Leadership dramas highlight what Broncos are lacking

 

What's all this talk about the Broncos being short of leaders?

The truth is that when they take on the Cowboys on Friday, the Broncos will have the most underrated captain in Queensland sporting history on the field with them.

A four-time premiership winning captain, no less. That's right. Count 'em … 1992-93-97-98.

The trouble is Allan Langer will be carrying a water bottle rather than a football when he resumes his duties as a trainer.

As colleague and AFL writer Greg Davis likes to say "if Alfie was a four-time premiership Carlton captain he would have people throwing rose petals at his feet whenever he walked down Lygon Street''.

But he's Alfie so he just slips quietly into the background and tries to look invisible.

The possible appointment of Pat Carrigan, with just 19 NRL games, as Broncos captain is a revealing moment because it showcases the void in leadership candidates at the club and the urgency for a new one to be groomed.

The temptation is to say the Broncos are searching for ­another Alfie but the club has long accepted there will never be anyone quite like him because his captaincy style was all his own.

 

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Allan Langer will be carrying a water bottle rather than a football for the Broncos. Picture: Brett Costello
Allan Langer will be carrying a water bottle rather than a football for the Broncos. Picture: Brett Costello

 

Ben Ikin points out Langer led with a unique mixture of humility and humour.

Ikin remembers dropping a couple of bombs in a club game for North Sydney just before entering an Australian camp when Langer called out "let's give Benny Ikin some bomb practice'' during training.

But the man he was talking to was Langer's partner-in-comedy Kevin Walters, who pretended to be Ikin under Langer's bombs.

Walters deliberately dropped balls which bounced off his head and shoulder and as others laughed, Ikin got the message and joined in.

"It was very subtle but it was Alfie's way of saying we have got to keep high standards here,'' Ikin said.

"We cannot be dropping bombs. That is where the two of them were very clever."

Gorden Tallis used to tell the story of once being shattered in the dressingroom at halftime after a bad start to a game before Langer deliberately tried to lift his spirits with a spur-of-the-moment gag.

Langer playfully pulled his jock strap up in an unusual fashion and made Tallis smile by saying "oh no, I think Janine has packed my son's jockstrap by mistake''.

During the week Langer would stir up Tallis and the forwards by walking behind them and letting them overhear statements he made to Walters like, "bit worried this week Kev, the Bulldogs have the best forwards in the competition''.

Simple stuff but it worked.

 

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Patrick Carrigan could be asked to step up for the Broncos. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Patrick Carrigan could be asked to step up for the Broncos. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

 

"Alf was very good at dropping a little sledge in that would hit the spot,'' said Kerrod Walters, who knew Langer from childhood.

"That was his way of getting people going. It was always difficult to tell whether he was being serious. But he knew he needed the forwards to perform to do his job.

"He was always a doer rather than a talker.

"There would be times when he would help out in four tackles in a row if he had to.

"In every club you get different groups of players but the big thing about Alf was he never really belonged in one particular group and would float from one to the other.

"Alf was great at mixing with doctors or tradesmen. He could talk to anyone''.

Langer was so revered that he was the only player who could ring Wayne Bennett at 3am during a big night out and get away with it.

If Carrigan steps up to the plate there are many lessons he can take from Langer.

Be humble. Be clever. Use humour as a weapon if you are clever enough. Do the hard work. Lead by example.

But only Alfie could deliver them the way Alfie did.


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