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Hall of Fame - Allan Langer (1988-1999, 2002)

Vital Statistics

Name: Allan Langer Nickname: Alf
Born: Ipswich, 30th July 1966 Position: Halfback
Height: 165cm Weight: 79kg
Broncos Games: 258 (all first grade)
Represented: Australia 1988-1994, 1997-1999; State of Origin (Queensland) 1987-1994, 1996, 1998, 2001-02; Tri-Series (Queensland) 1997; Queensland 1987; Brisbane 1987.
Captained: Broncos 1992-99; Queensland 1996-98; Australia 1998.

Allan Langer was simply the heart and soul of the Brisbane Broncos. A master halfback, Langer learnt his trade at a very young age, starting with the often brutal backyard test matches with his brothers and good friends Kevin, Kerrod and Steve Walters who lived nearby in his home town of Ipswich.

Langer's diminutive size never hampered his progress, playing with the Ipswich Jets when he was just 17 years old. Coach Tommy Raudonikis, New South Wales State of Origin coach in 1997-98, had little trouble throwing Langer into the deep end, confident Langer could hold his own.

In 1987, Langer was selected for Queensland in State of Origin, a decision largely criticised due to his lack of size in the toughest arena of all. Coach Wayne Bennett himself was reluctant to use the then 21-year-old and was doubtful of his ability to handle the defence. Senior Origin player Paul Vautin went into bat for him, saying that he's a Queenslander, and when you're in that maroon jersey you're 10-foot tall and bullet proof. Vautin's confidence was justified when Langer was exceptional in the Origin series and stamped himself as pure class.

Later that year he was signed to the newly founded Brisbane Broncos, who were to enter the New South Wales Rugby League competition in 1988. Ironically it was Wayne Bennett who was the initial head coach, and Wally Lewis the inaugural captain who would be in control of the new juggernaut. Any doubts about the acceptance of Langer in the club were squashed early. A popular TV show at the time called Alf whose main character was a diminutive little alien would give Langer a nickname he still has to this day. Langer was given an Alf T-shirt by a team mate and a photo was taken, and ever since, he's been known affectionately as Alf. So accepted is his nickname that on official team photos and even awards ceremonies, he's been listed or introduced as "Alfie Langer".

Langer went from strength to strength in 1988, increasing in confidence alongside Lewis to become one of the dangermen of rugby league. He helped steer Queensland to one of the most controversial victories in State of Origin, after the Lang Park faithful went on the warpath following the sin binning of Wally Lewis. Queensland went on to win the series with Langer a key figure. He was critical in the Broncos' miraculous debut winning streak of 6 games to head the table. Although the Broncos fell to pieces around the representative season, Langer's dominance continued, capped off by selection for Australia.

In 1989 Langer's progress was curtailed by a broken leg suffered in the State of Origin series. It left him out of football for over two months and during that time the Broncos again fell out of premiership contention. They were finally eliminated by Cronulla in a play off for fifth spot. Langer missed the event, much to his disappointment.

In 1990, Canberra's Ricky Stuart emerged as the king of the halfbacks after helping guide the Raiders to a sensational premiership win in 1989 in extra-time over Balmain. He was outstanding, while Langer struggled to get back to his pre-injury form. The Broncos had a far better year, and despite the below best performances of Langer and Lewis, they qualified for the finals in third place. The Broncos struggled in their first real dose of finals football, eventually being bundled out by Canberra a week before the Grand Final after the controversy of the dismissal of Wally Lewis during the week.

Langer had maintained his test spot for the matches against France and New Zealand despite Stuart's great form, that ultimately led to Canberra's second premiership in succession. Langer started at halfback in the first Test against Great Britain at Wembley, but after the Australians were defeated, Langer found himself the scapegoat. Stuart had his chance, and Langer was left to ponder a disappointing season. Stuart played a crucial role as Australia came back to win the Ashes 2-1.

Like all champions do, Langer met his disappointment with determination. His form in 1991 was absolutely outstanding. The extra responsibility with the loss of Wally Lewis suited him to a tea, the Broncos following their 1989 Panasonic Cup win with another that year. He regained his Test spot and was vital in Queensland's regaining of the Origin crown. Sadly the Broncos' club form was well below par and they were bundled out of finals contention.

As is written in rugby league folklore, 1992 was the year of the Bronco. With the retirement of Gene Miles, Langer was appointed club captain and in his first real stint led the Broncos to the final of the Toohey's Preseason challenge. They were defeated by Illawarra in a tryless match, but that would be the only disappointment for the club. With Canberra decimated by financial problems, and defending premiers Penrith's heart ripped out by the death of young Ben Alexander, the Broncos were left to plunder the competition. They led the competition from start to finish, losing just four matches to gain their first minor premiership with a 6-point buffer over second placed St George. Langer had an absolutely outstanding season, receiving the prestigious Rothman's Medal for player of the year.

