing a towel here, picking up a disposable cup there. No task is too trivial, no matter too mundane and no help goes unheeded.

Perhaps if I ever had the chance to ask Alfie why he won’t trade the running shoes for more glamorous retirement attire he would just shrug his shoulders and say, “I love the smell of Dencorub in the evening”. Or, “Retirement? It takes more than 17 players to win a footy game. I’m just playing a different role in a new position.”

Alfie and Kev remind me of some friends.

A couple who have just retired from senior roles in public service. Now, in their early sixties, they are teaching the bible to 330 public school children every week through the privilege offered by Special Religious Education.

And I remember one of my old bible college lecturers. Decades after his retirement, I would still see him striding purposefully through Town Hall Arcade, no doubt off to another meeting to further the work of the gospel throughout the world.

Or I think of an elderly farmer’s wife, who, as she cheerfully took on the responsibility as full-time carer for her frail war-wounded husband, would rise before sunrise every morning to pray for every one of the 250 men, women and children who resided in her rural community.

The stories go on. A mentor, who never said never, well into his nineties, making his neighbours home made ginger beer and scouring Koorong catalogues for the right gospel book to give to this neighbour and that neighbour along with his hand-crafted ginger brew.

A thirty five year old mother of three adopted children with breast cancer who prayed for her family’s salvation, until the morphine, needed to control her pain, kicked her into unconsciousness.

A couple, in their mid seventies, spending an hour together in prayer before they rose from the dinner table. And definitely before the tellie went on.

A young tradesman who was black and blue from verbal abuse on the worksite. He would just keep coming back for more, as he witnessed to the Lord Jesus, with warmth, patience and humour.

Why do the Broncos do so well? Why do the Cane Toads do even better (sore point I know)? Is it because the team is bigger than any one player? Is it because the team is bigger than the seventeen players?

I’m not a sports psychologist, nor the son of one. And I haven’t coached a footy team for nearly forty years.

But perhaps it’s something in the water?

Or in the water-boys.


(photo credit: paddynapper)