With three weeks until the 2019 NRL season starts, many of us are filled with hope that our team will do really well. Maybe they’ll even challenge for the premiership.
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The Broncos face the Cowboys at home on Friday night and although it is too early in the season to suggest this is a vital match, it is true to say that a second crushing defeat would severely dent the confidence of the Broncos and their fans.
Broncos’ coach Wayne Bennett has reportedly been angry at training this week, though his displeasure is not reflected in the squad chosen. The only changes come with Andrew McCulloch starting at hooker and Sam Thaiday returning to the bench.
Now one definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result but it appears that Wayne Bennett does not share this view. Many pundits have suggested changes such as moving Anthony Milford to halfback or bringing fullback Darius Boyd to five-eighth.
Some plans are calling for desperate measures in the forwards. Many are speculating the promotion of 19-year-old Goliath Payne Haas but, unfortunately, they will have to wait at least another week.
The truth is that playing strength at the Broncos was severely eroded in the off-season, something that coach Bennett failed to address. The loss of Ben Hunt to the Dragons almost a year ago now on a five-year deal reportedly worth $5 million seemed extravagant at the time and it is understandable that the Broncos did not attempt to match that.
But the subsequent halves shuffle in the off-season, which appears to have been a result of other halves seeking and getting million-dollar deals was something that the Broncos should not have ignored. Indeed, they have reportedly entered into a million-dollar deal to retain Milford at five-eighth.
Despite this, Bennett remained firm in his belief in Kodi Nikorima and Milford and apart from attempting to entice Ash Taylor backed to the fold took no action.
In Round 2, if we look at the Broncos squad, the only halves available are experienceless 23-year-old Sam Scarlet and 20-year-old Troy Dragan. It appears rolling out some old faces may be the only option available to Bennett.
The possibility of a mid-season acquisition appears remote. Virtually all the good halves in the NRL are committed – so what can the coach do other than shout at training and hope for an increase in enthusiasm and performance?
The Cowboys have named the same team, although there is an expectation that Michael Morgan may recover in time to play. Johnathan Thurston and Te Maire Martin will be keen to exploit any weaknesses in the Broncos halves, in addition to Jason Taumalolo looking to exploit any flaws in the Broncos forwards.
You can only give what you’ve got and the Dragons had more of that last weekend. The Cowboys go into Friday’s game with a lot more of that, so my prediction is a win for the Cowboys despite the Broncos home ground advantage.
For you Broncos’ fans who still have the faith, the odds look good for your team Friday at $2.50 compared to the Cowboys at $1.54.