Former Brisbane star Jharal Yow Yeh says the Broncos have returned to being a “family club” under coach Kevin Walters, and the side’s current players couldn’t be happier.
As the six-time premiers prepare to play Penrith on Sunday in their first grand final appearance since 2015, the 33-year-old Yow Yeh points to the regular smile on the face of winger Selwyn Cobbo as a reflection of a far bigger picture.
“I came through at the Broncos when it was the family club. Everyone knows we lost that for a little while, but that feeling is back,” Yow Yeh told AAP.
“I have been to training this year and I said to Kevvie (Walters), ‘I don’t know what you have done here but you have brought it back to being the family club’.
“The players and everyone involved feel comfortable to be here and that is what the Broncos should be.
“Selwyn Cobbo is playing his best football with that beaming smile because he is enjoying himself.
“Whatever happens (on Sunday), the Broncos are back and that is a nice thing.”
Cobbo, 21, made headlines after a 2022 podcast in which he called Walters’ coaching style “weird”. The coach and player mended the fallout quickly.
The Queensland flyer this week reflected on a difficult time in his life, after Walters supported him while Cobbo’s father Shamus had heart surgery in late 2021.
“Dad has been really helpful to me on my journey and when he was sick it was difficult,” Cobbo told AAP.
“He is all good now and that makes me really happy.
“At the time, I didn’t have the right mindset for training but once he got through surgery I started to find my form again.
“Kevvie was really supportive of me through that. He understands how much family means.
“He thinks of the Broncos as his second family. The Broncos are always going to be my second family.”
The Broncos won half a dozen premierships between 1992 and 2006 and that success was forged on the back of great players staying at the club for less financial reward than they could have gained elsewhere.
That scenario continued in Yow Yeh’s time at the club.
His blossoming NRL career was cut short by a horrific ankle injury in 2011 and he has since worked for the Broncos and remained close to the team.
The Brisbane-born former back has seen the bad times at the club, including the 2020 wooden-spoon year in which he was made redundant along with many others.
Under then-coach Anthony Seibold, the Broncos were at their lowest ebb on and off the field.
Walters was appointed for the 2021 season and in three short years has revived the club.
“Being in Brisbane you know there were a couple of years at the Broncos where it was really tough,” Yow Yeh said.
“We have always heard how (former Broncos coach) Wayne Bennett gets the best out of his players because they are happy off the field.
“Kevvie has ensured that is case at the Broncos. I don’t think I have seen a bond between players like I see with this group.”
Prop Payne Haas rejected bigger offers to re-sign with the club until the end of 2026 because of that bond.
“Kev loves the Broncos and you can see that by the way he talks about the Broncos. He cares for us as well,” Haas said.
“He is like Wayne; he makes sure we are OK off the field.”
Lock Pat Carrigan was chased by Bennett to join the Dolphins but stayed loyal to the Broncos.
“I love this club and playing footy with my mates. Kevvie brought that enjoyment back for me. It is everything and everywhere I want to be,” Carrigan said.
“You can go other places but now I get to play in a grand final for the Broncos.”
Aboriginal superstar Cobbo has been supported by the Broncos to go back to his home town and Indigenous community of Cherbourg when possible.
Those trips rejuvenate him.
“Going back to Cherbourg I switch off from footy and kick back with family,” Cobbo said.
“It resets my mind. I come back better for it and Kevvie understands that.”
The beaming smile on Cobbo’s face before he scores has become his trademark.
“When I get the ball I am just enjoying footy. It puts a smile on my face to do my job for the team and score tries,” he said
Yow Yeh is smiling too, each time he watches “a special side”.
“The Broncos are only getting started,” he said.
“We talk about Penrith having a young group of players. These guys are special and will be together for a long time.”