As the 2020 NRL season draws closer, it’s only appropriate to start previewing every NRL team heading into the season.
This however will be done differently as each team’s preview will be done by their very own fans, as no one will know their team better than their own fans.
Today I will start with the Brisbane Broncos, who finished eighth last year but got destroyed 58-0 in the finals by Parramatta – a finals record. I would like to thank the great people of broncoshq.com.au who contributed to this preview. Every bullet point represents a different answer from a fan.
What are the biggest changes that need to be made from last season?
• Let’s start with the defence. The Broncos were terrible at controlling the ruck and defusing kicks. The forwards have to stop the opposition from getting a roll-on by working on their technique, getting good first contact and working the player over. The backs need to develop their awareness so they can anticipate the kicks and focus on the steps they can take to catch the ball.
• With the ball, the Broncos need to play a more expansive brand of football and need to get Anthony Milford in the game as much as possible. They need to stop being so reliant on Matt Lodge and Payne Haas and to mix things up so they can generate some momentum around a dummy half.
• Team cohesion. Last year we were a team of individuals, which made for some occasionally good highlights, but overall pretty frustrating to watch.
• Promote Andrew McCullough into a non-playing role, effective immediately. Improve support play, particularly around the spine. If there aren’t players glued to either side of the ball carrier and kicks, something is still really wrong with the coaching, in which case the change would be to sack the coach.
• Mental toughness. There were games where a couple of errors were made and the whole team just spiraled into a negative mess.
Should Darius Boyd be in the team, and if so, what position?
• No. He’s done. He’s only being retained out of respect for what he has done in the past, but he does not deserve a jersey anymore and if he had any self respect he’d just retires immediately. My guess is he’ll be out of the 17 well before his 15-game clause is triggered.
• If Darius Boyd had any pride he would have announced his retirement last year and stepped away from first grade. Darius is a shadow of himself. He doesn’t pose a threat to opposition teams and he has no business being in an NRL side.
• Every Broncos fan wants Darius to do well, even if we unanimously hate him. Hopefully being stripped of the captaincy will relieve the pressure, but he is skating on thin ice.
• Begrudgingly yes, he gets one last shot in the centres with a microscope on his defence.
Do you believe Brodie Croft is the halfback the Broncos desperately need? Melbourne do not allow many great players to leave.
• In the short term yes, in the long term I don’t think so. I have a lot of faith in Anthony Milford, Tom Dearden and Cory Paix but the latter two still require some seasoning before they can really make a case for themselves. With Croft, what you see is what you get. He’s solid across the board but doesn’t have that Cooper Cronk-esque precision he needs to be an elite half. He’ll be an improvement over Jake Turpin and he could potentially relish the opportunity to become the organising halfback but it would take quite the transformation for him to be a premiership-winning halfback.
• Croft has a tool set we have been missing for half a decade, while being decidedly more clutch than Ben Hunt.
• I feel Croft was a victim of circumstance at Storm. We might have a very different Brodie from the one we have seen.
• Yes. But we can’t put too much pressure on him. Talks of him being captain were premature. I rate Dearden. In the games he did play, he didn’t look out of place but Croft is someone who can guide us.
What’s the general opinion on Anthony Seibold? He worked wonders in his only year at Souths, but was he responsible for the disappointment last year, in particular the nightmare at Bankwest?
• The mental fragility comes straight back to the coach. He needs to have their heads ready to play. So yes, he was as responsible last year as any player. Time will tell if he ends up as successful as he promised to be after his year with Souths, but fancy tactics and Harvard research means nothing if you can’t get the basics right.
• Yes, he has to accept some responsibility. Seibold tore the 2019 squad apart, which made it difficult for them to mount any kind of challenge. By and large he did it for the right reasons and the club had to accept some short-term pain for some potential long-term gains and with the exception of Josh McGuire, none of the players he let go were going to lead the Broncos to premiership glory.
• Right now Seibold is a rookie coach that’s still learning what it takes to make it in the NRL. He made a lot of mistakes last year and if he can learn from them and grow he could be a great coach. However, he just seems like a student of the game who learnt a couple of nice slogans to appease the corporates.
• I rate Seibold. People forget that he came into the Broncos with a roster that needed a lot of changes. Remember, if he was to come straight in and sack a heap of people and make a lot of sudden changes, he could’ve lost the group. He made a few changes and got rid of some people who didn’t fit his vision. I’d like to see what he can do for the length of his contract. Remember that we’re at a rebuilding phase, whether the fans like it or not.
• Abject failure. We looked uncoached. He made changes too late. It sounds like he’s learnt about rugby league from a book written by someone who’s never played. But we’re all trying to be optimistic in light of recent overdue changes. He would do well to act quicker on the advice he gets from this forum.
There is a legitimate argument to be made that the Broncos have the two best forwards in the game in Payne Haas and David Fifita. But are the Broncos too reliant on them? What players need to step up with these two young forwards?
