The ones who got away: Brisbane Broncos

This is the 12th article in the series where I’ll pick a team of the best players who got away from a club since 2000. Today, the Brisbane Broncos.

The only criteria are that the player named must have made his debut for the Broncos, left the club after 2000, and then played with another NRL club, rather than just retired or headed to obscurity in either the ESL or rugby.

(Details in brackets are the year the player debuted for Brisbane and the number of games played for the club.)

1. Darius Boyd (2006, 73 games)

Boyd was the Broncos’ rookie of the year in his debut season and won a premiership that year. He made both the Queensland and Australian sides two years later, and then followed his Bronco’s coach and mentor Wayne Bennett to the Dragons in 2009, winning both a premiership and the Clive Churchill medal the next season.

2. Xavier Coates (2019, 32 games)

Coates made his international debut for PNG before being called up to first grade with Brisbane, and then found himself in the Queensland side the following season. Still very much a raw talent, he then signed with Melbourne in 2022, and has been steadily improving his game under Storm coach Craig Bellamy. He could be anything.

3. Brent Tate (2001, 114 games)

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Tate was selected for both Queensland and Australia as a 20-year-old in just his second season and was one of Brisbane’s best during his six seasons with the club, winning a premiership in 2006. He left the Broncos in 2008 so that he could play in his preferred position of centre.

4. Dane Gagai (2011, 6 games)

Gagai came through the Bronco’s junior system and represented the Australian Schoolboys before scoring a try on debut in Round 1 of 2011. He was released from his contract for disciplinary reasons before the 2012 season got underway and signed with the Newcastle Knights. Sometime patience with young players pays long-term dividends.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 07: Dane Gagai of the Knights looks on during the round five NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Manly Sea Eagles at McDonald Jones Stadium, on April 07, 2022, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

5. Scott Minto (2002, 39 games)

Broncos cult hero. Never let your cult heroes leave.

6. Tom Dearden (2019, 22 games)

After debuting as an 18-year-old, Dearden was in and out of the side with the Broncos but didn’t fit into coach Kevin Walters’ long-term plans, whatever they may be, and transferred to the Cowboys in the middle of the 2021 season. He hasn’t looked back, while the Broncos are struggling to find a five-eighth.

7. Ben Hunt (2009, 187 games)

Hunt just gets better with age and he should have been a Bronco for life as they’ve failed to find a suitable replacement since he signed with the Dragons for mega bucks in 2018.

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8. Carl Webb (2000, 66 games)

If you like your forwards to be tough and uncompromising, then look no further than Webb. He was the Broncos rookie of the year in 2001 but fell out of favour after some inconsistent form and injuries. The Broncos’ loss was the Cowboys’ gain.

9. Jake Granville (2013, 10 games)

Granville played well when given his limited opportunities but became frustrated being stuck behind Andrew McCullough, and headed north to the Cowboys. He won a premiership in his first season in North Queensland, and maybe the Broncos kept the wrong hooker?

10. Petero Civoniceva (1998, 2015 games)

Civoniceva was one of the best forwards in the game during his career and arguably the greatest front rower to ever play for the Broncos, but that didn’t stop them offloading the two-time premiership winner at the end of 2007 for salary cap reasons.

He was effectively swapped with Penrith’s Joel Clinton, I’m not making this up, and Petero had four seasons with the Panthers while still being an automatic selection for both Queensland and Australia. He returned to the Broncos for his swansong season in 2012. What were they thinking?

11. David Fifita (2018, 44 games)

Always a junior star on the rise, Fifita debuted as an 18-year-old and made an immediate impression with his skills and power running, and was called into the Queensland side for all three Origin games in just his second season.

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A knee injury ruined most of his 2020 season and in July that year he was signed by the Titans for 2021 and beyond on a massive contract. Still a player with untold potential, he’s so far failed to measure up to his price tag.

12. Neville Costigan (2003, 45 games)

Costigan was building quite a reputation in his early year with the Broncos but that all came unstuck in 2006 when he was sacked after a DUI offence.

He headed to Canberra the following year and his career blossomed from there on, gaining selection for both Queensland and PNG, and playing a big part in the Dragons’ successful 2010 premiership campaign.

13. Greg Eastwood (2005, 65 games)

Big, mobile and skilful, Eastwood was firmly entrenched in both the Broncos and NZ sides by the time he left Brisbane to sign with the Bulldogs in 2009. He went on to have a top-notch career, playing 263 first grade games and 28 Tests.

If you thought that the Tigers had the biggest list of stars to get away then think again. This is quite a line-up, and would take some beating. No wonder the Broncos have only won a single premiership this millennium.

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