Corey Norman: a tale of missed opportunity at the Broncos

Corey Norman: a tale of missed opportunity at the Broncos

Corey Norman was never really supposed to be the next Darren Lockyer for Brisbane, just as Lockyer was never really meant to be a skinnier, bow-legged incarnation of Wally Lewis.

Norman was, in fact, originally slated as the next Karmichael Hunt, or at the very least the kid to inherit his jumper after Hunt pulled one of the greatest swifty's in the history of Australian sport by joining the AFL's Gold Coast Suns.

Corey Norman will play for Wynnum-Manly on the weekend after being dropped from the Broncos squad.

Corey Norman will play for Wynnum-Manly on the weekend after being dropped from the Broncos squad.

Already this week, Lockyer has urged the Broncos to see if Hunt would be interested in returning to Red Hill. For a brief, transitional honeymoon, it didn't seem as if that conversation would ever take place.

In his first game in 2010 – against the same foe Brisbane face in a blink-and-you're-dead contest on Friday night – Norman was a sensation. A revelation. Immediately, he belonged, seamlessly sweeping through Brisbane's backline with clinical results.

Here was the reason Norman was the club's best back in the 2009 Under 20s competition. The immediate consensus was that Hunt's fearless charges, his unrelenting bustle and extreme competitiveness, would not be missed, replaced by Norman's silky passing game and natural timing.


It was a rush of blood on deadline. Norman's brilliance that night against the Cowboys, where he was man of the match in a display that showed undoubted class, remains his best night in the NRL.

It shouldn't be the case. And three years and three-quarters of a season later, the sands have shifted dramatically for both Norman and the Broncos.

Brisbane, having sung the song just once in their past five outings, must beat the Cowboys on Friday night to remain a serious finals contender.

And Norman won't be there. Instead of scheming against Thurston, Scott, Tate and friends in Townsville, Norman will be playing for Wynnum-Manly in the Intrust Super Cup against the Tweed Heads Seagulls.

It was a demotion weeks in the making but one that must have pained coach Anthony Griffin immensely, given all of the time, effort and finance that has gone into developing Norman as a potential NRL matchwinner.

Griffin, a good racing man who enjoys a flutter, may have come to the realisation the club has had a substantial wager on the wrong horse. Recruitment is never an exact science and in Norman's case, the return never quite matched the promise.

The conversation wasn't a pleasant one for either party. Norman, by all reports, was shattered. Griffin, who has coached Norman since 2009, felt it deeply. But by installing the more direct and dangerous Josh Hoffman, the right call was made.

If Norman has been the highest-profile slider in what the Broncos hoped would be a prolific rookie class, he's not sailing alone. The club has invested heavily in youngsters like Ben Hunt and Andrew McCullough, both of whom have become solid first graders without taking their games to the next level.

With most of their recruiting eggs in one basket, Brisbane had desperately hoped that player, a marquee man and budding superstar, could be found within. That wait continues.

The scenario that a rising local product may not have blossomed to lead what has traditionally been a team of stars is a confronting reality for a club unaccustomed to sustained periods of mediocrity.

To add some context, the 2009 Under 20 class of which Eels-bound Norman was a part has since spawned Gareth Widdop, Daly Cherry-Evans, Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran, Jamie Buhrer, Trent Merrin, Jesse Bromwich and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.


The Broncos would love any one of that group and are consistently linked with Queensland products like Cherry-Evans, a grand final winner and Origin star at just 24 years of age.

The chitter-chatter is mostly just that, although Ben Barba simply can't arrive quickly enough should he be allowed to head north from the Bulldogs.