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.

    The New South Wales State of Origin team for the 2018 series remains a mystery, with new coach Brad Fittler facing plenty of selection headaches. So we want you to tell us - and all your mates - who should start for Blues in Game 1 with our team picker.

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • January 6th 2018 @ 9:39am
      Big Daddy said | January 6th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      It’s good to have supporters like you at the club.
      It’s very obvious you don’t like Bennett.

    • January 6th 2018 @ 9:48am
      Birdy said | January 6th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      Kodi will step up.
      Can’t see Bennett making a fatal error like that this late in his career

    • Roar Guru

      January 6th 2018 @ 9:59am
      Nat said | January 6th 2018 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      Well I suppose a top 4 finish is disappointing to hardened Brisbane supporters but to the rest of the NRL community they would take that everyday. Is Kodi as good as Pearce – no. Is Pearce worth $1m a season – hahahaha. I’l take the 23yo NZ half who won more games with Milford last year then Hunt/Milford did. No recruiting? Along with Sma Scralett and Todd Murphy the Broncos recruited Troy Dargan, Aust Schoolboy and 2nd only to Nathan Cleary in his age group. This young fella knocked back many offers to come to the Broncos. But I guess they should have shelled out $1m to satisfy the authors desire for a premiership.

      • January 7th 2018 @ 1:33pm
        Jimmmy said | January 7th 2018 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

        Hi Nat, the Broncs were smart to avoid Pearce. He couldn’t organise a drinking sssion at that place next to Suncorp.
        Do I think the Broncs have the team to take it out in 18? No I don’t . But they are a real top four chance and will win many more than they lose. What more could a fan want?

    • Roar Guru

      January 6th 2018 @ 10:15am
      Emcie said | January 6th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      I think you might be overestimating Hunts importance in regards to steering to team. Not saying that he’s a bad player, but losing McCollough or Boyd has a much larger impact on the teams overall structure then losing either half ever has. McCollough does much of the actual steering of the team with the halves looking more to exploit overlaps or offloads generated by the forwards rather then direct the play themselves.

      Just look at the six weeks Hunt was injured compared to how the team reacted to McColoughs injury. With Hunts injury Nikorima essencially slotted directly into the same role Hunt filled and the broncos ended up undefeated for the 6 weeks he was out, while McCollough’s injury resulted in a drastic shift to an all out attacking gameplan which focused on keeping the ball live at all costs to counter the loss of McColloughs direction on the field.

      As far as your long kicking game arguement goes, Hunt wasn’t exactly renowned for his kicking game with McCollough again taking much of the responsibility in that regard. In fact, at one point last season Hunt was dropped to Q-Cup because he wasn’t running the ball enough. Even in the games where Benji came in and played a much more traditional halfback role with his long kicking game and set-up plays the team as a whole was much less dynamic then they were with the halves chiming in as they saw fit and wearing opposition teams down their running game.

      Overall I’m glad Bennett chose to focus his recruitment on getting some depth in the forwards and a quallity centre, both areas that have been weaknesses for several seasons. I’m really not sure where all the doom and gloom surrounding the Broncos this season is coming from. Blair’s defence and pressure on the kickers will be missed but he was also good for a crucial error or penalty as well as the odd brain snap, Moga managed to garner a decent highlights package for himself but never really managed to develope any meaningful combination with either Milford of Oates and was a penalty magnet (tied fourth for panalties conceded over the season) while being far from a fan favourite, and while i rate Hunt as a player Nikorima ticks many of the same boxes (running game, short kicking game etc). And while Hunt combined well with both McCollough and Gillett, Roberts flourished with Nikorima in the team. Sure the team will feature a couple different faces this season but i’m not sure that neccessarily translates into an immediate drop in performance, but then again, they were also tipped to miss the eight last year so who knows…

    • Roar Guru

      January 6th 2018 @ 10:23am
      Wayne Lovell said | January 6th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      I love these wishful thinking articles, it makes the end of the season so much sweeter. I wonder if you’re one of those who would jump on a cap cheating bandwagon mid season when lodge becomes an origin player, after writing them off again preseason?

      • Roar Guru

        January 6th 2018 @ 2:43pm
        eagleJack said | January 6th 2018 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

        After watching Lodge play NSW u20s and Junior Kangaroos i pencilled him in as a definite future Origin player. But I’d be shocked if he is even considered this year. One thing NSW are not short of is quality props. Klemmer, Fifita, McLean, Campbell-Gillard, Woods, Vaughan, Boyd, James would all be ahead of him.

        But it will be interesting watching his development.

      • January 6th 2018 @ 3:44pm
        Jeff dustby said | January 6th 2018 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

        You haven’t won a title for 2 years
        Despite your massive advantage

    • January 6th 2018 @ 10:35am
      Big Daddy said | January 6th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

      They wouldn’t offer hunt a million to stay so why would they offer Pearce a million at the age of 28.
      And they had already forked out a fair bit to renew milfords contract and to get bird.

      • January 6th 2018 @ 3:45pm
        Jeff dustby said | January 6th 2018 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

        Hunt went on 950, so 809 would have kept him

        • January 6th 2018 @ 5:52pm
          Jacko said | January 6th 2018 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

          809 is overs for Hunt

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