Just over 35 years ago, Wayne Bennett orchestrated the Broncos’ stunning win in their inaugural game as Brisbane thrashed reigning premiers Manly 44-10 at Lang Park.
His former side now stands between the veteran coach and yet another chapter of rugby league history at the same venue on Friday night in the first act of the nascent Queensland rivalry.
A win over the Broncos – who also have a perfect record this season – would see the Dolphins become the first expansion team in the NRL to begin their inaugural season with four straight wins.
Brisbane and the Melbourne Storm are hitherto the only two debutants to win their first three games on the bounce.
It would be a remarkable achievement for Bennett, whose team began the season as favourites for the wooden spoon but have since taken the competition by storm.
Wayne Bennett has led the Dolphins to an impressive start to their first NRL season
The Dolphins could become the first ever expansion side to win their first four games if they beat the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night
And the 73-year-old has been here before.
In 1988 Bennett was tasked with leading Brisbane into the then New South Wales Rugby League and did so in spectacular fashion, trouncing Manly in the opening game – incidentally, with a team that included two players who had begun their careers with the Dolphins.
Six premierships followed over the next two decades as Bennett cemented himself as arguably the greatest coach in rugby league history and turned the Broncos into an NRL juggernaut.
Ahead of Bennett’s return to Brisbane, Daily Mail Australia takes a look at what happened to the players who featured in the Brisbane Broncos’ inaugural game.
When he was appointed as Broncos coach, Bennett was already 12 years into his coaching career and had a State of Origin series triumph under his belt.
In the 35 intervening years, the super-coach has won a record seven premierships – six of which with Brisbane – five Origin series over three separate spells in charge of Queensland.
The 73-year-old turned the Broncos from newcomers into a bonafide NRL powerhouse and will go down as arguably rugby league’s greatest ever coach.
Bennett was just 38 years old when he was appointed to the Broncos’ top job in 1988
1. Colin Scott
Scott was already a Queensland star when joined the Broncos from Wynnum-Manly in 1988, having played 33 for the Maroons in the previous nine years including 17 State of Origins matches.
The Broncos’ inaugural season proved to be Scott’s last in rugby league as he retired at the end of the campaign, after scoring two tries in 14 games.
In 2020, Scott opened up on his battle with depression and revealed he had locked himself in his bedroom for three weeks and drank 15 bottles of lime cordial in the process.
The former fullback has been a vocal advocate of mental health ever since.
‘I want to be someone that has dealt with it and got on top of it,’ he told NRL.com at the time.
‘I will think about the things I have done in my career […] the good times, the State of Origins, the people I have met, the players I played with.
2. Joe Kilroy
A star of the Halifax team that shocked English rugby league by claiming the title in 1986, Kilroy won a premiership with the Brisbane Brothers the following year before joining the Broncos in 1988.
‘Smokin’ Joe’ appeared to have the sport at his feet, scoring six tries in 18 games in Brisbane’s debut season and featuring in all three Origin games of the 1988 series.
The electrifying winger’s career took a turn for the worse the following year, when he pleaded guilty to trafficking in marijuana.
He played a solitary game for the Broncos after returning to the club in 1991, before retiring. In 2013, he claimed he was brutally mistreated at BoysTown, a controversial school for disadvantaged boys in Beaudesert, which shut down in 2001.
Joe Kilroy (left) scored six tries in 18 games in Brisbane’s debut season but his career took a turn for the worse in 1989 as he was arrested for trafficking marijuana
3. Chris Johns
The star centre had already made waves for St George and Castleford in the England before joining the Broncos, where he stayed for nine seasons.
The leading try scorer for Brisbane in 1989, Johns won the premiership in 1992 and 1993 and retired in 1996 after playing 10 times for New South Wales and nine times for the Kangaroos.
Having helped establish the Broncos dynasty on the field, Johns played a pivotal role in setting up the Melbourne Storm’s era of domination as an executive along with former Super League boss John Ribot.
Johns served as the Storm CEO between 1997 and 2002, before returning to Queensland were he set up a successful car-washing business.
4. Gene Miles
A stalwart of the Wynnum-Manly side that won three premierships between 1982 and 1986, Miles spent three seasons with the Broncos, scoring 20 tries in 72 games and was the Dally M captain of the year in 1991.
