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Opinion

You have to lose a GF to win one but salary cap squeeze means Broncos simply don't have the cattle to go all the way

29th February, 2024
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Expert
29th February, 2024
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After a stunning 2023 that legitimised the coaching of Kevin Walters and brought serious credibility back to the Brisbane Broncos, history says the team should be even better positioned to climb NRL’s Everest this season.

It is an old adage that “You have to lose one to win one” and losing one in the manner the Broncos did in the 2023 decider should play right into the hands of the people charged with getting the players in the right frame of mind to exorcise the demons.

To lose a grand final by two points after seemingly having had the game in hand after 56 minutes and subsequently conceding 18 unanswered points, is all the psychological experts will need to motivate a squad that gelled into something quite attackingly special under Walters during the Broncos’ best season in years.

Yet, considering the players that have left the club and the immense challenge of being repeat premiership contenders, something the Panthers are excelling at, can Brisbane be automatically expected to reproduce what they did in 2023 and thus navigate their way deep into the finals come September?

I would suggest not.

Many a great NSWRL/ARL/NRL team has suffered a painful defeat before responding with vengeance to earn glory in the years that immediately followed.

As far back as 1979, a young Canterbury team was outclassed by St George, before responding in 1980 with a premiership win over the Roosters.

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The 1987 Canberra Raiders lost on the final day against the Sea Eagles, and then proceeded to dominate the competition in 1989 and 1990 with two glorious premierships.

The Raiders celebrate a NSWRL premiership

The Raiders won their first title just seven years after entering the competition. (Photo by Getty Images)

When the Raiders beat the Panthers in 1990, the mountain men were determined to avenge the loss and did so in 1991; instigating a party for the ages that celebrated Penrith’s first ever premiership.

The Bulldogs did the same again in 1995, returning after an embarrassing loss in 1994 to the Raiders and the 1995 runners-up Manly-Warringah found the motivation to return a year later and claim the title against the Dragons in a Super League-affected and controversial match.

Despite a premiership in 1999, Melbourne Storm’s modern run of success actually began after a loss to the Broncos in 2006 (as well as a heck of a lot of cheating), with titles won in 2007 and 2009 both coming off the back of losses in the decider a year earlier.

Manly’s 2008 title is wedged in between and followed a loss in 2007 to the crooked Storm.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 08: Storm players reacts after a Broncos try during the NRL Qualifying Final match between the Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium on September 08, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Melbourne Storm has won plenty of premierships, not all of them legitimately. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

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It seems the best motivation to win a premiership is a loss in the recent past, with the psychological galvanising of a group achieved under the weight of regret and a determination to come back and do better.

Even the modern Panthers had to suffer a narrow loss to Melbourne in 2020 before launching into a three-peat for the ages that will rank them as one of the best teams in the history of the modern game.

But are the Broncos headed down the same path?

The loss of one Dally M centre of the year in the form of Herbie Farnworth is an enormous blow for the team. The Dolphins will benefit immensely from his presence and Wayne Bennett could well have one of the buys of the season at his disposal.

Should Selwyn Cobbo steps into the centre role vacated by Farnworth, the pressure on him will be immense after the Englishman produced an influential season in Brisbane colours; scoring 15 tries and testing every opposition centre sent out to nullify his impact.

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Selwyn Cobbo of Australia scores a try during the International match between Australian Men's PMs XIII and PNG Men's PMs XIII

Selwyn Cobbo scores for the PM’s XIII (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Bennett has also poached 24-year-old international Thomas Flegler from Brisbane, the kind of player you want with you in the trenches and one integral to the Broncos run to the grand final last season.

Man mountain Keenan Palasia has left for the Gold Coast and Kurt Capewell heads to his fourth NRL club at the Warriors, after forging a reputation as one of the most reliable and experienced players at the Broncos, despite being more of a role player than a superstar.

In place of the four big fish that have departed, former Rooster Fletcher Baker is the most significant signing Walters has made; relying heavily on the new breed of youngsters he will require when injury and representative duty demand their selection in the starting 17.

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Most are unlikely to feature should the squad stay healthy and even though some Brisbane fans will feel that the time is ripe for a premiership should the team recover mentally from the tragedy of 2023, the weight of responsibility on Payne Haas and Adam Reynolds could be too much without key members of the support crew from last season.

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The big question is whether the losses are simply too much to overcome, or whether Walters has managed the squad expertly enough to have his team contending again in 2024.

Cattle-wise it appears not. But the Broncos did surprise most last year. Is it foolish to suggest they can’t do so again?

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