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SMITHY: Broncos looking red hot for the title but watch out for the Chooks

Brian Smith Columnist

By Brian Smith, Brian Smith is a Roar Expert

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    If ever a team has made it to the top of the comp at this time of the season as easily as the Broncos have, I can’t remember when.

    After a dodgy season opener at home, they have been a model of consistency. Consistency is what sticks out for the Broncs (consistently playing Friday night footy must get boring for Queensland viewers if they aren’t Broncs fans, but I digress).

    Consistently they have had the core of their squad fit and available for selection.

    And consistently winning with a strong defence spiced up by Ben Hunt at 7 and Andrew McCullough at 9. Star imports for season 2015, Adam Blair, Anthony Milford and fullback Darius Boyd just top things off.

    Even the refs seem to have been consistent when reading their matches. Have the Broncs had any controversial game-deciding issue this season? Seems like the Sharks have had one every week!

    Brisbane have got to be a shot at winning it all. Only a really class outfit in premium form will stop them, because they won’t beat themselves.

    North Queensland are looking next best – in the consistency stakes at least. Breaking the hoodoo of away wins is now a regular occurrence – not that they will need to worry about that. Even when the playoffs come round, if they can maintain their spot on the ladder they will play all but the grand final at home.

    They have been near this position before, so they will be wary. But have they ever looked this confident and complete? I don’t think so. I reckon they are specials for a grand final position.

    Warriors are closer to the mark than recent seasons. But are they capable of meeting and beating the really top teams? At home maybe but can they win enough matches to finish in the top four

    They would need to improve and develop under the pressure of these coming weeks. One team almost always does get a roll on at this time of year. Last weekend’s loss to the Roosters might have killed the momentum for the Kiwi outfit.

    South Sydney have been there and done that, so this season is not untrodden turf. Can they find that awesome power and competitiveness again without Sam Burgess and Ben Te’o?

    The injury toll has robbed them of rhythm and balance for too long this season. Remember their stellar start when Channel Nine commentators were telling us the Rabbits had forgotten how to lose? A season undefeated might have been mentioned.

    But that all seems a very long time ago. They are a team with a limp at present. It’s tough to shake it at this time of year, but having Greg Inglis and Isaac Luke means it’s still a chance of happening.

    The Storm fall in the same sort of category as the Rabbits this time round. With Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith they can’t be written off, and with Jesse Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi really firing they have some serious grunt up front with quick play the balls to project from.

    The hair twins in the second row make Melbourne more of a team threat than the past couple of seasons. But could they really go that far without Billy Slater?

    The Bulldogs have been very patchy this season and it still appears that coach Des Hasler is trying to find the best combos and style to create something like the powerful unit of the past season or two.

    Those halves will be difficult to sort as Moses Mbye is now a real contender after some tremendous performances. It’s a good thing but sorting out that driving force up front might be more of an issue.

    If James Graham gets back in the groove they are the best chance of a damaging run from the middle of the pack.

    They need some coaching help and have the man to do that, so they can’t be written off at all.

    The Sharks? How are they even in this spot? They have been bowled over and gotten up so many times this season, surely they can’t keep doing it.

    Andrew Fifita is the key man for them, with those marauding runs for a few minutes of mayhem. If he gets the ball when he wants it and the Sharks need it they could shock some more before the season is over, but a grand final win would be too much for them.

    Those outside backs they signed this season have offered some more attacking threat, but they also have some defensive issues not likely to be coached out of them this season at least. They are under extreme pressure of the top end opponents I think they will fall short.

    The rest are not up to it in 2015, but might offer nuisance value. They may cost a couple of the top eight a better position in those playoffs with a shock result or two.

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot the red-hot favourites: Sydney Roosters.

    Not the model of consistency of the Broncs or Cows, nor of themselves from season 2013, the Roosters still have the best roster and if they are prepared well then they are also best equipped to win it all again.

    With very few injuries to key players again this season, they are building their momentum well. Those rookie forwards have rekindled the fireworks up front, which lays a great platform for the sparkling backs.

    If they reach their peak in those playoffs and on grand final day I reckon they are specials.