A supremely gifted player, Miles was part of the Kangaroos touring squads in 1982 and 1986 and won 23 caps for Queensland and 14 for Australia before retiring in 1992.
Inductee No.86 in the Rugby League Hall of Fame, Miles was named in Australia’s 100 greatest players in 2007 and was named in the Queensland Rugby League’s Team of the Century the following year.
The former star centre remains a key figure for the code in Queensland, having held the role of chairman of selectors for the Queensland State of Origin team since 2001.
Former Broncos star Gene Miles has held the role of chairman of selectors for the Queensland State of Origin team since 2001
5. Michael Hancock
One of the most successful original members of the Broncos, Hancock won five premierships during 13 seasons at Lang Park and was the last foundation player to leave the club.
A barnstorming winger who was nicknamed ‘Three Knees’ because he was so hard to tackle, Hancock scored 120 tries for the Broncos – second only to Steve Renouf’s club record of 142 – represented the Maroons 16 times and won 13 caps for the Kangaroos.
He’s remained involved with the game after retirement by working in rugby league development with young kids and coaches.
Michael Hancock was nicknamed ‘Three Knees’ because he was so hard to tackle in his heyday with the Broncos, Maroons and Kangaroos
6. Wally Lewis
The Broncos may have been the new kid on the block in 1988, but the Emperor of Lang Park needed no introduction the first time they took the field.
A bonafide Origin legend, Lewis was the natural choice to be the Broncos’ first-ever captain and he led from the front in the club’s inaugural campaign, finishing as Brisbane’s leading tryscorer.
But the fairytale ended on a sour note as the Maroons and Kangaroos star left the club in acrimonious circumstances, reportedly unhappy with the offer he received from the Broncos as Bennett opted to retain younger players instead.
Named the sixth member of ‘The Immortals’ in 1999, Lewis was named in both the Kangaroos and Queensland’s respective teams of the centuries and captained Queensland in 30 of his 31 State of Origin appearances.
After retiring, he coached Queensland in 1993 and 1994 and subsequently forged a successful media career with Channel Seven and then with Channel Nine, which he joined in 1999.
In January, he announced he would step back from the role due health concerns. He has recently made headlines with new partner Lynda Adams after his marriage to wife of 36 years Jacqui ended in February 2021.
Lewis captained Queensland in 30 of his 31 State of Origin games between 1980 and 1991
The Emperor of Lang Park has forged a great TV career on Channel Seven and Channel Nine, but recently stepped back from his commitments to safeguard his health
7. Allan Langer
‘Alf’ became a cult hero in Queensland after spearheading the Maroons to a series win in the 1987 State of Origin after Bennett picked him from relative obscurity at the Ipswich Jets.
The pair were reunited at the Broncos a year later and proved a formidable combination, with Langer captaining Brisbane to four premierships during his 12 seasons at the club.
The winner of the Rothmans, Dally M and Clive Churchill medals, Langer has a legitimate claim to be considered the greatest player in Broncos history.
After retirement he’s remained heavily involved with the club, working as assistant coach, a role he also continues to hold for the Maroons – and his larrikin sense of humour hasn’t died down a bit.
Allan Langer (left) captained the Broncos to four premierships in 12 seasons at the club
8. Terry Matterson
One of the heroes of the Broncos’ inaugural game, Matterson scored two tries and landed eight goals from nine attempts as Brisbane thrashed Manly 44-10.
It was a sign of things to come as the star lock won two premierships in nine seasons at Lang Park, before swapping the Broncos for the Broncos as he joined the London-based club in 1995.
Matterson hung up his boots in 1998 and subsequently went into coaching, taking charge of Castleford Tigers for seven seasons and then briefly coaching the USA for six games between 2013-14.
He served as the assistant coach of the Cowboys in 2012 and took charge of the Titans for two games in 2017.
Terry Matterson scored two tries and landed eight goals from nine attempts in Brisbane’s first ever game as they thrashed Manly 44-10
BRISBANE BRONCOS’ INAUGURAL TEAM VS MANLY ON MARCH 6, 1988
Numbers in bracket denote the first-grade games each players featured in for the Broncos.
