Wayne Bennett has stuffed Brisbane for 2018

Cam Stokes Roar Pro

By Cam Stokes, Cam Stokes is a Roar Pro

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    Wayne Bennett’s refusal to admit that he has bungled the Broncos’ recruitment efforts over the summer has effectively written off the powerhouse club’s 2018 season.

    The arrival of the (injured) Jack Bird and his former teammate Sam Tagataese has done nothing to resolve the biggest issue facing Brisbane, which is a lack of direction from the halves.

    The absence of any effort to recruit a quality number seven to partner Anthony Milford in the halves has been staggering.

    From the moment Ben Hunt announced he was leaving for St George Illawarra, finding a replacement should have been the Broncos’ number one priority. Instead, Bennett has sat on his hands, refusing to expose any talented youngsters to the big time, or publicly chase any number of off-contract stars.

    One can only assume that he thought he had Titan Ash Taylor in the bag, despite the fact he could only return to Brisbane in 2019. When Taylor recommitted to the Gold Coast, Bennett was left as the last coach standing without a chair, with almost every other quality halfback locked away.

    That’s right, almost.

    In an extraordinary turn of events, Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce came onto the open market at exactly the time Bennett needed him. Granted, Pearce is not a popular figure north of the border, and any potential recruitment would have had some fans shaking their heads. However, this is a premiership-winning, representative halfback, who could have proved the perfect foil for the more unpredictable Milford.

    Mitchell Pearce Sydney Roosters NRL Rugby League Finals 2017

    Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

    Instead, Bennett took a swipe at Pearce, stating that he wasn’t the right cultural fit for the club, despite heavily relying on the likes of James Roberts and Matt Lodge for next year, both of whom have arguably worse off-field form than Pearce.

    The coach’s argument that he didn’t want that sort of person in a position of leadership at the club doesn’t hold water, as culture is culture, no matter what number you have on your back.

    The issue with putting his faith in Kodi Nikorima as his halfback has nothing to do with talent. Clearly the young Kiwi has ability, but his style and strengths are so similar to Milford’s that it leaves a significant hole in Brisbane’s arsenal.

    Neither of the pair are completely comfortable running a team, and neither has a prodigious boot. Just where the Broncos’ long kicking game will come from, outside of Andrew McCullough working out of dummy half, isn’t clear.

    This role of steering the team and providing the kicking game would have perfectly suited Pearce, or a number of the other off-contract 7s who appeared an option at different times during the year. But Bennett wasn’t interested, and now he is left with a pair of halves that will be dangerous in open play, but perhaps unable to get their team into the grind as is so often required.

    This cannot be compared to 2006, as is oft-quoted by pundits who argue that you don’t need a superstar halfback to win a premiership. Shane Perry, who wore 7 for Brisbane that year, had a couple of things in his favour, most notably a bloke by the name of Darren Lockyer outside him, who could shift his game between team general and running or passing threat at will.

    Perry was given a specific set of duties to carry out, and he did those well, allowing Lockyer to float when he needed to or run the team when required. Can Milford or Nikorima perform similar roles? Perhaps, in time, but probably not this year.

    The Broncos still have a talented roster, and will win their share of games in 2018, but they just won’t have the key skills in the important positions to win the big ones down the stretch.

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • January 6th 2018 @ 4:32am
      Jeff dustby said | January 6th 2018 @ 4:32am | ! Report

      My heart bleeds for them

    • January 6th 2018 @ 4:33am
      Jeff dustby said | January 6th 2018 @ 4:33am | ! Report

      I doubt that they could have come close to the Knights offer for Pearce

      • January 6th 2018 @ 11:17am
        Glenn said | January 6th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

        They didn’t have to match Knight’s offer, players play for Broncos for unders don’t you know. Yeh sure!

        Cam I agree with your assessment, their halves will be their Achilles Heal, they are running halves not organisers. Same with Bird if moved to halves he is not an organiser which is left to their fullback.

    • January 6th 2018 @ 7:09am
      Ben said | January 6th 2018 @ 7:09am | ! Report

      I think everyone writing off the Broncos will be quite surprised come seasons end. Milf and Kodi will be much better this year with Ben Hunt gone. Sure their long kicking game has been a weakness but with one of the best long kickers the game has seen in Lockyer still at the club and Kevi back running the attack, you would hope they have spent an off season working on exactly that. Everyone seems to forget just how well that combo went while players were out injured last season. Matt Lodge will be a huge success, you will also see a huge season from Sims this year in a leadership role. If the spine stays healthy, the back line is more dangerous with Bird at centre and some young forwards now more experienced, they will have a good year. Losing Blair and Hunt leaving the club is a huge blessing.

