The Definition of Irony

October 6, 2018
Dean Clifford

How do I define irony.

It’s funny. I’ve been associated with the Brisbane Broncos since the very beginning.

Some people only know me as the Broncos mascot or good luck charm.

As a 9yr old I was critically ill. The Broncos heard about me. Heard about my love for the team and my passion for Rugby League (through a very important person who shall remain nameless).
Initially my family and I were invited down to the club on a one off special invitation to meet the team. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. Watching the team train and meeting the players and getting shown all around the original facilities.
I loved it.

We were lucky enough to meet John Ribot who at the time was one of the big bosses at the club. We meet everyone actually. But John and a few of the managers took a particular interest in me. So much so that they all gave Mum and Dad their cards and told them to keep in touch with how I was progressing. 

I don’t really remember how things unfolded but we as a family began to get invited to a few games every now and then. A few games whenever we were in Brisbane to see doctors and specialists quickly lead to being invited to every game. By the time the 1990’s rolled around I had a standing invitation to every match. Every training session. whatever I could make it to Brisbane for. The 1992 Grand Final rolled around and I was in Sydney having medical tests and check ups however I was given day passes from hospital for the 1992 Grand Final Breakfast which back then was a very special corporate event for all the VIP’s and media to talk to both teams in the Grand Final. Mum and my relatives took me in and you could tell all the players were thrilled to see me at the end of the Breakfast. The club made sure I had 4 tickets to the Grand Final for my family and I to attend the Broncos 1st Grand Final. it was a brilliant day. I can still feel the atmosphere and the adrenaline and excitement of being at my 1st Grand Final.

By the time the ’93 grand final rolled around I was not expecting to attend that Grand Final. I had my magic moment in 1992. But the story I remember is the phone ringing at my house on the Thursday before the Grand Final. It was one of the managers. Apparently all the players (being lead by a couple in particular) had heard that I was not going to be at the game and were insisting on me being there. It was said that some were refusing to play if I was not going to be there because I was their good luck charm. So the question was asked how they could get me to the game. The players all chipped in to pay for my airfares and tickets and so on the morning of the 1993 Grand Final I flew down to Sydney by myself with the families and extended supporting staff.
A severally disabled very sick 11 or 12yr old flying down to Sydney by myself for the very first time on my own to meet up with my relatives in Sydney and then make my way to the Grand Final. We all know how that game turned out. It still is the last time 1 team has had back to back grand final victories. Wow what a brilliant day. Any Bronco fan alive back then will remember that amazing game. For me I don’t remember the game as much as I remember how special I felt that the  entire team insisted I be there. And after the game how my favourite player Andrew Gee made sure I was looked after after the game. So much so that GeeGee wheeled me around in my wheelchair afterwards and made sure my relatives new that he was looking after me and going to make sure I stayed with him and the team on the bus back to the airport and on the plane trip home. I was actually seated on the flight back with the team right at the front. I had the front left hand window seat. And the Winfield Cup was sat in the seat right beside me to look after on the flight back to Brisbane. I remember landing in Brisbane and the airport had all the fire trucks out on the runway to spray water all over the plane as a guard of honour. It was amazing. GG and a few of the staff came up to my seat to tell me that there were about 10 to 15 thousand people at the airport waiting for us all to get off the plane and so for my safety they wanted me to wait until everyone got off the plane so I didn’t get bumped or hurt. I think Mum and Dad were very worried about how I would get off the plane given all the people that had turned up. But I was completely safe. 

Jump ahead a few years and my family and I were driving the 5hr round trip from Kingaroy for every home game and any and every event that I was getting invited to at the Broncos.

Management changed when SuperLeague began but there was almost an unspoken rule that I was very much apart of the club. It didn’t matter who left the club or who came to the Club. I continued to be invited to every game and every little event that the club may be involved in. 

During the Super League war my family and I went to the grand final parade.. Some of the players spotted me and were throwing hats and stuff over to me. Others were waving for me to come and get in the back of the cars to ride along with them. But I had just come out of a very serious operation which meant I couldn’t jump out of my wheelchair and jump on the back of the cars. Then we made our way up to the city centre for the official teams greeting. We were told to make our way around the back so we could see better and who should spot us in the crowd by the old Broncos boss John Ribot. John had left the club a few years earlier to take up a senior role with Super League. None of us (my family or I) had seen or heard from him for years However when John spotted us he came straight over to say hi to Mum, Dad and myself. Remembering all of us by name. John quickly said, “Are you all coming to the Grand Final? Has the Broncos made sure you all have tickets”.

John and his family actually sit behind me at a lot of home games and is still always very friendly and interested in how I and my family are going. Similar story to all the above happened again in 1998 and 2000 for the both Grand Finals. with the players and club making certain I was going to be at both of our Grand Finals.

For 20+ years all through the early 2000’s going through all the different managers and CEO’s and Broncos hierarchy and even all the players roster the only thing that really stayed the same is I was always apart of the club. Myself and 2 or 3 others who have had paid rolls within the club were or are pretty much the only consistent things that have remained at the club.

As I grew up my connection with the club seemed to only strengthen. I was invited to aftermath functions. I’d go out partying with players to nightclubs. You name it. I was no longer just driving down to Brisbane (5hr round trip) for games. I was coming down mid week for sponsors golf days. Staying all weekend for after match parties. Players only special signing days. Even staff end of year Christmas parties. 