- Colin Scott (14)
- Joe Kilroy (31)
- Chris Johns (171)
- Gene Miles (72)
- Michael Hancock (274)
- Wally Lewis (Captain, 46)
- Allan Langer (240)
- Terry Matterson (156)
- Brett Le Man (38)
- Keith Gee (12)
- Bryan Niebling (20)
- Greg Conescu (28)
- Greg Dowling (69)
- Mark Hohn (118)
- Billy Noke (16)
- Craig Grauf (5)
9. Brett Le Man
The first-ever Broncos tryscorer, Le Man spent three seasons with Brisbane, scoring nine tries in 38 games.
A premiership winner with both Easts and Brothers in the Brisbane Rugby League, Le Man retired in 1991 and set up his financial services company two years later.
10. Keith Gee
Gee played a single season with the Broncos, before joining the Gold Coast Seagulls the following season.
He’s arguably better known for being the brother of Andrew, who signed for the Broncos in 1989 and won two consecutive premierships with Brisbane and represented Queensland 17 times.
11. Bryan Niebling
Niebling played nine Origins for Queensland and 13 Tests for Australia but his career was winding down by the time he signed for the Broncos in 1988.
The prop played two seasons in Brisbane, before ending his career in England with a two-year spell at Hull KR.
After returning to Australia, Niebling briefly turned to coaching as he took charge of his former club Valleys, where he’d started his career. In 2021 he was working as an orderly at Brisbane’s North West hospital and hoping to retire soon.
12. Greg Conescu
Like Scott, Conescu was already a Queensland and Australia star by the time he made his Broncos debut.
He played two seasons with Brisbane but lost his starting spot to a young Kerrod Walters and eventually retired at the end of the 1989 campaign, with 21 State of Origin appearances and nine Tests to his name.
After hanging up his boots the man nicknamed ‘Turtle’ made headlines in 2014 when he raised over $30,000 to help disadvantaged kids in a school in Jakarta.
13. Greg Dowling
Another former Wynnum-Manly stalwart, Dowling spent four seasons at the Broncos after moving to Lang Park for their inaugural season.
A veteran of 11 Origin games and 12 Tests for the Kangaroos, the powerful prop was the Broncos player of the year in 1989 before injuries forced him into an early retirement two years later.
He soon swapped the field for the ABC commentary booth and later became a columnist for the Cairns Post before turning to an altogether different business as he ran a McDonald’s in Atherthon and then an Oporto restaurant in Townsville.
Clearly not one for being pigeon-holed, Dowling then dipped his toe into politics, running as the United Australia Party candidate for Herbert in the 2019 federal election.
A year later he ran as independent mayoral candidate for the Townsville City Council at the government election in January and was endorsed as the United Australia Party’s Queensland leader six months later.
A veteran of 11 Origin games and 12 Tests for the Kangaroos, Greg Dowling ran as the United Australia Party candidate for Herbert in the 2019 federal election
14. Mark Hohn
One of the three interchanges for the Broncos’ first match, Hohn won premierships in 1992 and 1993 in seven seasons at Lang Park.
He left the Broncos with 118 games to his name for a brief stint at the short-lived South Queensland Crushers before retiring in 1995.
Hohn played in nine Origins for the Maroons and won a solitary cap for Australia and after retirement became a director for a major service facility in Queensland.
15. Billy Noke
The Dally M second-rower of the year in 1985 when he helped the Dragons reach the grand final, Noke’s career never quite fulfilled its promise.
He played 16 games for the Broncos in his only season in Brisbane, before returning to the Dragons for two years, followed by short stints at South Sydney and Western Suburbs.
16. Craig Grauf
Grauf is responsible for putting up the bomb that led to the Broncos’ first-ever try, but his spell in Brisbane was largely disappointing and ended after just five games.
One of the three interchanges in the Broncos’ inaugural win over Manly, Grauf enjoyed better fortunes in the Brisbane Rugby League before briefly turning out for the Gold Coast Chargers in the ARL in 1996.
After retirement, Grauf has held a number of executive roles and was the business banking manager at NAB Health between 2015 and 2019.
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