Big things predicted for ‘unbelievable’ Broncos
LEGENDARY Brisbane hitman Peter Ryan has labelled the Broncos' brigade of youth the club's best production line of talent in 20 years and says their young guns can spearhead another premiership dynasty.
Now a defence coach with rugby's Queensland Reds, Ryan visited Red Hill on Tuesday to inspect Brisbane's set-up under coach Anthony Seibold and left Broncos HQ blown away by their level of talent.
In 1998, Ryan was a key member of a Broncos premiership team that unearthed a posse of sensations headlined by Shane Webcke, Petero Civoniceva, Darren Lockyer, Tonie Carroll and Brad Thorn, who were aged 23 or younger.
Now Ryan sees another special crop led by Tevita Pangai Jr, Matt Lodge, Payne Haas, David Fifita, Tom Flegler, Kotoni Staggs and Pat Carrigan.
While the Broncos are languishing in 10th heading into Saturday's derby against the Titans at Robina, Ryan, a two-time premiership winner, believes Brisbane's galaxy of rookies can spearhead the club's next golden age.
"I was amazed by the talent I saw. It was unbelievable," said Ryan, a veteran of 147 first-grade games for the Broncos and one of the most feared defenders of his generation.
"They are brilliant athletes. Put it this way - these guys are as good a group of young kids that has ever come through the Broncos.
"It's just a matter of delivering on the field now.
"Since the Broncos team that had Petero, 'Webby' (Webcke), 'Thorny' (Thorn), Shaun Berrigan and Tonie Carroll … the young guys there now are as exciting as that group."
While Pangai Jr and Lodge have played 120 NRL games collectively, the rest of the group have barely played one full season of first grade.
Fifita (27 games), Staggs (25), Flegler (16), Haas (16) and Carrigan (11) have all featured in fewer than 30 NRL matches.
"Guys like Tevita Pangai Jr, David Fifita, Tom Flegler, Lodge … that's the nucleus of a premiership team for me," Ryan said.
"I hadn't met a lot of the guys but young Pat Carrigan and Rhys Kennedy really impressed me as well with the way they carried themselves.
"There's no egos. They work their asses off and I see a premiership down the track for this group, no question.
"If they go on to win a grand final or two, they will be on a par with that original group (from the 1990s) and they certainly have the ability to do it.
"Whether they achieve it is up to them and how hungry they are."
Seibold has detected a gradual hardening of his rookies this season, with some painful losses offset by crucial learning experiences, including a stunning 15-10 upset of premiers the Roosters in round 10.
"For some of our guys, it's been a big learning curve for them," Seibold said.
"Ten players have made their club debut this year and six of those players have played their first games in the NRL this year.
"Anyone who thinks NRL is easy, it's not easy. It's a bloody tough competition and it's on every single week regardless of who we play.
"It's about learning and improving and that's what we have done.
"I always challenge the guys to be consistent, it's part of the process of developing youth and we're starting to see some positive signs."