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Are the Broncos' terrible towels so terrible?

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You can't fault the Broncos for trying.

When the team introduced their bright yellow rally towels last season they were merely attempting to enhance the gameday experience at Suncorp Stadium.

Meant to be waved in unison by fans in support of the Broncos, the towels weren't enthusiastically embraced by the Brisbane faithful and by the end of the season they'd seemingly been left at home for good.

To many fans' dismay the rally towels are set to make a return in 2014, and with them fresh accusations against the NRL glamour club of supposedly "Americanising" the sport.

Putting aside the fact that the Brisbane team wouldn't have its market-dominating nickname if not for American sporting influence, and the fact that Australian sports seem to screw up their sports pretty good without outside influence (the garish Ke$haesque nightmare which is the Big Bash League being a perfect example with its light-up stumps and neon-sick uniforms) - the reason the concept has been so roundly rejected by fans isn't because it is foreign.

The problem was the practical application of the concept was so contrived.


Even the most dyed-in-the-wool rugby league fan (who I count myself among) would have to admit the gameday experience at a typical club game can be quite flat, as fans sit passively for much of the game, only to erupt in cheers or boos for a penalty, try or controversial decision.

The Broncos came up with a simple way to liven up things up during a lull in the action by getting the crowd active. They borrowed a cheap, inoffensive and relatively dynamic concept from American sport - in this case the Terrible Towels made famous by the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s - and applied it to the Brisbane team.

It's not the first time the towels have been co-opted, the concept has been borrowed hundreds of times and is now a fixture among crowds at playoff games in the US.

The problem was the Broncos erred by attempting to translate the concept to local audiences in a crude and overbearing manner.

Things backfired from the moment people saw a smiling Sam Thaiday calling on fans to wave the towels on the big screen. The whole thing seemed corny and contrived to anyone who'd graduated from primary school.

Although it would have still been fun for kids, without majority support something that was meant to be a display of fan unity came undone quickly.

The truth is the genesis of such an idea has to be somewhat organic.

Shamelessly begging fans through constant PA instructions to get involved is only going to make them reject it all together - as whoever pulled the pin on the Gold Coast Titans "Temple of Boom" stadium sound will attest.

But that doesn't have to be the end of the concept.

There's still a chance for the towels to capture the heart of local sports fans. The Broncos just have to stop pushing fans too hard. Let the fans use them when they feel like it - and if they feel like it.

No one goes to a football game to be told what to do. That's what work is for.

It may seem cynical, but the Broncos could plant a few groups around the stadium and let them wave the towels on their own accord. Let it build by itself.

Let's face it, the Broncos are the only team in the NRL who regularly attract the kind of large crowds where fans waving towels in sync would look in any way a spectacle (please no one pass the idea on to anyone teams who play at the cavernous pit of despair known as Sydney's ANZ Stadium).

If they don't push too hard the Broncos' rally towels could someday become a truly terrible sight for opposing teams.