There were one or two unsavoury things that occurred back in the mid 2000’s. There was a brief period where I no longer allowed or given the privileged access that I had previously been given. But as soon as a few ex players and coaching staff found out that a certain manager had stopped me from attending this or that or I was no longer allowed access to wherever, Wayne or someone quickly pulled them inline and spoke to them and made sure it was clear that I was an exception to the rule. Some players even pulled me aside quietly and told me to careful around this person or someone in particular because they “had their noses out of joint” because you are apart of the club and they are jealous or whatever the case may be. And there were one or two players over the years who kinda did not like me being so closely linked to the club or just didn’t like me but for 99.9% of the time things were great and I felt so lucky and special to be considered just a part of the club. I was referred to as a foundation of the club.

I said at the start of all this. How do I define Irony?

Well the reason I called this post Definition of Irony it’s because to me the Definition of Iron is being such a close knit part of the Broncos while I lived 2and a half hours drive away. and being invited to season launches., End of Season presentations and Dinners and Golf Days (even though I could not even play golf and just had to sit back chatting and hanging out with any of the injured players), you name it I was invited to it all requiring me to drive the 5hr round trip or stay in hotels and apartments overnight only to then move 20mins away from the club and find that the club now no longer really cares or wants me to be apart of it anymore.

Maybe my time and my association with the Broncos just ran it’s own race. Maybe it was naturally just going to wind down and fizzle out to nothing. Then in 2005 was I made the offical club Ambassador a role which was created specifically for me to make sure I never stopped being an automatic inclusion to everything that was happening within my club. 

Another slight warning sign that something had changed within the club occurred in 2006 for the Grand Final. The club forgot about me and I was going to try and organise my own tickets last minute when my old mate Webby heard that the club had forgotten about me and stepped in last minute to make sure I was at the game.

By the time the 2015 Grand Final rolled around I was completely forgotten about. Which was fine because I was now working and more then happy to pay my own way down to the Grand Final.

Wayne told me I would be looked after and not to worry about a thing.

Except Wayne forgot to pass on to the management that I had to be there or that I was to be included in the preparations. I managed to pay my own way and got the very last spot on the supporters plane that was organised though. Which was fine because I now make my own money and am very successful as a Motivational Speaker.

But by then it was very clear that things were not how they use to be and I was definitely on the outer at the club.

Things have progressively gotten a lot worse. Where I once use to be allowed to just walk in and train with the team and do weights and hang out with the guys now I am no longer allowed. The management and people in charge have put rules in place to stop me and the other few people who have always been welcomed at the club from coming down anymore. We are welcome to come down to the club and sit in the general public area and watch training but we now are no longer to just walk in and hang out like we use to.

The Broncos have gone from a small loyal family club to a billion dollar business that is sad rapidly loosing sight of what use to be important. It’s kind of a reflection on society I guess.

Still I can’t help but feel sad for My Club.

Gone are the days where someone would give me or my family a call if I hadn’t been down to the club in a week or so to check why or see how I was going. Gone are the days when I was just an automatic inclusion at any or every event. 

Like I said. it’s just a sign of the times I guess. People are to busy or to focused on whats important. Granted it’s not what I consider important but it’s what most seem to value these days more then the good old days.

Maybe I just stopped being the feel good story to help a sick kid out.

Instead I became the Motivational Speaker that inspires people all around the world. 

Where it was once all the players who inspired and motivated me to keep fighting to stay alive and healthy for one more week to get to the next game.

Then it turned complete 180degrees on it’s head to be me inspiring the players to stay humble and be the best versions of themselves that they could be. Or me inspiring the players in the gym by out performing world class professional athletes. 

Or maybe where players and people would take the time to have a chat to me and get to know me, Maybe people just stopped bothering to take the time to have a chat to the guy that would turn up at every event and so things just drifted and died a slow and natural death.

Now days it’s fizzled out to basically nothing.

Where as I use to get invited to the Season Launches and End of Season presentation nights. These days I do not.

Where i use to be invited to special players only event. Not anymore.

Where I use to be allowed to walk into the dressing room and work out or watch training or pretty much do whatever I wanted. Now that is all off limits.

Where I use to be given Dressing room passes to get in and hear what Wayne thought of the game or hang out with the guys now days thats’ all off limits.

Where I use to be sent a parcel full of the latest team gear or a special jersey to wear or whatever the case may be. Now like everyone else I purchase all my team gear at the various merchandise shops.
Which is fine because after all I now work as a Motivational Speaker and can afford to play my own way like I said before.

I’m still lucky enough to be given special season tickets. Although for a few years now I have expected my tickets to just be taken away from me without reason or explanation. 

As things have progressively gotten worse down at the Broncos I’ve tried reaching out to a few of the various senior people in charge all who have assured me that I am very much apart of the club and not to worry. “It would all be rectified”, only to learn sometimes people talk up a big game but fail to deliver or follow through with their actions.

Other times, well it’s just easier to blame others or blame corporations in charge for changing rules and protocols rather then actually stepping in and sticking up for what is right.

The Broncos will always be MY CLUB. Despite the disappointment of no longer really being linked to the club at all.Yes I still have them on my website as being supporters of mine and yes I still am apparently on their books as the only official club ambassador. But it’s now more of a token thing then a genuine role. 

Instead I watch from the grandstands and from afar these days. At times disappointed by the football business I see before me. But still passionate and hopefully to see glimpses of what made the Broncos the envy of the Rugby League World.

1 Comment. Leave new

Diagnosed with a condition that is permanent, finds success in his life. Shares a fountain of knowledge. Strong, Passionate, Motivated?! Hmm.. Brother im beside you Forever. i have submitted my email and im hoping that i might be able to have something answered. if you are too busy to reply then do not worry about me. thank you my friend and i hope you are doing well.

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