Greg Inglis a happy rabbit, but he could have been a bucking Bronco. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Greg Inglis a happy rabbit, but he could have been a bucking Bronco. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

The real reason Inglis backflipped on Broncos

RETIRED superstar Greg Inglis was the Broncos' ultimate "one that got away" and for the first time it can be revealed that one of the major factors in his decision to turn his back on Brisbane was club legend Gorden Tallis.

In Broncos folklore it is known as the great GI backflip: the stunning about-face that saw arguably the best player in rugby league renege on a handshake agreement with Brisbane to instead transform the Rabbitohs from cellar-dwellers to premiership heavyweights.

And eight and a half years later Broncos insiders are still trying to work out what happened.

 

Gorden Tallis with a young Greg Inglis in 2006. If not for a phone call from the Broncos legend the Storm superstar could have played for Brisbane.
Gorden Tallis with a young Greg Inglis in 2006. If not for a phone call from the Broncos legend the Storm superstar could have played for Brisbane.

When Greg Inglis boarded a plane at Brisbane Airport on Friday October 29, 2010 to spend the weekend in Sydney, Broncos executives expected him back on Monday November 1 to sign a contract worth $1.2 million over three years.

On the Sunday night Broncos CEO Bruno Cullen received a call at home from the club's football manager Andrew Gee.

"I think we might have a problem," Gee said. "Greg's just rung me. He says he's not coming back because it's raining in Sydney and the planes aren't flying."

"That doesn't sound good," said Cullen.

Indeed it wasn't. For the previous week Inglis had been enjoying the company of his Origin teammate and potential Broncos centre partner Justin Hodges, driving around in a car provided by the club and scouting out possible properties for sale or rent.

 

Justin Hodges was seen as a key factor in luring his Origin teammate Greg Inglis to the Broncos for the 2011 season. Picture: Adam Head
Justin Hodges was seen as a key factor in luring his Origin teammate Greg Inglis to the Broncos for the 2011 season. Picture: Adam Head

 

With Inglis being squeezed out of Melbourne following the Storm's salary cap scandal, and making it known he wanted to live in Brisbane so his partner Sally Robinson could be close to her family, negotiations between Gee, Inglis and his manager Allan Gainey had gone smoothly.

A stumbling block had been the repayment of a $113,000 legal bill that the Storm had paid barrister Robert Richter QC on behalf of Inglis to handle the successful defence of an assault charge seven months earlier.

With salary cap concerns of their own the Broncos were adamant that they wouldn't pay the debt but the issue was not insurmountable. A local professional man and dedicated Broncos supporter had advised Cullen that he would contribute "whatever it takes" as a third-party deal under NRL rules to secure the superstar's signature.

With that offer in writing and Inglis seemingly looking forward to linking with his Origin teammates Darren Lockyer, Sam Thaiday and Hodges at the Broncos, Cullen and Gee had no reason to believe that they had not tied up the perfect replacement for the AFL-bound Israel Folau.

What they didn't know was that Hodges wasn't the only friend that Inglis had caught up with during his week in Brisbane.

Also in town was boxer Anthony Mundine who was in training for a December 8 bout with Garth Wood. He and Inglis met and discussed the Test centre's situation.

A former South Sydney junior who played for the Broncos in 1997, Mundine worked out of his father's gym in Redfern and had become close to Rabbitohs owner Russell Crowe through the club's strong indigenous community welfare program.

When Inglis told Mundine that a role as an indigenous ambassador was part of Brisbane's offer, Mundine was dismissive.

"They're doing nothing for our people," he said. "If you want to make a difference you should go to Souths."

It is believed Mundine then rang Oscar winner Crowe, who immediately flew to Brisbane and the three men met two days before Inglis headed down to Sydney.

 

Anthony Mundine and Russell Crowe combined forces to deliver a knockout blow to the Broncos hopes. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Anthony Mundine and Russell Crowe combined forces to deliver a knockout blow to the Broncos hopes. Picture: Justin Lloyd

It was then that Broncos legend Gorden Tallis became involved - for the other side.

Former Brisbane captain Tallis, who had played 160 games for the club and later that year would be inducted into the Broncos Hall of Fame, was at the time the Rabbitohs' forwards coach.

"Russell Crowe rang me and asked me if I'd do him a favour and call Greg Inglis," Tallis said. "I said sure. I was working for Souths at the time and I gave Greg my honest opinion.

"I told him if he wanted to win a premiership that Souths was the club to go to. I can tell a winning club when I see one and they were building towards something.

"I still remember where I was when I spoke to him - in the backyard of my house at Chapel Hill. I was speaking from a football point of view. One club was going places, the other one was standing still. That's what I told him, and I was right."

 

Greg Inglis seals the Rabbitohs 2014 grand final win over the Bulldogs - for the Broncos a case of what might have been. Picture: Renee McKay/Getty Images)
Greg Inglis seals the Rabbitohs 2014 grand final win over the Bulldogs - for the Broncos a case of what might have been. Picture: Renee McKay/Getty Images)

 

Within 24 hours the deal with South Sydney was finalised. Four years later the Rabbitohs won the NRL grand final with Greg Inglis scoring the final try in their 30-6 win over the Bulldogs.

And the Broncos, whose last premiership was in 2006, can only dream of what might have been.


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