Being a Parramatta Eels fan you would think that Friday night’s crushing 46-6 win over the Brisbane Broncos would give me tremendous joy. And it did.
But not for the first time this year it also filled me with pity towards the Broncos.
What has become of the once proud Brisbane Broncos? How did they get to a point where after seven rounds they are sitting 15th on the ladder with just two points?
There are a couple of things which should be of deep concern for Broncos fans rights now.
We can examine what is happening on the field, but in my view, a club’s success starts from what is happening in its front office.
The old saying goes that ‘a fish rots from its head’ and in the case of rugby league teams it’s no surprise to me that often the most successful clubs are those with thriving front offices.
Indeed, it was the Brisbane Broncos front office that made the decision to appoint Anthony Seibold for 2020; a coach that presided over the worst season that the Broncos have ever had.
Success is also not achieved by churning through coaches, something else that the Broncos front office have been unwilling to accept.
But it’s not just about the head coach, it’s also about recruitment decisions too. And haven’t the Broncos had some absolute stinkers over the last couple of years?
Then there’s the conflict of interest that exists between Darren Lockyer being involved in recruitment while also sitting on the board.
Last year when David Fifita inked a $3.5-million deal to join the Gold Coast Titans, many turned up their noses and suggested that this was far too much money to pay for a second rower.
On Friday night, Fifita scored his second hat-trick in a row for the Titans this season and so far I am yet to hear anyone question his worth this year.
The Broncos opted to let Fifita go.
He’s not the only one.
Other players that the Broncos have decided to pass on include Sam Walker, who has been a revelation for the Sydney Roosters this year.
The Broncos favoured Tom Dearden instead, who just this week has also left the Broncos to sign with the North Queensland Cowboys.
Reece Walsh is another player making an impact at another club in a position that the Broncos have no answers for.
It’s easy in hindsight to point out poor recruitment decisions. Each club has made decisions about players which have come back to bite them.
But is there any accountability for those making these decisions, particularly when the Broncos roster is in such bad shape at the moment?
Moving from the front office to what is happening on field, serious questions need to be asked about the capability of the team.
This is a team that has gone through hell and back. After the skirmish which led to the removal of Bennett and the appointment of Seibold in 2020, the Broncos on-field performances have been pathetic.
What is curious about this team though, amongst so many other things, is just how dismal their record is on the road.
This year, the Broncos have played three games at home so far. In those games, the Broncos have a points differential of +10. The team has conceded 44 points.
Compare that to Broncos performances away from home. In just four games the Broncos have a negative points differential of -115. They have conceded almost 150 points.
How do you explain this? How can a club’s performance be so markedly different at home versus on the road?
This lack of ability to win away from home is surely pointing towards something more serious.
The other demon that the Broncos must confront is their halves pairing. By dropping Anthony Milford, Kevin Walters seems to be angling to get a rise out of his players. The problem is that he replaces Milford with a player of much less talent in Brodie Croft.
It’s also time for Broncos fans to face facts.
Anthony Milford is not the answer.
Over many years, Milford has been a player whose talent I admire, immensely. I remember his breakout season in 2015 where his running game was the envy of the league.
But it’s become clearer and clearer that Milford and the Broncos need to part ways.
Milford is not the halves leader that the Broncos need and Milford has had too many opportunities to prove that he is the man to lead the Broncos halves.
I’m not even convinced he wants that role. Milford seems more content to play behind a dominant half and inject his talent into the game when he sees an opportunity.
I don’t doubt Milford’s talents, I simply doubt his ability to fulfil that talent at the Broncos.
A change may do him some good.
With the loss of Dearden today, the Broncos may actually be forced to sign a decent halfback. Perhaps an Adam Reynolds?
But it’s clear to me that despite a change in coach and a coming change in CEO, that the Broncos have some real problems and I foresee very little in the near future to get excited about.