• No, we’re not reliant on them. Even with both of them firing consistently like they did last year, we still fluctuated wildly with form. We rely on the team being consistent, not just those two forwards.
• If anything, the Broncos could have relied on Fifita more if only because he started to step things up in the second half of the season. The Broncos need Turpin or their dummy half to help guide the team around the ruck and help create space for his playmakers.
• It’s a stretch to call Haas and Fifita the best forwards. The best young or up-and-coming forwards, perhaps, but there are plenty of guys out there with more runs on the board and proven consistency. It wouldn’t surprise me to see both of those guys suffer from second-year syndrome… well, maybe not Haas.
The player with the most pressure on them is…
• In general, it’s Darius because most fans know he’s cooked and needs to give it away. Outside of Boyd, I’d say it’s Anthony Milford – the highest paid player, who has proven to be a middle-of-the-road option. There is a lot to like about Milford’s game but he lacks the vision of an elite half and struggles to capitalise on half-breaks like he was able to. Considering the club has made a bunch of changes around him, he’s got no more excuses.
• Boyd, enough said. McCullough could already be on the out. Milford isn’t playing to his price tag. Joe Ofahengaue is the weak link in forward pack, although his stats are weirdly good considering he seems pretty invisible watching live.
• Milford, he’s our jewel. But he hasn’t lived up to expectations in recent years.
• In terms of overall stakes, Boyd is literally playing for his career, so in terms of personal pressure he’d have to be up there. But in reality, I’d say Croft’s performances will be most critical to how the team performs, so he is under the most pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations.
Who is the player not many people have heard of who will have biggest impact?
• Patrick Carrigan hasn’t been able to fly under the radar here, but I don’t think many people outside the Broncos will be thinking much of him. Given enough game time, he should be just as good as Jai Arrow.
• Most fans would be aware of him but Xavier Coates has the makings of a Test player and is the most promising back to come through the Broncos ranks since Jharal Yow Yeh. He has a great turn of pace, a big, strong fend and in the air he can swoop on a kick like a full forward in the AFL.
• Izaia Perese has the potential to break the comp open. Check his stats from the Queensland Cup last year – they’re good. This is a hard question, though. It’s essentially a gamble. The safe bet is Xavier Coates although his defence is suspect. Again, he could do with another year in the Queensland Cup.
What will constitute a successful season? What will constitute a failure this year?
• Most fans would be happy with a top-four finish with a settled line-up that could push for premiership honours in 2021. Failure would be anything less.
• Top four, with at least a prelim appearance, will be a successful season. Scraping into the eight and being bundled out in the first finals game will be a failure.
• Top four and preliminary finals would be a pass for me. However, if they came sixth and were playing really silky football, that would also be a pass. If they put in a repeat performance that was disjointed and ugly to watch, that would be a fail. Missing the top eight would be a fail.
• A successful season in terms of quantitative measures would have to be a top-four finish. But the team really needs to be able to show that they are no longer the mentally fragile team of 2019. A failure would be more upsets against bottom-four sides, and more blowout score lines.
Who is going to be the best back and forward this year?
• I really hope Jack Bird gets back to his best and Jamayne Isaako kills it at fullback, but I think if Corey Oates can get over his funk, he’ll be the best winger in the comp. In the forwards, Haas is just too much of a machine to go past. Fifita will be explosive, Lodge will be consistent, but Haas will be the best forward in the comp, not just the Broncos.
• Kotoni Staggs and Haas.
• Milford will be the best back now he has a true half next to him, and is able to play his natural game. Haas will be the most consistent forward, but I think Fifita will generate the highlights.
• Right now I would rate Corey Oates and Payne Haas as the most likely candidates. Oates has been vying for the post for every season these past five years. He was beginning to show some poor signs towards the end of last year but hardly anybody else put their hands up. Haas was duking it out for the Dally M despite missing the first four games of the year. He still has improvement in him and it’s going to be scary to see his development as a player if he can stay injury free.
In your honest opinion, where will they finish this year? In the best-case scenario, can you see the Broncos winning the premiership. If so, how?
• The Broncos will improve but will still find themselves in a similar position as last year. I believe the competition will be stronger than what it was and the teams will have to really earn their spot in the top eight unlike last season.
• I see a second-place finish. This team definitely has the talent to win a premiership, but they need to tighten the gap between their best and worst.
• They will finish somewhere between four and six. They’re still a bit young and inexperienced. We won’t win the premiership this year, no. Lay more foundations for big push in 2021.
• Honestly, I feel we will be a threat but it all depends on injuries. I feel any team can win, but it depends on what players get injured. So yes, we can win it but it all needs to fall into place and the players need to work hard and want it bad.
• We will be premiers, by winning the grand final against Souths 58-0.
• I can’t see them winning the premiership, but a best-case scenario will be top one to three after the regular season and maybe making it to a grand final qualifier. You can’t go from what they dished up last year to premiers, but you can build enough to give you the confidence to go all the way in 2021.