Broncos boss pledge to take NRL heavyweight back to top
Broncos chairman Karl Morris has declared snapping Brisbane's 14-year premiership drought is his focus after guiding the club through two of the most tumultuous periods in its history.
In a rare interview, Morris spoke candidly with the Sunday Mail about his brutal introduction to the NRL, the sacking of foundation coach Wayne Bennett and the Broncos' multimillion-dollar fight to survive the coronavirus shutdown.
A leading stockbroker and finance expert, Morris is in his third year at the helm of the Broncos after replacing Dennis Watt, now the Gold Coast Titans' executive chairman, in December, 2017.
The Broncos have not won an NRL title since the club's sixth premiership victory in 2006, the longest drought since its foundation in 1988.
With the NRL season to recommence on May 28 following the COVID-19 suspension, Morris said his primary goal was to lay the foundations for the Provan-Summons trophy to come back to Red Hill.
"There's only one thing isn't there? You've got to win and be best positioned to win," Morris said when asked about his goals.
"I said in the annual report it's been too long since we've won a premiership.
"My role is helping put the tools and chess pieces in place to have the best chance of winning the competition.
"I have to support the CEO (Paul White) and choices he makes and make sure we pick the right people underneath him. That's from the coach to his team.
"We're continually trying to upgrade and pick the right people to lead the club forward. That's all you can do."
THE BENNETT SACKING
Morris' first year at the Broncos was consumed by the messy departure of Bennett, who was eventually sacked in December, 2018 following a drawn out saga which divided the club.
The Bennett soap opera played out for much of the 2018 season before a bitter divorce saw White and Bennett fall out and Anthony Seibold appointed head coach of the Broncos.
Morris was criticised for keeping a public silence throughout the Bennett ordeal and admitted the remarkable situation was different to his experiences in the corporate world.
"I didn't enjoy year one and what you blokes (media) did to me - the Wayne Bennett situation was not what I was expecting," he said.
"You don't know what the challenges are going to be when you say yes to these sorts of roles.
"I was lucky in the fact my working life in investment banking and stockbroking…the challenges at the Broncos were different but only because it was in the paper every day.
"I'm used to dealing with successful people and what happens when you don't give them the answers they want. I'm used to dealing with that environment.
"The only complication was I didn't particularly like reading about it in the paper.
"Unfortunately I had a privacy issue and there were lots of things I couldn't say, but that didn't stop a lot of other people.
"It was an extraordinary period of time. I look back and can't see a different or better way to have dealt with it. It was remarkable.
"We acted in the best interests of the club and its members and for the team going forward.
"I felt sorry for Paul White and his long-term relationship (with Bennett)."
RESHAPING RED HILL
While all of the NRL's 16 clubs have been severely impacted by the suspension of the season, the Broncos have made the biggest off-field moves to survive.
The Broncos reported $52 million in revenue last year, reflecting the club's $22 million payroll and biggest employee base in the competition.
That meant the suspension of the NRL season had huge implications for the Broncos' operations.
The club made 22 staff redundant late last month and has slashed salaries across the organisation, including a 50 per cent reduction for White in his final six months as CEO.
Morris said the overhaul was necessary to ensure Brisbane's long-term survival, but one of the toughest decisions he's had to be involved in.
"It was horrendous to do it," he said.
"The people part is the toughest part. There are a lot of very good people who weren't paid a huge amount of money, but loved being involved with the Broncos, who have lost their jobs.
"It's heartbreaking to see these terrific people who work their guts out and next minute, not for any fault of their own, have to leave the Broncos.
"There's zero doubt (about Brisbane's survival). We've been extremely lucky to have long-term support from our sponsors and will continue to have a significant cash balance.
"Compared to some of the other clubs, we're in extremely good shape.
"The number one priority is to survive this crisis and on the other side we can be as successful as we possibly can be on and off the field."
While Morris stepped down from the chairmanship of Q-Super last December to focus on his CEO role at wealth management group Ord Minnett, he has no plans to exit the Broncos.
The Broncos were impressive in winning their opening two games of the season before the suspension and Morris believes the club is heading in the right direction.
"I'm only into my third year...depending on the board, most chairmen go for five to six years," he said.
"I was given no time frame when I took it on. I'm at the mercy of the major shareholders (News Corporation, publishers of The Sunday Mail). They can tap me on the shoulder at any time.
"We started this year off pretty well, certainly better than last year, even with five of our best players out.
"We're expecting to have a very good year now. We've got a very good coaching and operational team."
Originally published as NRL boss's pledge to take Broncos back to the top