Psyche of a Broncos fan: Why it’s so hard to walk away
Season 2020 has been a tough one for Broncos fans to swallow, but even as their team fights to avoid the wooden spoon in tonight's derby clash, it seems their supporters are sticking by them.
Brisbane will end the worst season in the 32-year history at Suncorp Stadium tonight when they take on the Cowboys in what is usually a highlight of the NRL draw.
However, it has been a disappointing year for both Queensland sides, with Brisbane celebrating just three wins so far.
But, according to ACU senior lecturer and sports psychologist Michael Noetel, it is near-impossible for Brisbane's true fans to give up on their team.
While one apparent fan threw a signed jersey at the doors of the club's Red Hill headquarters last month, the Broncos have already locked in 27,000 members for 2021.
The Broncos were at the top of the membership ladder in 2019 boasting more than 34,000 fans and had the largest average crowd numbers in the NRL.
But despite their dramatic fall in 2020, according to the NRL the club still has 27,463 loyal members, sitting third behind the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Parramatta Eels.
And Noetel says despite the fact there has been plenty of online vitriol aimed at the players and club this year, most of the fans will have their say but won't walk away.
"Being a sports fan often is part of our identity," he said.
"We don't say, 'I'm a supporter of the Broncos', we say, 'I am a Broncos supporter'. We describe it as part of who we are.
"It's really hard to let go of that even if your team lose 10 or 20 games on the trot and you think you want to walk away.
"Loyalty is innate. Being part of a tribe has always protected us and sports teams are the modern tribe.
"The more that you care, the more it hurts when your team is losing. Sports fans can experience all those emotions … We do feel a sense of loss. The anger, the denial, the frustration and eventually the acceptance when the next season rolls around."
Grant Thomas, who has been a fan since 1992 - the year of Brisbane's first premiership - said this season has definitely been the toughest he has experienced as a supporter, but he had already started to focus on what 2021 could bring.
"You don't have years like this very often as a Broncos fan," the father-of-three said.
"I always watch. I'm a sucker for punishment.
"It's hard not to get a bit down when you lose, especially when they get close when you thought they could have won it.
"But the one silver lining from being where they are is they can take time out to rebuild and get a new coach in place for next year. If you do go to the bottom, you can only go up."
Originally published as Psyche of a Broncos fan: Why it's so hard to walk away