    It’s a long way from the winning post and there are many surprises in store ahead of us in the 2015 NRL season, but that’s how I see things through the plastic ball so far.

    Brian Smith
    Brian Smith

    Brian Smith is a former player with St. George and South Sydney and first grade coach at Illawarra, St. George Dragons, Bradford Bulls, Parramatta, the Knights and the Roosters. He has taken teams to the NRL Grand Final on four occasions. He is a weekly columnist on The Roar, but to read more of his writing on rugby league, check out his website, Smithy Speaks.

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • July 23rd 2015 @ 8:22am
      Semi Radrunrun said | July 23rd 2015 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      The warriors ball control last week and the service from dummy half cost them.
      So this was a game where the warriors did everything wrong and the roosters took full advantage. They seem to get frustrated with the roosters rushing up on them.
      Im am eel but more importantly a fan of entertaining Rugby League and not that boring “block play structure” that is in vogue right now, so im hoping the warriors learn from this last game

    • July 23rd 2015 @ 8:32am
      nerval said | July 23rd 2015 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      The Warriors’ forwards were overwhelmed by their Roosters’ counterparts. The latter were absolutely monstrous. A lot of the most intimidating and skilful forwards in the NRL are eligible to play for NZ, but not enough of them alas play for the Warriors. I think they’ll need more than Isaac Luke to bolster their forward pack for next year.

      A Jesse Bromwich or Martin Taupau wouldn’t come amiss.

      • July 23rd 2015 @ 4:54pm
        Casper said | July 23rd 2015 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

        Nerval mate, that’s like saying all the Queenslanders should play for the broncs or cowboys. Recruiting doesn’t work like that unfortunately for our teams north of the border. There’s supposed to be a salary cap in place and the Warriors just paid a motza for RTS and Isaac Luke for next season. I thought the warriors became impatient when it was 0-0 after 23 minutes and went away from what I assume was the plan. Then they never recovered because they have a few inexperienced guys in the team. Take Sean Johnson out of that backline and you’d have to say it lacks skill and experience. Their biggest problem seems to be the forwards fitness and discipline in getting back in the line and at marker.

        Don’t think the Roosters have that imposing a pack, a couple of big units with 4 or 5 really hard workers. Halves still have a question mark over them but they should be in the mix but can they win a premiership without Friend?

    • July 23rd 2015 @ 10:13am
      Tom K said | July 23rd 2015 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      Solid article Smithy. However, the Chooks will go close, but wont be allowed to win it. It will be a similar scenario to 2010 – 2014, whereby teams share the premiership around. This year its the Cowboys, next year the Broncos. All Qld grand final is my tip, the NRL cant knock back $50 million in revenue? Also, how can Thurston be named an immortal with no premiership outside of a petty bench warming deed in 2004? Get on the Cows in 2015, just like South’s in 2014 and Chooks in 2013. Its just how big business works…now the NRL must find a way to cure Parra, if only…what revenue!

      • Roar Rookie

        July 23rd 2015 @ 10:25am
        William Dalton Davis said | July 23rd 2015 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        The NRL don’t get the 50 mil? It goes to the NSW (more accurately the sydney) economy. Unless maybe the NRL have recently purchased all the hotels, taxis, and bars around town.

        Maybe try taking off that tin foil cap.

        • July 23rd 2015 @ 10:39am
          Tom K said | July 23rd 2015 @ 10:39am | ! Report

          Maybe not directly to the NRL, but indirectly. Lets simplify things for you. What ratings figures would be posted in QLD? What would Ch 9 charge for advertising during this g/f? Would Gyngell be happy? Of course he would be dancing. The NSW economy as you mention would receive a massive boost. The NRL would be viewed as not so Sydney centric, with massive exposure Aust wide with this g/f. The NRL LOST @ $20mill when the Broncos missed the 8, so what’s a Cows vs Broncs g/f worth? The mind boggles. William, sometimes the best teams on paper,or during the year, heck even on the day/night itself, don’t actually win the grand final. There are always ways to make things happen…believe me..

