Many in the NRL community believed this year’s Brisbane Broncos side would be genuine premiership contenders.
NRL.com experts predicted they would end up in the top three and Andrew Johns made the bold prediction they would win the competition.
Sitting in the bottom four more than halfway through the season is a shock to almost everyone who would deem themselves an expert, so what is going so wrong?
The combination of young guns being guided through their first few years of NRL by old warhorses was touted as a major positive when it came to the Broncos’ chances.
Alex Glenn, Andrew McCullough, Anthony Milford and Darius Boyd are all seasoned campaigners with many finals series under their belts and it was expected they would steer the ship while the younger, more energetic props and backs would provide the go-forward.
The problem with this is that it relies heavily on those key players to remain in form and provide direction for the new kids.
McCullough has unfortunately regressed this season to the point where he was overlooked for Origin despite Jake Friend being ruled out of contention early. Darius Boyd’s battles on field have been heavily scrutinised and he has lost much of his speed and willingness to run the ball that made him a weapon in the past.
Milford has always been a rocks or diamonds player but this year the pendulum has swung sharply towards the former and Alex Glenn, while still consistent, has not stepped up to fill the void left by all the others.
In the past, Broncos teams were generally extremely well established sides that introduced youngsters at a trickle and trained them up within the Brisbane machine until they were a regular themselves.
In the past few years, the Broncos have released Josh McGuire, Ben Hunt, Adam Blair, Jordan Kahu, Kodi Nikorima and Jarrod Wallace, and lost Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker to retirement.
That’s over 1300 games of experience gone and several of them – McGuire, Hunt, Thaiday and Parker – were senior players in the side and had been for years.
Losing one or two of those senior players is able to be covered. Losing that many that quickly leaves a lot on the shoulders of the players that remain.
Thus we see the Broncos playing as many young sides do: living and dying by their level of confidence on game day.
The talent is there but the consistency is missing, and that can only come with experience or being in the presence of experience. With the senior players in the Brisbane side either leaving or struggling for form themselves, the baby Broncos are battling to play to their potential on a weekly basis.
The good news for Broncos fans is it will get better. The experience will come with time and, hopefully, the core group of veterans will regain their mojo too.
The problem for the Broncos will be whether the notoriously fickle fan base will remain patient with them until they regularly perform to their potential.