Another beatdown and another day of miserable off-field news for the Brisbane Broncos.
As the South Sydney Rabbitohs handed them yet another emphatic shellacking, the fourth week in a row that Brisbane have conceded over 40 points – or close enough to – news was also simultaneously breaking regarding big-name second rower Tevita Pangai Junior.
The man they know as TPJ, who has been one of the best for formerly Queensland’s best team this year, has reportedly been told he will be let go at the end of the year and is free to explore his options elsewhere.
It simply makes no sense given how good Pangai Junior has been in a well-beaten team this year – a team who now sit dead last on the ladder. That of course may be temporary, with the Bulldogs also struggling, but a club like the Broncos shouldn’t go from wooden spoon one year to being in the battle for it again the next.
Serious questions must be asked of their retention strategy, but given the answers provided by coach Kevin Walters at the post-match press conference and their track record in the last couple of years, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by just what a shemozzle the strategy is at Red Hill.
The single quote which you could put weight on from said post-match press conference is this:
“We need to restructure our whole football club,” said Walters.
“No real reason why Tevita, but we have got to restructure our roster, and that’s what we have to do.
“So not everyone can stay, so that’s why.”
That smacks of a club who simply have no idea about what they are doing or why they are doing it. For a coach to come out to a post-match press conference – as put on the spot as he might have been by the question given the news broke regarding Pangai Junior only during the game – and say that is baffling.
The decision itself is baffling given Pangai Junior has been one of the best Broncos players this year.
Though at times he’s been inconsistent, that should almost go without saying in a team so far down the table and conceding so many points every week. In fact following Thursday night’s pasting by the Rabbitohs, a 46-0 beatdown, the Broncos have conceded 32.1 points per game and have a for and against of negative 250.
Not only that, but they have now let in 170 points in the last four weeks at over 42 points per game. That indicates things are only getting worse, and that shouldn’t be happening as the youth in Brisbane gain more experience.
And yet Pangai Junior has been playing big minutes on a consistent basis, averaging 122 metres and tackling at over 90 per cent efficiency, which even in a top team isn’t a bad outcome.
He was solid against South Sydney in the face of adversity again on Thursday, and it must be making Brisbane fans scratch their head and ask why.
If the election to move on Pangai Junior was the first decision of its type, then maybe some sense could be made, but the Broncos have been something of a rabble off-field for some years now.
While the losses of Sam Walker and Reece Walsh will be talking points for what seems like the next couple of decades, and while they let their best two young talents go, there are plenty of others who have gone out the door.
David Fifita and Tom Dearden are among the others, and the rumoured signing to the Warriors of Matt Lodge doesn’t make a great deal of sense either for the Broncos, who need his experience.
Experience is something the Broncos haven’t kept in their roster, and it’s shown both in last year’s wooden spoon effort and this year’s fight to avoid it.
They simply don’t have the mental resolve in the middle third, and while players like Josh McGuire will never single-handedly win you a premiership, they will provide you the toughness and grit to go with strong forward packs.
Instead the Broncos have gone to youth, and mountains of it. Sure, Payne Haas has been excellent, but he can’t do it on his own, and he doesn’t have the experience to be a leader in the forwards.
Sure, the Broncos signed Karmichael Hunt, but that doesn’t make a great deal of sense either given he has spent ten years out of the game. Regardless, the halves aren’t able to do much unless the forwards are contesting, and Brisbane’s pack simply aren’t doing so.
They might have the talent, but they don’t have the balance. It’s been a problem for the best part of 24 months, and with recruitment decisions like getting rid of Pangai Junior, who has not only been one of their best but is now approaching 100 first-grade games, won’t turn things around in a great hurry.
Sure, plenty of credit needs to go the way of South Sydney for their emphatic beatdown on Thursday, but you could have seen it coming from the moon.
Kevin Walters’s side might avoid the wooden spoon in 2021 thanks to the Bulldogs, but there is no happiness in doing that.
That is how bad the Broncos have been, and until they get their own house in order off-field, it’s not going to be changing.