          • Roar Rookie

            July 23rd 2015 @ 11:20am
            William Dalton Davis said | July 23rd 2015 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            It won’t make the NRL look less sydney centric. Gyngell won’t be happy his beloved roosters aren’t in the GF. The NSW economy doesn’t directly pay the NRL 50 million (and 50 mil really isn’t that much), an all QLD GF would probably result in huge QLD ratings while possibly suffering a fairly hefty decrease in viewers from nsw. I can’t see Melbourne increasing in viewers for any reason except a possible growth in interest due to the SOO. The NRL may have lost 20 mil from brisbane not being in the finals because brisbane are a huge RL market… That didn’t have a team in the finals.

            You’re posting facts about how big it may be but you aren’t actually telling anyone how it’s rigged for an all QLD final…

            • Roar Guru

              July 23rd 2015 @ 11:35am
              Jay C said | July 23rd 2015 @ 11:35am | ! Report

              He is just parotting Dean Ritchie

              If you legitimately believe for 1 second that RL is rigged and you still watch it then you are as dumb as a coatrack

              • Roar Guru

                July 23rd 2015 @ 1:41pm
                Con Scortis said | July 23rd 2015 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

                Tom K is proof that cousins shouldn’t marry

    • July 23rd 2015 @ 10:24am
      Jara W said | July 23rd 2015 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      Even when giving the Broncos a wrap there is always that subtle whisper of animosity. Still burns doesn’t it.

      • July 23rd 2015 @ 12:33pm
        Bomb78 said | July 23rd 2015 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

        The sound it makes while it burns is “St George can”t play, St George can’t play… “

    • Roar Guru

      July 23rd 2015 @ 10:35am
      Jay C said | July 23rd 2015 @ 10:35am | ! Report

      I would least like to play the Roosters do i think that makes them faves.

      They definitely have the best roster. Can Robinson coach.? We will have to see

      • July 23rd 2015 @ 4:18pm
        ChrisinMonaco said | July 23rd 2015 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

        Can Robinson coach ???……… errrrrrrrrrrrrr….

    • July 23rd 2015 @ 11:09am
      Brian said | July 23rd 2015 @ 11:09am | ! Report

      Of course the Roosters’ squad is mentioned as their key strength, but you’d have to be a “fool” to question the length of their cap. It’s not a good thing for RL in this country if a team that averages 10k in attendences after winning a premiership is allowed to dominate on the back of strong corporate ‘support’.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 23rd 2015 @ 12:07pm
        Scottyvee1986 said | July 23rd 2015 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

        Actually we average over 15,000, 7th in the league. A little bit of research helps 😉

        • July 23rd 2015 @ 7:05pm
          Semi Radrunrun said | July 23rd 2015 @ 7:05pm | ! Report

          I also did some research.
          Last year, as premiers, they finished 9th in crowd figures with a total just over 169000. Brisbane came in first with over 400,000.
          What you need to realise is the true fans of Rugby League at the moment are the Eels. Even with all the dramas and wooden spoons they were ranked 3rd last year with the 2014 premiers The Rabbitohs coming in 2 nd.

          • July 23rd 2015 @ 7:40pm
            Muzz said | July 23rd 2015 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

            How are the Eels crowd figures tracking this season, Semi?

            • July 23rd 2015 @ 11:12pm
              Semi Radrunrun said | July 23rd 2015 @ 11:12pm | ! Report

              Ok. The crowds are down compared to last year but its like this accross the NRL.

              Comparing the Roosters and Eels up until rd 18 thanks to

              The crowd & TV numbers for the Eels are:
              Total Home Crowd: 127 441
              Avg Home Crowd (8 games):15 930
              Total Away Crowd: 150 181
              Avg Away Crowd (8 games): 18772
              Total TV: 8 334 000
              Avg TV (15 games) : 555 600

              The crowd & TV numbers for the Roosters are:
              Total Home Crowd: 102 631
              Avg Home Crowd (7 games): 14 661
              Total Away Crowd: 163 051
              Avg Away Crowd: 18 116
              Total TV: 7 763 000
              Avg TV (15 games): 517 500

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