Walker is a rising superstar with the Roosters after his botched recruitment by Brisbane, while Walsh has starred for the Warriors after being released by the Broncos this season. Both are just 18, with massive futures looming.
“Walsh and Walker both, they were players that should have been in a Brisbane Broncos jersey, there’s no doubt about that whatsoever,” Lewis, the Broncos’ inaugural captain and a rugby league Immortal, said on Wide World of Sports’ QLDER.
“It would be interesting to see who made the final decision on saying, ‘No, well we can’t go here’.
“Obviously money would have played a little bit of a part in it but boy … you know players, when you grow up in the state of Queensland and when both of these guys were in the most exciting time of their life, when they were around 12, 13, 14 years of age, they would have wanted to be Brisbane Broncos. There’s no doubt about that.
“To see them opt for a different pasture is confusing. Obviously managers would have played a fair bit of a role in that but the player has the last say.
“Even if he can sign for a little bit less to go to a club that has a magnetic attraction, that is a great opportunity for them. Sadly, that seems to have disappeared in the recent years [at the Broncos].”
Superstar back-rower David Fifita was lost by the Broncos to the Titans for this season. Rising halfback Tom Dearden is headed to the Cowboys. Top talents Kotoni Staggs and Xavier Coates remain unsigned for next season, with rival clubs sniffing around.
While gun No.7 Walker was never even signed to the Broncos, Lewis said that Brisbane were surely regretting the release of Walsh after his start with the Warriors. He said that the young fullback was a natural footballer.
“You know a player is a good player when you see him at that first moment, when you just happen to see that he’s got something that some players haven’t, that special bit of talent about them,” Lewis said.
“They probably had a look at him and thought, ‘Well, he’s obviously got a bit of skill on board, there’s no doubt about that’. They didn’t make the judgement, though, that he is quite as good as what he has [shown].”
Lewis said that there were no secrets to the formula for turning around the Broncos’ fortunes: a return to winning ways and a big-name roster. Outside of Test prop Payne Haas, there isn’t a genuine superstar to speak of in the current Brisbane side, which is running 15th with a 2-6 record this season.
“It’s got to have a magnetic attraction about it. I keep using that word … they’ve got to start winning games,” Lewis said.
“Players years ago, they just wanted to be at the Broncos. If you gave them a choice of what club, when they had the [Darren] Lockyers, the Sam Thaidays, all of the great players playing in there, they wanted to be there.
“Even that started back in the 80s and 90s, when Alf was playing; they all wanted to be at Allan Langer’s club, Kevvy Walters’ club, to get on board. That’s changed a little bit now over the years and it just isn’t quite as good a club as what it once appeared.”
New Broncos chief executive Dave Donaghy came out swinging this week, signalling his intent to tighten up Brisbane’s recruitment and retention, while bemoaning “vultures” from rival clubs stealing talent from out of development systems.
“He wants players to once again feel quite comfortable should they come to the Brisbane Broncos,” Lewis said.
“Brisbane, it used to be the hottest position for a player to get in, to attract an offer to come down here and play football for what was the most famous football team in the state of Queensland. There is no doubt about that at all.
“He wants to turn that around and make it once again a very proud moment in a player’s life.”
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