How do Brisbane get out of the mess they’re in and repolish their roster?
Let’s think about this like a blockbuster film.
Every great movie has a leading man or woman but it’s the supporting cast that can make a good film great and that’s how the Broncos clean up their mess. The supporting cast.
There’s no sugar-coating it. There’s a mountain of work to be done in Brisbane.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus solely on roster management.
With Ben Ikin returning to save the Broncos, his appointment as Football and Performance Director has been met with great optimism.
He’s the public face of the much-needed turnaround but make no mistake. He’s no lone wolf. In fact, the man under perhaps the most pressure at the Broncos is Simon Scanlan, the new Head of Recruitment and Retention.
With the franchise parting ways with list manager Peter Nolan, Scanlan steps up to fill the most scrutinised role in the game. For those wondering, Scanlan’s not new to the Broncos’ system.
He’s been there for several years and played a hand in scouting some of the game’s most exciting young talents.
For example, seven years ago, Scanlan recruited Kotoni Staggs to the Broncos from Wellington as a 15-year-old.
He knows what to look for in a young star but dealing with teens is very different to juggling a top level roster, managing egos, while crunching numbers with the accountant in order to maintain salary cap compliance.
It’s quite the challenge but he’s served his apprenticeship and he has an ace up his sleeve. CEO Dave Donaghy and Ikin are assisting the process. It’s understood the trio are operating as a committee.
And if recent reports around recruitment targets are correct, then Broncos supporters should be filled with a quiet confidence.
On the surface, many are scratching their heads as to why the Broncos would be chasing the likes of Aaron Woods and Ryan James after releasing Matt Lodge.
The deeper you investigate it, the more it makes sense. Lodge was eating a hole in the salary cap, paid the kind of money reserved for a game changing international calibre player.
Aside from his bank balance, the other issue with Lodge was his ability to follow instructions.
It’s understood a criticism of some of his teammates is they would be working to an area on the field and Lodge would go rogue.
When your halves are working to get to a certain spot on the field to execute a kick and your middles deviate from the plan, it puts everything out of whack.
That’s where Woods’ reliability comes in. While Woods is no longer a representative commanding the big coin that he once was, he is consistent, experienced, a leader, a mentor and above all else, where the salary cap is concerned, he’s value for money. He has qualities you cannot measure.
While spreadsheets can hold all the analytics in the world, leadership and accountability within a change room is something the smart recruiters know is just as valuable as post-contact metres.
Without an enforcer driving standards, keeping the young ones accountable, you leave yourself open to problems.
Woods is a role player and they’re the backbone to any successful team.
Let’s compare some basic stats.
Lodge made 12 appearances for the Broncos this year.
In those 12 games, Lodge clocked 481.3 post-contact metres, averaged 12.1 hit-ups, had a 90.9 per cent tackle efficiency and averaged 129 run metres.
At the time of Lodge’s exit, Woods had played two more games than Lodge.
In 14 games for Cronulla, Woods clocked 720.9 post-contact metres, averaged less hit-ups than lodge with 11.9, boasted a 94.1% tackle efficiency and averaged 121 run metres.
The numbers are very similar, yet the discrepancy in their pay packets is astronomical. Woods is a terrific value for money purchase and we know the Broncos need to save their pennies.
The club still has several players on payroll despite no longer being at the club.
It’s been widely reported that Andrew McCullough, Jack Bird and Lodge are being paid part of their salaries by the Broncos.
You could sign a marquee with the amount of money they are spending on these players to be at other clubs.
Add in Anthony Milford eating $1 million of their cap for this season and some smart buys is just what the Broncos need.
They’ve already secured their No.7 in Adam Reynolds and a dependable edge player in Kurt Capewell.
Brenko Lee comes on board next season with Xavier Coates out the door and showed last year he is capable of performing at NRL level, while Cowboys forward Corey Jensen is also a handy pick-up.
While moving Tevita Pangai Jnr to Canterbury frees up some funds, a reported $700,000, it’s the following year that they can really start to make some moves in terms of cap space with the likes of Brodie Croft (roughly $450,000) and Corey Oates ($500,000) off-contract.
In the short term, it’s about finding role players who can contribute without breaking the bank.
Ikin is a very smart man and loves a spreadsheet but he’s also a wonderful judge of character.
Between Ikin, Scanlan and Donaghy, the trio have the makings of a group armed with all the tools to turn Red Hill around.