It is not very often you will hear former Queensland captain Trevor Gillmeister have a kind word to say about a former NSW State of Origin opponent.
But with the Broncos’ new assistant coaches, Gilly is happy to make not one, but two, exceptions.
As the Broncos start the long road back from their embarrassing wooden-spoon season from hell in 2020 under new coach Kevin Walters, Gillmeister says the club has the right men in place to help with the rebuild in assistant coaches John Cartwright and Terry Matterson.
Cartwright and Matterson are both legends of the game in their own right, with decorated playing careers before successful stints as coaches, and despite both being Blues, have strong connections to Queensland football.
Cartwright won a premiership with the Panthers in 1991, and played eight Origin games for the Blues between 1989 and 1992.
He went on to become the inaugural head coach of the Titans in 2007, before winning a premiership as assistant coach at the Cowboys in 2015, before joining Manly as assistant coach.
Matterson was in the first-ever Broncos team in 1988, scoring 24 points as Brisbane beat defending champions Manly in their debut premiership match.
Matterson won two titles as part of the Broncos’ legendary 1992 and 1993 premiership teams, and played one Origin game for the Blues in 1989.
After hanging up the boots, he spent seven years as head coach of Castleford in England, before coming back to Australia and spending time as assistant coach at the Cowboys and Titans.
Gillmeister say the Broncos have the right people in place to lift them out of the doldrums in Walters, Cartwright and Matterson.
“Kevvie will be great for the Broncos, and rebuilding what they have let slide in recent years, and he couldn’t have two better blokes alongside him than Carty and Box,” Gillmeister said.
“They are good fellas, and know their stuff.
“Carty has been a head coach for a long time, and I know he was very close to getting the main job with the Cowboys, because they thought so much of him and the work he did up there when they won the premiership with Paul Green as coach and Carty as his assistant.
“Box has been a head coach himself overseas and had good success.
“He has obviously been involved in Brisbane’s junior program as well with his involvement with Easts, and I think that is a great move for him because he will know everything about the club having worked with the kids at the grassroots level all the way up.
“Box was a part of the Broncos from Day 1 of the club back in 1988. So he knows as much as anyone what is needed to rebuild the place. He and Carty will work well together and bounce off each other really well.”
Gillmeister’s admiration for both men is obvious, but he revealed a little-known anecdote that encapsulates his long-term respect for his good friend Cartwright.
“This will show you how much I think of Carty as a bloke: During my playing career, he was the only bloke that I ever swapped a jersey with,” Gillmeister said.
“I just liked him as a player when I went up against him. He didn’t carry on, he was hard, he did his job and he did it very well. He was also a great player.
“I only ever swapped one jersey in my whole career, and that was with Carty. You wouldn’t believe it, we ended up as great mates and obviously worked together for a while there at the Titans as well.
“His was the only Blue jersey I ever swapped with. I didn’t want any more.
“Carty has been around long enough now, and has built up so much experience at the Titans, the Cowboys, and then Manly. He has had his finger on the pulse for a long time.
“I think they have a good mix of personalities there, and plenty of footy smarts to start to turn the place around.
“But look, at the end of the day, the coaches can only do so much. They have a lot of work ahead of them to turn their roster around. That is not something that is going to be fixed overnight.”