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Are the Broncos' terrible towels so terrible?

Date

Dan Nancarrow

Brisbane Broncos rally towel

Brisbane Broncos rally towel Photo: Supplied

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.

An optimistic punter had this towel for sale ... on Ebay!

An optimistic punter had this towel for sale ... on Ebay!

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.

Bronco Towel instructions

Bronco Towel instructions Photo: Supplied

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.

26 comments so far

  • "The whole thing seemed corny and contrived to anyone who'd graduated from primary school." That would exclude most NRL fans.

    Commenter
    Vic Victoria
    Date and time
    January 04, 2014, 10:30AM
    • I award you 1 point for missing.

      Commenter
      Reg Boggerrelli
      Date and time
      January 04, 2014, 12:49PM
    • Maybe we could liven up the game by getting players and spectators to wear short shorts. Hang on some other bogan sport has already tried that.

      Commenter
      DP
      Location
      GC
      Date and time
      January 04, 2014, 1:07PM
    • The corny and contrived bit about the Broncos is that their jersey is never the same 2 years in a row and is covered in ads. Its embarassing.

      Commenter
      jg
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      January 05, 2014, 9:29PM
  • Australian crowds aren't known for their tendency to follow along with the voice on the loudspeaker. However give us something to wave around and let us be, and the Bronco's may have seen some innovation. I can't think of how many beer carton hats I've seen at sports events, so someone would have done something interesting with it.

    Commenter
    Brett Cravaliat
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    January 04, 2014, 11:35AM
    • I have to agree. I've been to events both in the UK and in the USA, and the atmosphere in the crowd is electric. People are just excited to be a part of the crowd. What passes for a Mexican wave in any Australian venue would be a hopeless effort compared to what I've seen at overseas venues. It just seems like Aussie crowds can't give a fig about getting worked up with the rest of the crowd. The closest I've seen any crowd get nearly as excited as a foreign crowd is the AFL grand final. So sad - crowd support helps the spirit of the game, and are you there to help bolster your team, or are you there to simply drink and sit on your bum. You can do the latter at home in much more comfort.

      Commenter
      Jane
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 04, 2014, 6:28PM
    • Sadly, the afl grabs final is not the best example as there are fewer club supporter seats (around 20000 plus people willing to pay big $) available due to sponsor and corporate packages. Any preliminary final or match between the big clubs (Collingwood essendon Carlton Richmond) attract the best atmospheres with 80000 plus spectators all passionately supporting their team.

      Commenter
      ab
      Date and time
      January 04, 2014, 8:40PM
    • At Lang Park, one is not allowed to have fun lest one is thrown out for cheering for your team.
      The powers that be have ruined the experience at Sunburnt Stadium.
      In any case, the fans could throw the towel in for the Drongos in 2014 to save their own arms from being hurt in the process.

      Commenter
      Abu Nazir
      Location
      Homeland
      Date and time
      January 04, 2014, 10:52PM
  • The concept is great. The application awful. Totally agree with the article.

    Being told to rally is ok too - but as a fan being told to rally 5 mins into the game with score at nil and it's second tackle with the opposition in possession was laughable.

    The right time is near the end of the game or half and only if the scores are close.

    Commenter
    Andy
    Date and time
    January 04, 2014, 11:41AM
    • "as a fan being told to rally 5 mins into the game with score at nil and it's second tackle with the opposition in possession was laughable. The right time is near the end of the game or half and only if the scores are close."

      Jesus, no. Good crowd rallies start *before the match kicks off*. I recall a semi-final my team played against the Broncos in Sydney and we were all so amped up before the game, singing the old team song (the club eventually resurrected it) and watching the old timers have at it, it was overwhelmingly emotional. We went on to take the comp that year.

      What you describe, there's a song for it. To the tune of "Guantanamera":

      You only sing when you're winning!
      Sing when you're winning.
      Sing when you're win-ning,
      You only sing when you're winning.

      Broncos fans all summed up, that.

      Commenter
      scot
      Location
      auchenflower
      Date and time
      January 05, 2014, 10:45AM

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