With the team performing well and a finals appearance a strong possibility, Kevin Walters has taken his Brisbane Broncos players on a team camp in Kingscliffe to strengthen their connections ahead of a huge clash with Parramatta on Thursday.
With both sides fighting for a spot in the top four and the Broncos on a five-day turnaround, Walters has used the time away to refresh his team mentally – and it’s had a positive effect on his young squad.
“Camp has been really good, being around the boys,” said back-rower Jordan Riki at a club media session.
“It’s like being in the bubble again but we get more time and free space. We’ve been going to the beach and hired some bikes where we’re staying.
“It’s been really good. We’re such a young team as well so we’ve been gelling really well together. But it’s been good with the older boys in the group as well. This camp has really created a good vibe.”
After two years of failing to meet their own lofty standards, the Broncos have stepped up in 2022. The experience that their young squad has gained through a testing period has strengthened bonds and helped establish depth in their ranks.
“It’s healthy competition (for spots) and we all love it,” Riki said.
“I think the best thing is we all get along really well, so we give tips to each other and help each other improve.
“I know I’m still young and learning how to perform for the full 80 minutes. I’ve been talking to Kev a lot and having one-on-ones with him. It’s been good for my mental health.”
While the young Broncos are on the rise and feeling refreshed, they know the size of the task ahead of them – and Riki himself – against the Eels.
“Papali’i and Lane have been in great form. It’ll be an awesome challenge. Their pack is very physical so we want to get up in their faces and limit them. It’s a great challenge. We’re both fighting for the top four, it’s going to be a great game.”
Regardless of the result, the Broncos have plenty to be proud of already this season, restoring pride to a club that has long excelled at the top end of Australian rugby league.
“The last couple of years haven’t been the best for us,” Riki admitted.
“We wanted to be the team that put the Broncos back on the map. When (Brisbane) first started they were the team everyone wanted to beat. We want to get back up to that, into the top four.
“We need to put our heads down and keep working hard.”
The Broncos are currently on a five-game losing streak against the Eels that started with the 58-0 finals obliteration in the 2019 finals series. Their record is worse in Sydney too – they haven’t been Parramatta in New South Wales since March 2016.