There was little doubt about the final outcome. After shaking some early jitters in their Major Semi-Final against Illawarra, the Broncos cruised home to make their first Grand Final. Two weeks later Langer put in his best effort of the season to steer Brisbane to a 28-8 Grand Final win over St George. It was Brisbane's first, and the first time the Winfield Cup left New South Wales. Langer capped off a remarkable year with the Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground in the decider.

Langer and a host of team mates were then chosen for the Australians' World Cup final clash with Great Britain at Wembley Stadium the next month. He was crucial, along with Broncos team mates Kevin Walters and Steve Renouf, for getting Australia home and winning the World Cup yet again. A week later, the Broncos had a World Club Challenge match against dominant British champions Wigan. No Australian side had gone to England and won, and many expected the Broncos to follow that trend. They didn't, smashing the cherry pickers in emphatic fashion 22-8 with Langer again proving what an outstanding leader he was becoming.

At the start of the 1993 season, Langer re-signed with the Broncos to a five-year contract. Sealing the future of the great man was of paramount importance to the Broncos in their premiership defence. Signs of a hangover existed with the club losing two of its first three matches, including their debut at new home, ANZ Stadium, against the struggling Parramatta. But they bounced back, again with Langer spearheading their attack to establish themselves solidly in the top 5.

Langer and Walters played together in a Test side for the first time in 1993 with injuries forcing regular five-eighth Laurie Daley to the centres. Australia won the three test series against New Zealand 2-0 despite drawing the first game. Disappointment also for Queensland in the State of Origin, losing successive series for the first time since the concept began in 1980. Langer's form was outstanding all season, but again he was pipped by Ricky Stuart for all the major awards. Stuart netted the Rothman's and Dally M awards, despite missing the final two weeks of the premiership with a frightening leg injury. A last round stuff up against St George relegated the Broncos to fifth spot, meaning they had to win four straight elimination games to defend their title.

Who better to depend on in such high pressure situations than Langer? He was mesmeric in demolishing the Manly defence in a 36-10 romp. Canberra dropped dead with the loss of Stuart and the Broncos ran roughshod over them, Langer's cross field kicking game proving instrumental in the 30-12 win. Again it was Langer who lifted the side when they were down against Canterbury in the preliminary final. With Brisbane trailing 16-10 at half time, Langer scored immediately in the second half to level then potted a field goal to break the dead lock late in the game. The Grand Final, again against St George, proved somewhat of an anti-climax, but the Broncos reigned supreme again with a hard fought 14-6 win.

Langer was the centre of a scare in the lead up to the Grand Final however. On the day before the game, Langer was at the races watching a horse he was a part owner of race. He was rushing to get to a vantage point to see the race when he collected his head on a metal pole, cutting his forehead and leaving him dazed. He recovered in time to play a great steadying hand in the Grand Final.

1994 started in fine fashion for Brisbane. They cruised through to the final of the Toohey's Challenge for the fifth time, but amazingly were pipped by South Sydney in the decider. That started a shocking opening to the premiership that saw them win just one game in the first month of the premiership and leave them languishing near oblivion. They were flat out winning two games in a row for much of the season, and only the most miraculous finish to any State of Origin match lessened the disappointment. With the Maroons down 12-10 with just 40 seconds left, deep in their own half, the most amazing try scoring movement evolved. Langer handled twice in the 11-pass movement which was finished by Mark Coyne in the right corner. Mal Meninga converted and Queensland had won 16-12. That was their only joy however, as Meninga bowed out of State of Origin as the losing captain in a 2-1 series victory to New South Wales.

Brisbane continued to struggle, with frustration reaching boiling point against Newcastle. Referee Greg McCallum sinbinned Langer for dissent as the Knights beat the Broncos for the first time. More disappointment came when Wigan avenged their 1992 loss in the World Club Challenge at ANZ Stadium. A late season revival catapulted the Broncos into fifth spot, narrowly beating out Illawarra for the spot. A first up victory over Manly revived some hope of a 1993 repeat but an illdisciplined, 1994 characteristic performance against North Sydney a week later ended their season. Langer was far from at his best in 1994 and was viewed as lucky to get a spot on the tour of Great Britain.

Sadly for Langer, it was a return to the 1990 nightmare. Although chosen for the first test, Australia faltered to go down 8-4 to Great Britain despite the Brits being down to 12 men for more than half the game after Shaun Edwards was sent off. Langer was again the scapegoat, Ricky Stuart coming back into the side and was outstanding as the Australians again came back to win the series 2-1.

