Rugby league’s most successful club in the post-Super League decade is undoubtedly the Brisbane Broncos, but the past week has been a rough one for the News Limited controlled club with the Broncos players attracting the worst publicity in the club’s 20-year history.

Yesterday the credibility of the Broncos took another hammering when the club’s embattled CEO sought to divert attention from a week of appalling headlines by accusing the media of a “feeding frenzy” and doubled standards.

This week the Broncos have been in the headlines over the alleged sexual assault of a woman in the men’s toilet a Brisbane night club by three high profile Broncos players, and a drinking binge that seems to have stretched over a 12-hour period in three or four different Brisbane hotels and nightclubs.

Yesterday it just got a whole lot worse when the owner of a nightspot not far from Suncorp Stadium claimed he had been “tackled” by the Broncos (and Queensland and Australian) captain, Darren Lockyer, a couple of weeks ago. The security video that was supposed to convict rugby league’s highest profile player is simply inconclusive, but the damage to the Broncos name continued.

To justify the claim of double standards by the media, including the Courier Mail which is also owned by News Limited, the Broncos CEO, Bruno Cullen, really reached to the very bottom of the barrel. He liked the massive coverage the Broncos have received for last weekend’s incidents to the couple of paragraphs given to a very low-level drink driving charge against the captain of the Brisbane Firebirds Netball team, Peta Stephens, last weekend — thereby ensuring it got greater coverage today.

If the Broncos believe that such a tactic is good “crisis management” then they have seriously lost the plot.

From the moment the first reports emerged about the alleged sexual assault and the drunken escapades, Broncos officials have handled the issues poorly.

And by doing so they have seriously damaged the club’s well deserved reputation in recent years for taking a very hard line with players behaving badly. No less than four players have had their contracts torn up over off-field behaviour issues.

While the police investigation drags on, sordid details of the incident have emerged. Even if criminal charges are not laid, and they probably won’t be, the club simply cannot afford to ignore what would seem to be substantial evidence of players behaving badly, so much so that it is now claimed that one player was thrown out of four different venues in the one night!

The Broncos want all of this to be resolved one way or other after the season ends — and that could be as early tomorrow night when they come up against the Melbourne Storm in a sudden-death final at Suncorp Stadium. But if they win, the fuss will drag on into next week, and maybe even grand final week — and that will be a nightmare for the NRL.

It is no doubt true that a couple of venues are using the issue to get free media coverage, but the fact remains that, in the thick of their finals campaign, a number of Broncos players were out on the town consuming copious quantities of alcohol, and generally behaving badly. And not for the first time in recent weeks.

And that is the issue the Broncos management simply have to address.

In the meantime, a week of very negative publicity has had no impact on interest in tomorrow night’s game between the Broncos and the Storm. It will draw a capacity crowd of around 53,000 in Brisbane – equal to the total crowd at the three finals matches in Sydney last weekend!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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