There's only one thing more rousing than being branded the worst State of Origin team in 40 years …

It's when the bookies make you 50-1 outsiders to win an NRL premiership and start sniggering behind your back.

Kevin Walters started his tenure as Broncos coach at Red Hill on Monday in a place where he and his club have never been at this time of the year … rank premiership outcasts at $51, a quote both insulting and inspiring in a Queensland State of Origin sort of way.

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Walters rose at 5am for his first day on the training paddock and spoke with passion about making the Broncos great again, his voice briefly thickening with emotion.

For a while he made the Broncos sound like $3 chances to take the title but beneath his admirable positivity lay the reality that many difficult challenges lay ahead for this battling team before anyone can say the bookies got it wrong.

Kevin Walters at pre-season training on Monday. Pic Peter Wallis
Kevin Walters at pre-season training on Monday. Pic Peter Wallis

Joe Ofahengaue is at the Broncos "for the moment'' which sounds as if he won't be there long. Kotoni Staggs is on crutches. Matt Lodge is on borrowed time.

Brodie Croft is on permanent trial and needs more magic like the 30m kick he did on Monday which targeted and landed inside a rubbish bin.

The Broncos will monitor pre-season training form before appointing a captain.

It's an interesting decision which begs the question of why you should almost have to offer the lure of captaincy to get players fully committed when they should be in that state anyway.

Broncos fans are hoping the club will fortify its playing ranks with some substantial signings but the market is shallower than a babies bath pool.

Kevin Walters and John Cartwright at Red Hill. Picture: Peter Wallis
Kevin Walters and John Cartwright at Red Hill. Picture: Peter Wallis


Brisbane is courting former Titans player David Mead and Albert Kelly, honest journeymen who might be backline band-aids but not the sort of names you can build a club on.

Walters has promised to ride the Broncos hard in the pre-season and so he must because fitness should be a given for a team which has a flaky roster with several moving parts and has not recruited anyone of note.

Cameron Smith's autobiography The Storm Within has had holes shot through it on many issues but one insightful chapter beyond challenge details the brutality of Melbourne Storm pre-season fitness sessions and how they hoisted the Storm to the top of the tree.

Smith told stories of players vomiting even before the sessions started because they were so tense about what lay ahead and how several players, including Cooper Cronk, were rushed to hospital after finding it all too much.

By contrast, the Broncos' infamous second half fade-outs made their fitness levels much derided among rival teams during the 2020 season with one coach privately claiming forward Tevita Pangai looked at least six kilograms overweight.

There were no ambulances but plenty of heavy breathing at Red Hill on Monday as the Broncos set off on their first fitness run and the long, challenging road to respectability.

Pangai started the run slowly and looked in a bit of strife before making up ground late.

Pangai earned praise from his new coach but Broncos fans will hold their applause because Pangai has much more ground to make up on and off the field after his selfish and rebellious conduct last season.

Originally published as Reality bites Kevvie with $51 Broncos insult


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