The Broncos vowed to avenge their 1994 disappointment in 1995. They started perfectly, winning their first seven matches in their best start ever. Langer was back to his best. But a 26-0 humiliation against Canberra sent the Broncos on another tumble that saw them lose four matches in five weeks. Also arriving was the Super League raid. Langer was one of the first to sign up and was an outspoken advocate of the new competition. He became a pawn in the power struggle, as did the entire club. As a result, the Broncos floundered midseason.

However, the biggest disappointment for Langer was missing State of Origin, with the ARL limiting Origin selection to ARL-loyal players. Queensland won with a team of nobodies 3-0 in a stunning result. The Broncos bounced back to win their last seven matches and finish third. However, after a close loss to Canberra in their first final in Brisbane, they self destructed against Canterbury to be eliminated. Their cause not helped by an abominable refereeing display by Brisbane referee David Manson. The Bulldogs went on to win a miraculous premiership, beating both Canberra and Manly - who had both lost just twice all season - on their way to victory.

Super League was curtailed in February 1996, and Langer had no qualms about returning to the ARL premiership from Round 2 onwards. He was at his electrifying best all season, resulting in being chosen to captain his state for the first time in Origin 2 after the axing of Trevor Gillmeister. Sadly, Queensland were beaten 3-0 in the series, with the high profile Broncos players accused of overaweing their less fancied teammates. The Broncos again went through a losing streak mid season but again recovered to finish second. Again though they capitulated losing to North Sydney and Cronulla to lose their fifth straight finals match. Langer was rewarded for an outstanding year however, scooping the rewards pool with the exception of the Rothman's Medal.

Super League got the green light in October 1996 and the Broncos started the new era in style. Again they won their first 7 matches, before finally losing to Penrith in round 8. Langer was outstanding throughout every encounter, landing his first Super League test selection in the ANZAC Day test, which Australia won against New Zealand. He then went on to lead Queensland in the innovative Tri-Series against New South Wales and the Kiwis. Queensland made the final but lost in an epic encounter that lasted over 103 minutes. Poor losses to Hunter and Cronulla either side of the first lopsided stint of the farcical World Club Challenge brought the doubters out again, but Langer spurred a revival before the second leg of the challenge. Tragically Langer suffered a severe groin injury in a big win over Wigan which saw him out of the game for the remainder of the regular season. The Broncos went through all six rounds of the challenge undefeated and returned to win their final three regular season games to finish their second minor premiership. Langer returned for the Major Semi-Final against Cronulla and they thrashed them to move into their first Grand Final at home! The Sharks recovered to make the big one, but they were no match for the Broncos. Despite being hampered by the troublesome groin injury, Langer led his side to victory 26-8 for their third premiership in front of almost 60000 home fans.

Langer missed the rematch with New Zealand and the quarter and semi-finals of the World Club Challenge. He returned for the final which the Broncos had little trouble defeating Hunter to clinch their second world title. The injury, however, was aggravated and saw him miss the three test tour of Great Britain. Australia won 2-1, but Langer stayed home to receive groin surgery. The recovery process was long and difficult, but he was available for the Broncos debut in the reunited National Rugby League in 1998.

Brisbane were solid in their first five matches, snatching five victories. Langer slowly regained his top form as the season progressed. However a big loss to Manly on the eve of Test selection saw Langer's hopes of regaining the halfback spot in a reunited Test side were dashed. He vented his fury on North Sydney and Newcastle as the Broncos played arguably their most dominant two weeks of football ever, beating them 60-6 and 26-6 respectively. Shock losses to Sydney City and Cronulla had the side in trouble, but Langer led his State to another last minute win over New South Wales in the opening Origin match. Two days later he led them to a big win over Canterbury only to see two more club losses with a big loss to New South Wales in between. But the Broncos recovered to post huge wins over Penrith and Western Suburbs. He also led Queensland to a State of Origin triumph with a 19-4 thrashing of New South Wales in the decider.

The Broncos finished the remainder of the regular season undefeated, but far from in form. Langer too was struggling for his best football and after a week off granted by the minor premiership, the Broncos were smothered out of the game by Parramatta in their opening finals match. Langer lifted along with his teammates and provided some miracle spark against Melbourne a week later. A chip and regather was just one piece of Langer brilliance as the Broncos resurrected their premiership hopes. A huge win over Sydney City in the preliminary final installed them at near unbackable odds against Canterbury in the Grand Final, and they weren't wrong. Langer was absolutely brilliant as the Broncos came back from a 12-10 half time deficit to win their fourth premiership with a 38-12 Grand Final victory.

Langer's personal achievement of captaining both his club and State to victory was then given an opportunity to be increased. With regular Test leaders Brad Fittler, Laurie Daley and Geoff Toovey out injured, Langer was given the Test captaincy for the first time. Bob Fulton retired as coach and Langer's club coach, confidante and friend of over 10 years Wayne Bennett took over the job. Together they became part of history as the first captain and coach to win a premiership, Origin and Test series in the one year as the Australians dominated their trans tasman cousins with sheer brilliance.

