AN old Ipswich firm is making the Brisbane Broncos new again.
Kevin Walters and Allan Langer were joined at the hip as players in the Broncos’ 1990s glory days and together they are coaching the club towards another golden era.
The two Ipswich larrikins have combined their sense of fun with the serious business of leading Brisbane towards a seventh title.
“People underestimate Alf’s contribution to this club since he has retired. I certainly haven’t,” coach Walters said of his assistant and former halves partner.
“He is a great ally to have and he is a real Broncos man as well, which makes it even more special. It’s great having him here.
“He is great with the players (but) the most important thing is Alfie is a winner.
“We will be carrying Alf out in a box. He has been great for the club and I’m pleased he is enjoying it as well.”
Walters won five premierships as a player at the Broncos and Langer four.
They were then-Broncos coach Wayne Bennett’s right-hand men as players, and both served alongside the now Dolphins mentor on Brisbane’s coaching staff.
Bennett created a storm when he tried to ‘recruit’ Langer to the Dolphins last year. It seemed like sacrilege at the time but Bennett explained his cunning plan to create competitive tension.
“I tried to help him get a pay rise,” Bennett grinned.
And did Langer get one?
“He did,” Bennett said.
“I didn’t want him to leave the Broncos to be honest with you. Lots of things have happened at the Broncos, and lots of changes, but Allan Langer can’t not be a Bronco. It is as simple as that.
“He knows how I feel about him and what I think of him. There is the Broncos and then there is Allan Langer.”
Bennett is also thrilled Walters has found his dream job and taken Brisbane from last in 2020 to a top-two finish in the space of three years.
Walters had to be patient after missing out on the top job at the end of 2018 when Bennett left the Broncos for the second time.
“He has been on a journey with it. He’s been committed to it and he’s stayed at it,” Bennett said.
“Sometimes all you can do is persevere and opportunities present themselves. He has done a great job and I am really pleased for him.
“He was a great player at the Broncos and he’s starting to get them on track.
“They have got some of the best players in the game there. The recruiting has been good for them as well. They are in a group of teams that can (win the title).”
Walters captained the Broncos to the 2000 title under Bennett after Langer had led the team to their four previous premierships.
He has pictured in his mind’s eye the club lifting the only trophy that counts on October 1.
“Every coach sits down at the start of the year and has those dreams. You have to have big dreams and we dream big here,” Walters said
“That opportunity is still in front of us, so we’ll keep going. That’s the ultimate goal for sure.
“I always have a lot of self-belief about what we are doing and how we are going about it but we have still got a lot of work to do.”
Walters has also reflected on how the team was at rock bottom at the end of 2020. It’s been a lot of work but the side is now approaching the standards embedded in the Broncos’ DNA.
“It has been a terrific effort from a lot of people,” he said.
“All of our staff, performance staff, coaches and players have committed themselves the last couple of years. We didn’t know how long it was going to take but I knew, without being arrogant, that we would get there provided we took the right steps. We have done that.
“We are not actually where we want to be right now. This club is about winning trophies. That is what I am about and that is what the group is about. That is the mantra.”
It is a mantra Langer is passing on to the players.
A long-standing gag in the game is that Langer is seen on the field today – runni ng the water and passing on messages – as much as he was when he played.
“He is our 14th man,” Walters quipped.
Langer is not as streamlined as he was in his playing days and Bennett couldn’t help his own retort to the concept of Langer as a No.14.
“If he’s the 14th man he better start getting himself in a bit of nick. He’s way out of nick,” Bennett grinned.
“I hope he doesn’t breakdown in the big games.” – AAP