    • January 6th 2018 @ 7:12am
      Taree Raider said | January 6th 2018 @ 7:12am | ! Report

      What an unfortunate set of circumstances for the only team in Brisbane & the southern 2/3rds of Queensland, its a shame that they should have to resort to buying a quality half back rather than make one. Surely there was more than Ben Hunt, Ash Taylor or Cody Croft coming through. Could Wayne ever coach?
      I think anyone could have coached the Raiders when he was there, the Bronco’s have always had a fair roster, St George were well on their way when he got there. What about the one team that Wayne took on that didn’t have a roster of stars. The Knights. What happened to them under Wayne?
      NOTHING. So he went back to what he knew best, the Bronco’s. Good luck with that.

      • January 6th 2018 @ 8:26am
        Greg said | January 6th 2018 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        Bennett took the Knights to the Top 4 and one game short of the Grand Final

        • January 8th 2018 @ 7:53am
          Beastie said | January 8th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

          He took them to 7th actually.

      • Roar Guru

        January 6th 2018 @ 11:29am
        Nat said | January 6th 2018 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        In 07, St George boasted Soward, Hornby, Gaznier, Cooper, Morris Bros, Nightingale, Creagh, Ryles, Beau Scott just to name the rep players and didn’t even make the finals. In 08 they finish 7th and smashed wk 1 of the finals. 09, under Bennett, Minor Premiers and Premiers in 2010. He took Newcastle to Prelim final in 13. In 2014, the Broncos make the 8 on for/against and go out in wk 1. Under Bennett in 2015, Grand Finalists.

        • January 6th 2018 @ 12:32pm
          Charles NSW said | January 6th 2018 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

          I agree with Taree Raider!
          Brown did have a team capable of winning the finals but the one thing he lacked was maturity as a coach.
          It was very easy for any coach with credentials to walk in and get them over the final hurdle which Bennett did.

          • Roar Guru

            January 9th 2018 @ 9:44am
            The Barry said | January 9th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            It wasn’t just Brown though.

            The Dragons had good teams and good coaches pretty much all the way through from their last win in 79.

            Mid-80s – lost the 85 GF
            Early-mid 90s – lost in 92, 93, 96
            Late 90s – lost in 99

            They had a gun side most of the way through the 2000s, especially 2005.

            There was a long history of good teams and good coaches being not quite good enough until Bennett won it in his second season at the club.

            I think Dragon fans owe him a bit more for their first premiership in 31 years than “anyone could have won it”

        • January 6th 2018 @ 5:51pm
          Jacko said | January 6th 2018 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

          So Brown failed to get the win and Bennet managed to get the title yet you dont want Bennet to get any credit for this?????

          Looks clearly like one coach succedded where another one failed

        • Roar Guru

          January 8th 2018 @ 10:56pm
          The Barry said | January 8th 2018 @ 10:56pm | ! Report

          Spot on Nat

          It’s become a trend to bag Bennett.

          “Anyone could have coached Bennett’s teams to success”. But they didn’t. Before or after his tenures.

          Won 6 premierships at the Broncs (incl SL). He leaves and success dries up, they start missing the semis. His first season back and he immediately gets them into a grand final.

          The Dragons were an under performing rabble before he got there. Within a season they’d won a minor premiership, within two seasons their first premiership since 1979. After he left they were just a rabble.

          In 2013 the Knights knocked off both of the previous seasons grand finalists in the semi finals and got within a game of the grand final. Massive over achievement when you look at the cattle.

          Wins a World Cup with NZ as Steve Kearney’s assistant. Gets England to within 6 points of a World Cup this year. Again, both massive over achievements.

          His record is outstanding. It amazes me how short people’s memories are and how quick they are to put the boot in.

    • Roar Guru

      January 6th 2018 @ 7:56am
      Walter Penninger said | January 6th 2018 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Do not be surprised if Bennett has some tricks up his sleeve so far as halfback is concerned.

      Bennett also knows that you cannot just take a champion halfback and put him into a team and expect the team to know exactly what the halfback is about to do and support that move.

      Whether and how long it takes Ben Hunt to work out for the Dragons and Pearce for the Knights remains to be seen.

      • January 6th 2018 @ 10:11am
        Wascally Wabbit said | January 6th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Bennett has one trick up his sleeve – he’s bringing his trusty lieutenant Alfie Langer out of retirement.

    • January 6th 2018 @ 9:33am
      elvis said | January 6th 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      You can teach someone to run a team, you can’t coach the ability to score a try from nothing 5m out against set defence.

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