Luke Keary pulled out his best performance of the year to fire the Sydney Roosters to a vital 34-16 win over the Brisbane Broncos that keeps the Chooks in pole position for the top eight.
After several years in the wilderness, the Brisbane Broncos have shot back into premiership contention, with their title credentials set to be put to the test when they face the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park this Friday night.
From a 2-4 start to the season (which came after they had won their first two), the Broncos have won their last seven matches in a row to be sitting fourth, only behind the Panthers, Storm and Cowboys.
Their seven-match winning streak includes wins over the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs, whom they also beat for their first two wins of the season, as well as a 38-0 blowout win over the Sea Eagles and a comeback 35-24 win over the Titans in Round 12.
Last week, despite injuries to captain Adam Reynolds and other key players, Kevin Walters’ side held their nerve to beat the Canberra Raiders 24-18 and consolidate their place in the top four.
It is their longest winning streak since 2015, the year in which they most recently made the grand final, where they lost to the Cowboys in golden point.
Selwyn Cobbo has set the world alight with some eye-catching performances this season, including scoring a hat-trick of tries in the Broncos’ 38-0 thrashing of the Sea Eagles at Magic Round. His brilliant form on the wing saw him rewarded with selection for Queensland in last week’s State of Origin series opener.
As good as the Broncos have been, they need to be on their A-game when they head to Melbourne for the first time since Round 4 last season.
Despite winning the first NRL match to be played at AAMI Park in 2010, the rectangular stadium has not been a happy hunting ground for the men from Red Hill, with their last victory there coming way back in 2016.
From the team that beat the Raiders last week, Corey Oates is the only survivor from the last Broncos team to win in AFL heartland, while Adam Reynolds has never saluted south of the Murray, having been part of the many Rabbitohs sides that have left empty-handed.
In fact, the Broncos’ overall record against the Storm is nothing short of dismal, with only 13 wins from 50 meetings and only four since the 2006 grand final.
Further, the Storm have scored at least 40 points in each of their past four matches against the Broncos, who in these same four matches have failed to score more than 12 points.
However, the Broncos’ most important (and perhaps sweetest) win came in the 2006 decider, where, led by captain Darren Lockyer and Clive Churchill Medallist Shaun Berrigan, they defeated the Storm by 15-8 in the first non-Sydney NRL grand final in history.
Now there is hope for the current crop of Broncos could break the club’s drought dating back to that day.
Just how far they have come this season will be put to the test against a side that continues to be consistent, just over 15 months after legendary captain Cameron Smith announced his retirement on the eve of the 2021 NRL season.
Jesse Bromwich has done well to lead the club from the front on his own, after his other co-captain Christian Welch suffered a season-ending Achilles injury against the Wests Tigers in Round 1.
Following their Round 9 win over the Dragons, the Storm had scored 325 points – the most by any side after nine matches in the NRL era. That was, however, followed by two comprehensive losses at the hands of the other top-three sides, the Panthers and Cowboys.
Craig Bellamy’s men have hit back in the past few weeks, first defeating the Sea Eagles at home followed by beating the Roosters at the SCG.
They remain second on the ladder, behind the Panthers, whom the Storm will have another shot at in the lead-up to the finals.
All this has come despite the absence of fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, who has been sidelined due to a knee injury he suffered against the Dragons.