During the year Langer signed a further two year contract to play with the Broncos which appeared to be enough to see out his career in Brisbane.

However, his sudden retirement in April 1999 was a shock to everyone involved in the game. Langer was still playing outstanding football, and had just days earlier played another Test match for Australia against New Zealand. The fire had gone from the belly, and it was with a few tears he bid farewell to the game that he loved. His involvement with the game will continue long into the future as it should.

Langer's retirement sparked unprecedented mourning and tributes from around the country. From the Prime Minister, right down to the kids at ANZ Stadium, everyone paid tribute to the biggest little man Australian sport has ever produced.

Months of soulsearching saw Langer's feet begin to itch. He approached Bennett about a possible return to the Broncos but his mentor was quick to curtail the idea. In the months since Langer retired ridiculous rumours surfaced about the real reasons behind him quitting the game. Bennett feared a return may give, in some minds, credence to those rumours.

Darryl van de Velde, who was coaching Warrington in the English Super League, approached Langer later that year and Alf packed up his family and moved to the Old Dart on a two-year deal with fellow Broncos teammate, Andrew Gee. Langer made an impact for the Wolves, but sadly they missed out on the finals both seasons. Some highly fancied scalps including St Helens, Wigan and Bradford were some of the highlights.

The greatest highlight of all, however, came with the deciding State of Origin of 2001 to be played at ANZ Stadium, the scene of countless Langer triumphs. Wayne Bennett, back in charge of the Maroons after the disasters of a 2000 New South Wales whitewash, was struggling with injuries to key Queenslanders and ever increasing pressure on captain Darren Lockyer.

Rumours abounded that Langer had been seen at London's Heathrow Airport the Friday before the sides were to be announced, all were greeted with uncontrolled laughter from the Sydney media. Sure enough, that Sunday evening, Langer was named in the number 7.

The media went into instant frenzy, questions raised about whether Langer's 35-year-old body could handle the strain of an Origin decider, whether two years in England would have diminished his abilities. Afterall, it had been more than two years since Langer had competed in the NRL, widely regarded as the toughest club competition in the world.

But in front of a crowd of almost 50000, Langer did what he does best. Proving critics wrong. He inspired his teammates, laying on three first half tries and scoring one himself in the second half as the Maroons clinched an unlikely series victory with a 40-14 caning of the Blues. It was one of Alf's proudest moments in football, standing side by side his long-time coach, Wayne Bennett in front of an adoring crowd.

Langer returned to Warrington but with a chronic ankle injury causing problems he was advised to quit. He did, returning to Brisbane with Gee.

Late in 2001 rumours again began surfacing that Langer was considering yet another comeback, this time with his beloved Brisbane Broncos. After a February training camp in Fiji, Langer confirmed he would be donning the Broncos' number 7 jersey once more to help Bennett deal with a crippling injury crisis in the halves.

Langer returned to Dairy Farmers Stadium for his first hit-out in his comeback, the venue where he finally decided to retire three years earlier. It was a very different Langer who was given a rest with 15 minutes remaining, his side well and truly in control and on its way to a 42-6 victory to kick off its premiership campaign. Langer himself played strongly, engineering four of Brisbane's eight tries.

His form maintained throughout the early rounds of the Telstra Premiership and a points decision over Newcastle's Andrew Johns in the Broncos' inspirational 18-12 win over the defending premiers convinced Langer to take to the field in State of Origin football once more.

After a disatrous first game in which Langer battled illness and injury, he bounced back to his best as Queensland ground out a thrilling 26-18 win at ANZ Stadium to level the series. Three weeks later he returned to the scene of the opening game carnage and despite some decisions and the bounce of the ball going against the Maroons, Queensland snatched a last gasp 18-all draw to level the series and retain the title they earnt in 2001.

With the State of Origin hangover behind them, the Broncos headed towards the finals with a powerhouse 26-6 win over nemeses Parramatta, Langer playing a pivotal role. Tragically however, he suffered a Bennett's Fracture to his left thumb, an injury that required surgery and typically rules players out for at least 6 weeks. Watching helplessly from the sidelines as his teammates suffered a three-match losing streak that threatened their position in the top four, Langer had the pins removed from his thumb just four days before the Broncos returned to form with victory over Canberra, putting them back in the box seat for a top 2 finish, a home semi-final and a guaranteed second chance.

It is no coincidence that Langer's return snapped Brisbane out of its form slump. Sadly his fairytale did not come true.  The Sydney Roosters eliminated the Broncos in the preliminary final of 2002 16-12. 

Langer's demise will only be on the field.  Off it, and amongst the legions of fans for this great club, he will live on forever.  He is the heart. The soul. The champion. Alf.

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