To set the scene, in 2020 the Broncos finished last and lost David Fifita to the Titans.
The worst team from 2020 then has the toughest draw in the competition in 2021.
The Broncos have already played five games against top-four teams in the opening rounds – the Eels twice, and the Storm, Panthers and Souths. They have also played the Titans, Bulldogs and now the Titans again. A par result for the Broncos is two or three wins from the opening eight rounds.
It has felt like a feeding frenzy with every man and their dog picking at the Broncos’ carcass this week. Well, there was one surprise.
Rather than kicking a Bronco while he is down, Brad Fittler called it for what it was: a ridiculous, unfair draw.
Unfair or not, the Broncos needed a win. For the Titans, they were looking to consolidate their spot inside the top eight.
Amid wet Brisbane weather, the Broncos and Titans put on a display of attacking footy we may not see again for a very long time.
Up 22-0 in the opening quarter, the Titans were scintillating. I had no idea they were that good in attack, particularly the kicking game of the halves. Jamal Fogarty is a maestro with the boot and had the ball on a string. What a player. Whenever I get the chance, I’ll be watching the Titans play.
Fogarty twice caught Jamayne Isaako out of position. Commentators even questioned if Isaako should be hooked from the field and replaced. Luckily, with coach Kevin Walters at the helm, Isaako remained at number one.
In the blink of an eye, the fastest momentum change you are likely to witness on a rugby league paddock took place.
Boom. At halftime it was all locked up at 22-22.
With draft-horse performances from Payne Haas and Tevita Pangai Jr leading the pack up the middle and keeping Fifita quiet, the Isaako stallion put the rest of the fullbacks in the NRL on notice using his lethal step to carve up Titans’ defence.
He is definitely a future spine player for the Broncos and could well do with some tutelage from Darren Lockyer and Karmichael Hunt to accelerate his growth as a fullback.
And what about the halves? As predicted by Darren Lockyer leading up to the game, Tyson Gamble and Anthony Milford would likely complement one another in game management and instinct. Lockyer was 100 per cent. The gamble paid off.
I was watching the Broncos of old again. There seemed to be a perfect gel between the forwards, the halves and the backs with electricity linking up for tries with perfectly timed passing and devastating run angles.
By the time the full-time whistle blew, the Broncos had run out 36-28 winners.
Both teams won me over. It was thoroughly entertaining rugby league with exceptional talents on show.
That said, with the heat off the Broncos for the moment, the focus in Queensland will shift sharply from the Brisbane Broncos to the Gold Coast Titans.
Justin Holbrook recognised the team is just leaking far too many points. The problem is simple: defence. The attack is fine.
What I particularly like is the honesty of the Broncos’ and Titans’ coaches. That is the hallmark of great teams.
The focus now turns to Titans assistant coach Jimmy Dymock. His job is to provide starch to the Gold Coast defence. So what is happening?
This has been going on for weeks now with no sign of improvement. Holbrook should recruit Peter Ryan as a part-time assistant coach so Dymock and Ryan can get the Titans to where they need to be.
Peter Ryan has helped rebuild the Queensland Reds’ pack into the dominant defence in the Australian Super Rugby competition. For a while he even split his time between the Broncos and the Reds so he may be open to trips down the M1.
If the Titans can get their defence in order, and the halves can learn to take control of the game in defence, like the Broncos, they can both still make the top eight. The Titans may have the best latent halves in the game, but may need mentorship from a great to become great.
The Broncos matched it with the Panthers three games ago. The Titans matched it with Souths last week. With a bit more work and belief, each team can follow in the footsteps of the Queensland Reds, and believe they are on the way to turning things around and climbing up the ladder.