The Brisbane Broncos have a Darius Boyd problem on their hands.
Thankfully it’s not a disciplinary problem like I expect any time now. The NRL and the Broncos are due for one.
Instead, Anthony Seibold claims he has a selection headache and it’s a good one, but I can’t agree with that.
The facts are this: Darius will be 33 in July. In 2019, he missed 56 tackles. He averaged a little over 11 metres per kick. Five line breaks. Three tries and six try assists. These are not the numbers of a game breaker, those days are gone. As the adage goes, Father Time is undefeated.
Working against Boyd is a young core that’s arguably the best in the competition. The forwards get the noise with David Fifita, Payne Haas and Tevita Pangai Jr but the backs have Jamayne Isaako, Xavier Coates and Kotoni Staggs. Add Corey Oates, Jordan Kahu, Jack Bird, Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft and you’ve got a logjam for spots.
Croft is bolted on at seven, Oates on the wing, and Bird in at centre. Milford can play either one or six. Personally I’d put him at fullback. The word on the street is Isaako has first crack and it’s hard to argue he doesn’t deserve it. Milford takes six. Staggs takes the other centre spot. Modern strategy runs a 14 and Boyd has zero value at utility, which leaves the lone wing spot.
I cannot justify putting Boyd on the wing with Kahu and Coates on the roster. Kahu is a proven commodity, however Coates is the logical choice. He proved enough last year to justify the start and was an excitement machine when on his game.
The concerns with Boyd are striking. His defensive numbers talk for themselves. I won’t go as far to say that he shirked contact in 2019 but there were times when he was caught flat-footed and let in easy tries.
Yes, there are players missing more tackles, but they are powerhouses with the ball. It felt like whenever the Broncos rolled Boyd out wide behind two decoys, it was a coin flip whether he’d look like creating something or simply kill the momentum.
Darius supporters will point to the Queensland try-scoring record that he held for a while as proof he can get the job done. The catch 22 is that he last played in 2017 at fullback for an injured Billy Slater and got rotated to left centre for Game 2 before getting dropped for the decider.
The other argument I hear regularly is that he’s on $800,000 a season, which is good for third-highest paid at the Broncos. The issue here is that rugby league should be the ultimate meritocracy. If you are good enough, you play. If there are others that are better, they play. It’s not as black and white as that many times, but in this case, it absolutely is.
To be clear, I have no issues with the man himself – I applaud his candour regarding discussing mental health and respect him greatly for that.
For too long, the Broncos have been living and dying by experience. It has its place, every team needs it and it’s rare for champions to win without it. Let Milford, Alex Glenn and Oates teach young players how to be professionals and instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.