Throughout the latter decades of the 20th century there seemed to be capstone events that summed up events of the previous years. They may have crowned periods of technical advance, social upheaval, or political turmoil.
The fifties were a time of massive technological advancements coming to the masses. With the world no longer at war the technologies developed now found applications in the homes, offices, and government departments around the world. Everything from the microwave, meteorological radar to nuclear technology. As the world looked to rebuild two emerging powers tried to wrest superiority from the other. Namely, the United States and the Soviet Union. The fight was publicly fought on two fronts, nuclear and space. For the average J. Q. Citizen, the prospect of a build-up of nuclear weapons probably wasn’t that enthralling- nothing quite like mutually assured destruction to keep your sense of wonder down. The space race however, provided the chance to gaze at the stars and wonder about the prospect of us really going up there. It was tit for tat between the two until 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the fist human to travel into space.
The starchy, conservative attitudes of the fifties gave way in the sixties to a social and sexual revolution. As Austin Powers put it “…promiscuous sex with many anonymous partners without protection while at the same time experimenting with mind-expanding drugs in a consequence-free environment…”. Come 1969 and the Woodstock Music and Art Fair remains at the forefront of any memory of that era.
With the disorganised mayhem of the sixties now gave way to a more organised mayhem of the seventies, a greater social awareness developed around (particularly) the western world. And as much as the world was turning its collective back against the counterculture of the previous decade, by lurching towards a more conservative outlook, there was also a growing social conscience. Policies mandating equal opportunities, the first wide-reaching laws regarding the natural environment came into being, Medicare and changes to higher education all saw the light of day. Individuals and governments were being held to account. First Nixon fell and then the world, unhappy with the actions of the Soviets, boycotted the Moscow games.
The world was barrelling towards the new millennium and with 20 years to go you might think the world had seen enough, but the eighties continued and accelerated the changes. The Rubik’s cube, home computers, mobile phones, Wall Street, M*A*S*H ends and the Simpsons starts. Not to mention IVF, ET, MTV. It wasn’t just abroad and acronyms that defined the decade, at home there was plenty afoot. The decade started with the Maroons winning the first state of origin match. ‘82 was the Commonwealth Games. There was Bjelke-Petersen downfall and Fitzgerald inquiry. Expo ’88. That bridge out near the port. Brisbane was growing up. No longer was the state capital a backwater town, it was finally becoming a (backwater) CITY.
And, as history likes to do, there was something that rounded out the decade nicely. For in 1988, we welcomed the Brisbane Broncos into the topflight rugby league competition in Australia.
Finally, FINALLY, there was a team to call our own. Now, instead of waiting all year to cheer for our boys on a measly three times, we now had a chance to bash and belt those smart arses from Sydney, Canberra and the like on a weekly basis. And my, didn’t they take to it like you’d hope. Their first match saw them thrash the defending premiers, Manly. In just their second year in the competition they not only won the Panasonic Cup but finished the regular season in 2nd and made it as far as the preliminary final. The success of the following years barely needs to be mentioned, the Broncos teams of the 1990s were feared and famous. They took home four premierships before the decade was out.
But what has all this got to do with anything? Yes, we know the Broncos of days gone by were packed with superstars and could be relied upon to win the premiership every few years and lately everyone else has caught up and we’re not what we used to be. It happens to everyone. Even St George eventually stopped winning premierships. Some years your team is good and you win, other years they struggle and you lose. It’s footy, get over it.
It feels like there’s more to it for fans of the Broncos though. For the fan base around the great south east they’re more than just a bunch of professional lumps crashing into each other for our entertainment. It even goes beyond them representing the physical location of Brisbane- to suggest they are our team purely due to their geography or team name sells them short. The Broncos are, for so many of us, much more than that. There’s something else to them- they represent a pivotal point in our history. No longer would we be Sydney’s cousin. No longer would we be the “deep north”. No longer would our claim to fame be corrupt politicians and an inability to win the Shield.
I think that’s why Brisbane poor performance has been such a bitter pill to swallow. The Broncos represented Brisbane coming into its own as a real city and without them winning consistently it feels like the whole place is off. Imagine finding out the moon landings were faked? Or that Hendrix was air-guitaring the whole time? If you’d grown up through that period, as Brisbane did through the 80s, you’d be shattered.
So, I implore the Broncos to step back and consider what they mean to Brisbane, and then sort themselves out and get back to winning.
They are more than just a footy team.
They are the embodiment of Brisbane shaking off its sleepy, backwater image and we need them be successful. Not just so we can lord it over everyone, but so we can hold onto the idea that we CAN be better, we WILL be better, we ARE better.