The Untimely End of the God-Awful Henjak Era

Filed in Other by on February 23, 2011

Oh, how the blood flows through the streets of Brisbane today. The Broncos are a club in crisis, the legacy of the Bennett years destroyed in less than two seasons by a foolhardy group of miscreants, morons and Machiavellian muttonheads. The one-time standard-bearer of the League has fallen prey to petty, low-rent politics and the situation has gotten so dire than it was thought necessary to dump the top grade coach only three weeks out from the season.

Soon thereafter, the chairman of the club resigned. Stories have emerged of a severely unfavourable review of coach Ivan Henjak that was not acted on last year even after the maligned mentor tended his resignation. The coaching staff are divided. Senior players do not talk with the coach let alone respect him. A division separated senior front office officials. Influential supporters have withdrawn their support for the club and have invested considerable resources into a bid for a second Brisbane team.

The mighty certainly have fallen.

Last April, I wrote of the decline of the Broncos:

“The bell has tolled for thee. The end of empire is upon us for the Broncos.”

“…all roads most surely can be traced back to the decision to push Wayne Bennett out the door.”

“When Bennett left he rightfully said that Cullen ‘just did not get it’.”

“Cullen doesn’t get it and he has presided over the disintegration of the Brisbane Broncos Empire.”

“The problems at Brisbane are more than just short-term nuisances. They are systemic and they have been allowed to flourish by the top brass who have bought in the wrong people and allowed the proud Bronco culture that always got the best out of most players to disintegrate. These lacklustre, guileless, insipid on-field performances coupled with the selfish and careless attitudes of many of the senior players suggest that last drinks have been called. We are at the end of empire.”

“Times are dire at Red Hill. Rome has been allowed to burn. It is time for responsibility to be taken. Bruno Cullen must step aside. Ivan Henjak must be moved on. The recruitment and retention team must be overhauled. Those charged with identifying and developing young talent need to better prepare those coming through the ranks. The culture of pride, selflessness, commitment and success, all tenants of the Broncos tradition since day one, must be re-discovered. Club legends need to be included. Talented home grown talent must be kept. Failure to do all of this will leave the Brisbane Broncos anchored down the bottom of the table and mired in the mediocrity we are currently witnessing.”

Matters have only gotten worse. The fractures at the once impenetrable club have become gaping chasms.

There will be no argument here in defence of Ivan Henjak. For the good of the Broncos, the good of rugby league and the good of humanity, the death of Ivan Henjak’s reign of mediocrity is a most positive outcome.

Henjak was a terrible coach and one who, thankfully, will never coach in the NRL again. He was a strange choice to start with and the decision to extend his original contract to 2012 was patently absurd despite a preliminary final appearance in 2009. It was an act of savage stubbornness by chief executive Bruno Cullen yet it was not nearly as negligent as Cullen’s reluctance to fire Henjak at the end of the 2010 season as Cullen did not wish for his last major act to be the firing of a coach, his coach. That act alone, the selfishness it imbued, should damn Cullen and his chairman Darryl Sommerville for the rest of their days. It makes the treatment of Wayne Bennett by the duo look like child’s play in comparison.

Football manager Andrew Gee was rightly incensed at the decision to keep Henjak. It has almost certainly cost them any chance in 2011. The long-term ramifications could be just as brutal.

Very few could mount too many arguments in favour of Henjak. He presided over the Broncos’ first missed finals campaign in nearly two decades. He alienated senior players. He hurt recruitment. He was an abrasive character who did little for the culture of the club. He was a poor tactician. How Cullen could justify not firing Henjak is beyond the realms of understanding.

New chief executive Paul White deserves credit for having the bottle to do what is predecessor would not. He took the axe to the unpopular and unworthy coach. He put an end to the rubbish in seven week of starting the job, putting an end to the house of cards Cullen had spent nearly a decade constructing.

The reconstruction begins now.

Moves are already afoot to bring Wayne Bennett back after a three-year absence where Bennett’s legend grew as the Broncos culture disintegrated. “Late last night, I heard my screen door slam, and a big yellow taxi took away my old man. Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” The powerbrokers at Brisbane would do well to have listened to a little more Joni Mitchell.

The only man who can fix this mess is Bennett. He knows the club intimately and he has a special bond with skipper Darren Lockyer. He will make the Broncos one of the most desirable clubs to play at again and he will instil the culture of selflessness, toughness and self-respect that has been missing at the club since he left. Bruno Cullen and Ivan Henjak stomped on it, burning two decades of Bennett’s hard work. He would surely appreciate the opportunity to fix the mess.

Bennett may be 61 years of age but he could coach for another decade if he was so inclined and close to his family, which he will be back at the Broncos, he may well be inclined. Rebuilding his legacy would also be a mighty tempting proposition for Bennett. He will always be held at high regard at the Dragons and any other club he wishes to coach but at the Broncos, where he has left so much of himself, he would no doubt like to rebuild what he created at the club he made so famous.

The priority of the Broncos must surely be to reacquire Bennett. The sins of the past must be erased by the mitzvahs of the immediate future. It is the only path to salvation and a state of good grace for the Broncos. There can be no dalliance with an untried coach or a commitment to some fool like Ricky Stuart. It simply must be Bennett.

Bringing Bennett back, however, will come at a cost. Bennett will not accept Bruno Cullen being on the board. He will not accept limitations being put on his power as they were for many of his final years in his first stint at the club. He will not tolerate the poor treatment of the Thoroughbreds. He will expect, and rightfully so given his record, total power.

That is all at least a year off though. A long, arduous, painful year for those who call the Broncos home.

Anthony Griffin is highly rated and deserves his shot at the top job but it is doubtful that he can overcome the handicap of a lost preseason, a playing roster lacking in depth and a club divided. The Broncos simply don’t have the talent to go deep in 2011. This is the worst roster they have ever had. Depth is a major concern as is backline talent. And Anthony Griffin has only three weeks to make his mark.

Teams who fire coaches so early never win a damned thing. That is a fact and that realism will hold true this year.

The Henjak Era is over. Brisbane fans can be grateful for that. The club must tread carefully over the next few months though. This is now about Wayne Bennett and it is a game that the Broncos can ill afford to lose.


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  1. Keyboard Rambo says:

    A better headline would have been "Ivan the Terrible Coach".