Ben Te’o returns to rugby league action on Thursday after almost six years in rugby union.
Ben Te’o returns to rugby league action on Thursday after almost six years in rugby union.

Te’o’s lofty vision for struggling Broncos

Broncos bolter Ben Te'o says winning an NRL premiership remains the greatest achievement of his remarkable career and has revealed his mission to help break Brisbane's 14-year title drought.

In his only interview ahead of his shock return to rugby league on Thursday night against Manly, Te'o pledged not to let the Broncos down and wants Brisbane's young guns to understand the sacrifices required to win an NRL title.

Te'o will play his first NRL game in 2076 days at Central Coast Stadium - almost six years after he quit rugby league and defected to European rugby after playing a key role in Souths' 2014 premiership triumph.

Te'o and Darius Boyd are the only current Broncos with premiership-winning experience. The 33-year-old Te'o has played Origin football, succeeded in two football codes and represented England in rugby at Twickenham - but he says nothing will ever match the joy of an NRL crown.

Ahead of Thursday's clash against the Sea Eagles, Te'o wants to bring that joy to Red Hill for the first time since 2006, and indoctrinate Broncos players on what it takes to be a winner.

"To be honest, there is unfinished business for me at the Broncos, I want to win a premiership for the club," he said.

"For all I've been lucky to achieve, winning an NRL premiership is No.1 and a lot of guys will back that up.

"It's a dream to play Origin and Test footy and Test rugby, but winning a premiership is the most special thing.

"It's everything that goes into it over the season. The pre-season, the trial games - every player has their personal highs and lows. You have fights at training. There are confrontations.

"It's the journey that makes you a family and when you get to the summit, when you win that premiership, you look back and say, 'Wow, that was all worth it'.

"I managed to experience that at Souths and now I want that for this club.

"Anyone who has won a premiership in the NRL will understand my emotions and that's what I want for these young guys at the Broncos."

Te'o's resurrection at the Broncos has been as surprising as it is meteoric.

A week ago, the former Queensland Origin hit man was contracted to the Japanese Sunwolves and training in isolation following the COVID-enforced suspension of the Super Rugby competition.

But the demise of the Sunwolves cleared the path for Te'o to ink a five-month, $100,000 deal with the Broncos. He has had just three training sessions since donning Broncos colours, but is banking on his 152 games of NRL experience to get through Thursday's showdown with the Sea Eagles.

"I am really nervous, I won't lie about that," he said.

"I am nervous purely for the fact that it has been so long out of the game for me and so much in the NRL has changed.

"But I think muscle memory will kick in and I felt that the other day at training. I felt my league instincts coming back. They won't be perfect and as long as I do things with intent, I will be all right.


Ben Te'o celebrates with his Rabbitohs team-mates after their 2014 Grand Final win.
Ben Te'o celebrates with his Rabbitohs team-mates after their 2014 Grand Final win.


"I am willing to get out there and do my best and contribute where I can and essentially hold the fort.

"I would have loved a pre-season to be ready for this but sometimes you don't have time.

"I just want the Broncos fans to know I will rip in ... I want to go out there and show with my actions that I can still play the game."

Te'o has cherished memories of his 75 games for the Broncos between 2009-12, but Brisbane's 2011 campaign still haunts him.

The Broncos crashed in the preliminary final, ironically against Thursday's opponents Manly, after skipper Darren Lockyer, playing his final season, missed the sudden-death affair with a broken cheekbone.

"I always think about that year," Te'o said.

"I honestly believe that 2011 season was the club's missed opportunity. It was Locky's last year and that was the year the Broncos should have won the premiership.

"When he smashed his face in that finals game against the Dragons (the week before), he won that game for us, but when he couldn't play the following week against Manly, all the air went out of us and I felt it was a golden chance blown.

"That's part of why I'm back. I just love Brisbane as a club and coming back, yes, it's a bit risky, but I feel like I want to make a difference and have another crack for the Broncos.

"I really believe in this squad. I know right now it is hard to fathom premierships after what happened last week (59-0 loss to the Roosters), but I believe in this group and I know the best 17 here can beat any team in the comp on their day.

"People love fairytale endings. I could have just sat at home for three months, or I can come in and help these young guys out, knowing these talented young kids here need some guidance.

"There's no pressure on me, I will just give the Broncos everything I've got."

Originally published as Drought breaker? Te'o's lofty vision for struggling Broncos