The Broncos’ demise is multifactorial, and the problems won’t be going away without mass changes and accountability from multiple members of the organisation.
As a paid-up member, I feel like I have some stake in the club and at the moment I am disgusted and ashamed to be a fan of the club.
I could cop it if we had just retired some all-time greats or if we were truly in need of a rebuild, but this form slump has been the most frustrating by far – as we shouldn’t be in it with the side we have on paper.
While calls to change to coaching staff and some of the players are probably warranted, I feel like some of the issues stem deeper and as with many clubs who sack a coach, the problems will not suddenly go away.
Below I outline some of the issues that the club as a whole has.
The football department
Too much money is being paid to too few players. Anthony Milford is on $1 million per season, with Jack Bird, Darius Boyd, Tevita Pangai Junior and Payne Haas all on reportedly more than $700,000 per season. Arguably Payne Haas is the only one of those offering any kind of return on investment.
The recent retention strategy of sinking so much money into such inexperienced players (and going for a rebuild that didn’t need to happen) has meant less money and the forced exit of middle-level players like Andrew McCullough, Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire.
These forward leaders seem to be some of the most missed players at the moment. You could build a decent side with recent Broncos discards as well, with Jai Arrow, Ash Taylor, Jaydn Su’A, Tom Opacic, and Gehamat Shibasaki (to name a few) seeming to look better with their new clubs.
I’m not sure what Jamayne Isaako did to deserve being dropped to the bench. He had more run metres and less errors than Darius Boyd (who started) against Newcastle. On top of this he is an accurate place-kicker and a strong drop-kicker.
Picking two backs on the bench on Saturday was an issue. Surely Ethan Bullemor or even Jamil Hopoate (despite his numerous handling errors) offer more off the bench than a second back. There were other options like moving Corey Oates to the bench (and retaining Isaako on the wing). The lack of options meant that we apparently finished with 11 men after Matt Lodge was forced off injured.
There is no line speed. Players are not coming up off their line and pressuring ball runners.
The continued reliance on sliding defence is not working.
There is a lack of fitness. I’m not sure what the strength and conditioning team have been doing, but the forwards look gassed after 20 minutes. Even with the repeat sets, this seems like something they should have worked on.
There is a lack of communication in defence. They look like they have never spoken before. Players like Boyd are employing the rush defence tactic, which relies on communication with the players either side of you. They are currently rushing alone and leaving massive gaps either side when they miss the tackle.
Instead of defending as individuals they need to defend as a team – employ this tactic with better communication or abandon it. All of the above are coachable and are pretty simple things.
There seem to be no set plays, even basic ones. The attack is disjointed. There are no inside runners or decoys.
It probably doesn’t help that we have had a different spine in almost every game this year, but you would expect that senior players like Milford and Boyd could fill in other players on what some simple cut-out, line, decoy or inside runner plays look like and are called. Again, simple set plays can be coached by even amateur coaches.
Forwards and outside backs are not running good lines off the playmakers. When Milford runs sideways he is looking for a ball runner to shoot through. Nobody is doing this. I saw Pangai run it straight off Milford once on Saturday night. They are sorely missing forward runners like David Fifita but he can only be expected to do so much. This can be coached.
The forwards, despite being big and mobile and some of the most talked about in the league, are losing the battle in the middle. Broncos are currently last in run metres at 1447.7 metres on average. It is pretty simple – start with a good kick return from some of our bigger outside backs like Oates and Isaako and then good hard runs and no stupid offloads from the likes or Lodge, Pangai and Haas. Keep it simple to get back in the winner’s circle.
While I don’t think the halves deserve the criticism that the forwards do, they are sorely lacking game management and leadership. One of the main reasons we look panicked and disjointed when we finally make it to the opposition’s 20 metres is that we are not mounting sustained pressure through repeat sets and forced dropouts.
This is leading to urgency and errors. The halves need to be practicing forcing dropouts at training until they can perfectly weight kicks.
There is a lack of ball movement laterally. In the two sets leading up to Herbie Farnworth’s try, Milford and the right edge didn’t touch the ball once. This is lumping pressure on Brodie Croft, who kicked for Farnworth’s try, but there is a lot on Croft’s shoulders with Milford not chipping in.
The Broncos have not adapted to the new rules, which is well documented. Tom Flegler and Lodge seem to be particularly guilty of giving away the six-again. It seems to me that this would be particularly coachable and that the Broncos should spend close to 100 per cent of their time focusing on the new ruck rule interpretations.
Perhaps now that restrictions are being lifted in Queensland they should invite referees to training to help train and police the new infringements at Red Hill. Apparently due to isolation, Queensland teams were prevented from having referees attend training.
I can understand the sin-binning of Oates and Carrigan. They are frustrated as they are actually trying. I cannot excuse the constant shoulder charges from the likes of Pangai and Joe Ofahengaue. A good coach would pull them aside and explain to them that continued ill discipline will result in them being dropped. As a fan I’d rather have players play out of position or a young player fill in than a lack of accountability or pressure for a spot.
Players laughing after losses, not getting cranky after mistakes, happily shaking hands and joking with the opposition and going to play at the pokies the night before a final are wider issues that stink of poor discipline and a lack of respect for what it means to wear the Broncos jersey. Leaders like Alex Glenn and Patrick Carrigan have a right to be angry at their troops, and a cultural change is in order.
The Broncos’ selection and recruitment will hopefully come under the microscope under the reviews ordered on Sunday by Karl Morris, the Broncos chairman. But as outlined above, it seems many of their other issues stem from lack of player accountability and lack of quality coaching.
Both the highly paid players and their entire coaching staff need to be put on notice. If they don’t make changes they can expect fan attendance to further drop away and stakeholders and corporate support to shrink.