Shaping a LEAGUE of leaders

The Brisbane Broncos have remained one of the most successful rugby league clubs of the modern era. The University of Queensland is a leader in education, research and discovery. Together, they are forging a culture of excellence and leadership across a range of disciplines.

Broncos second-rower Matt Gillett is tackled by team mates during pre-season training at UQ.

Against the backdrop of UQ’s Forgan Smith building, the Brisbane Broncos players push themselves to their limits during the gruelling 2016 pre-season.

Only months have passed since the club’s heartbreaking one-point NRL grand-final defeat to the North Queensland Cowboys in October 2015.

But you can sense the excitement in the air, and almost taste the hunger, as the team prepares for its assault on the premiership race.

At the helm is master coach and mentor Wayne Bennett, pacing behind his charges – dissecting each play, analysing every player’s movements, and critiquing each mistake.

As a leader, Mr Bennett is revered for his ability to get the most out of his players and for his ability to mould young men into the leaders of the future.

His philosophy is simple.

“To me, leadership means not letting people down,” he explains.

“You have to be responsible, accountable and trustworthy. You also need to have the ability to communicate, while having a clear vision, and focus on what you want to achieve."

Wayne Bennett

“When it comes to shaping the types of young men at our club, I believe education is vital to the development of our players. Not only in a classroom situation, but in all experiences they have on their journey.

“That’s why it’s important to have good people in their lives at all stages of their development.”

It’s these values that have helped the Broncos maintain success on the field and in the business world. They are also values shared by UQ.

The Brisbane Broncos and UQ announced a landmark partnership in April 2015. As two of Queensland’s most successful brands, this union recognises a shared dedication to shaping future leaders and a commitment to excellence.

The partnership has many levels, including opportunities for undergraduate student placements and access to elite athletes for higher degree research student projects.

The Broncos support UQ’s Emerging Leaders program, and work with the University to engage with prospective students from rural and regional Queensland, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Brisbane Broncos Chief Executive Officer Paul White, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj, and Broncos captain Corey Parker at Broncos headquarters at Red Hill.

Brisbane Broncos Chief Executive Officer Paul White, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj, and Broncos captain Corey Parker at Broncos headquarters at Red Hill.

The Broncos have remained one of the most successful rugby league clubs since their inception into the NSW Rugby League (now the National Rugby League) competition in 1988, winning premierships in 1992, 1993, 1997 (Super League), 1998, 2000 and 2006.

Broncos Chief Executive Officer Paul White says that on top of sporting success, the club has well-established corporate partnerships, including existing links with UQ.

“The Broncos hold a unique place in the business and corporate worlds, given we are a publicly listed company and the only sporting club in the country that has that structure,” says Mr White.

“That gives us a solid foundation from which to grow our business and then, in turn, invest in our people, our partnerships and our communities.”

Mr White says partnerships with UQ and other organisations went well beyond the business world.

“Partnerships are about offering genuine opportunity, sharing knowledge and driving change.

“With UQ, we already have more than 20 interns working in all aspects of our business, from our performance sciences department, to media, game-day presentation and sponsorship.

“That gives us the opportunity to share best-practice learnings with students, while we have the chance to benefit from some dynamic new thinking from the student cohort as we strive for continual improvement.

“Our partnership with UQ is enormously valuable to our brand because it challenges the traditional thinking around how educational institutions can work with sports teams, well beyond a traditional sporting sponsorship.”

Paul White

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj says students, staff and alumni benefit from partnerships that present new opportunities for learning, discovery and leadership.

“This partnership will help UQ and the Broncos continue to foster their relationship, based on our mutual strengths and areas of interest”, says Professor Høj.

“The Broncos are synonymous with success. They have fans right across the state’s regional and rural centres, plus plenty of loyal followers interstate.

“As one of the world’s top universities and one of Australia’s outstanding sports clubs, both organisations aim to achieve at the elite level, without being elitist.”

Students play key role in winning culture

Broncos second-rower Sam Thaiday runs the ball during pre-season training at UQ.

Looking at the record of the Brisbane Broncos, it’s clear to see they have made a habit of winning.

The Broncos have won six premierships, including one Super League premiership, since joining the NSW Rugby League (now National Rugby League) competition in 1988, as well as two World Club Challenge titles.

They have also achieved four minor premierships and, between 1991 and 2009, never failed to qualify for
the finals.

While the Broncos have been blessed with some of the greatest natural talents the game has seen, including Darren Lockyer, Allan Langer and Justin Hodges, the training methods and game-day preparation behind the scenes cannot be underestimated.

Broncos High Performance Manager Jeremy Hickmans says there is no doubt the availability and advances in technology over the last 10 years have challenged performance departments to be more accountable and specific in the way players are trained.

“The advent and application of GPS (Global Positioning System) and accelerometer technology has allowed us to be far more prescriptive, while providing an ongoing, field-based measure to assess the effects of these interventions,” Mr Hickmans explains.

“The use of virtual reality decision-making systems, sleep research and wearable technology will further advance our knowledge of an athlete’s optimal preparation and performance strategies.

“However, it is key that the ‘art’ of coaching is not lost. Technological advances are designed to support and challenge the on-field delivery and decision-making involved in performance optimisation, not replace them.”

Jeremy Hickmans

Mr Hickmans says that with the help of UQ, the Broncos have been able to develop a high-performance research department tasked with identifying and leading the way in delivering key performance enhancement strategies.

The Broncos support three PhD research scholarships in the fields of talent development, sleep and recovery, and performance nutrition; eight Honours students across the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences; and numerous practicum students working with both the club’s NRL and National Youth Competition (NYC) squads.

Mr Hickmans says it is important the club provides students with a practical, realistic experience of what is required
to work in elite sport, while also providing a positive bridge between theory and practice.

“Partnering with world-leading researchers challenges us to stay at the cutting edge of technological advances and intellectual innovation,” he says.

“The program also provides us with a ready-made succession plan, with a steady supply of new, well-trained staff.

“Already, students who have participated in our program have gone on to gain employment in other football codes, state sporting institutes and associated sports science providers.”

One of those students actively involved is UQ PhD candidate Johnpaul Caia, who is studying sleep and other recovery methods for rugby league players.

UQ Research students at Broncos training.

UQ Research students at Broncos training.

“I’m involved on a day-to-day basis in the recovery program delivered to the athletes,” says Mr Caia.

“This can range from taking the players through a hydrotherapy session, to monitoring and providing feedback on sleep behaviour.

“I also have the responsibility of athlete monitoring for our NYC squad.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to perform applied research while working with some of the best athletes – and best practitioners – in the country.”