Where to now for the Brisbane Broncos?
What a ride of emotions the past thirty-six months have been for Brisbane Broncos fans; “winning” a spoon, “enjoying” a year in the cellar, and most recently dropping out of a seemingly locked-in finals spot. No one can doubt the fall from grace the club has been in, having not lifted the premiership trophy since the days of Darren Lockyer.
So where to now for the Brisbane Broncos?
To start this rebuilding story, we have to go back to last year, when the Red Hill club bought across the then-current Melbourne Storm CEO David Donaghy, bringing back champion player and Ex Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters and reeling in NRL 360 host Ben Ikin to their cause. The club made some massive changes to staff and that was followed by some big-name player signings and an exodus of Bronco “Bad Boys”.
In came Adam Reynolds, Kurt Capewell, Brenko Lee, Jordan Pereira, Corey Jensen, and Billy Walters. Out went, Tevita Pangai-Junior, Matt Lodge, and Xavier Coates.
The season started inconsistently, winning some big games and losing some crucial ones. Brisbane was left obliterated by the Cowboys in round 3 and followed that up with successive losses to the Warriors, Roosters, and Panthers. Then the Broncos went on a winning streak of eight successive matches, with the greatest highlight pummelling the Manly Sea Eagles 38-0 in Magic Round.
Then those defensive inconsistencies started showing again, losing to the Storm and Cowboys in successive weeks, getting into a shootout with the Dragons, and then barely scrapping home against a much-maligned Titans squad. The Broncos were messy but they were winning. Mindsets should’ve been focused on these results not being good enough, instead, it was 2021’s mindset of “at least we aren’t last”.
That incredibly destructive and misled confidence was only boosted in a dominant display against the Eels, a consistent finals team since 2017, which prompted sports reporters, pundits, and average joes alike to hype these Broncos to the point of no return.
Where did that lead them? Losing five out of their last six games and slipping from fourth on the ladder to ninth.
So the question remains, if a team can genuinely destroy a finals-bound squad, what needs to change? Why can’t they do this every week?
Attitude will make or break squads. People will liken why the Storm, Queensland, or even the Panthers of late have been so incredibly dominant. It is their attitude. Every NRL player can make a tackle, they are playing at the highest level the great game has. There is no talent deficit. It is the thought process of going 100% into every play, knowing that one mistake can cost you the game.
That’s the difference between every other team and the Storm, the Panthers, the Roosters and those mighty QLD Maroons. Attitude is the most important part of any football team.
For a brief moment, let’s compare two of the prop forward stars in the game. North Queensland’s Reuban Cotter and Brisbane’s Payne Haas. 99.9% of the country, heading into the 2022 season would never have thought that this comparison would ever be talked about. Not many knew of Cotter, even less knew of his transition to lock/prop forward. On current form, many NRL coaches would die to have Cotter in their squad, whereas I’m sure there are a few scratching their heads at the prospect of a prop forward more focused on earning a million dollars instead of eight hundred thousand.
Now I won’t deny Haas as an incredible prop forward, he has represented his state and most likely will represent his country in the coming world cup. However, when during his club’s first real look at being a consistent NRL team, he demands a release from the club.
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Now, this article isn’t meant to turn into a bag-out fest, however, it is clear that even for the very best Brisbane players, other things are always on their mind instead of ‘I have to go 100% into every play’.
That’s where the cracks have re-emerged for the Broncos, the cracks which cost the club a finals appearance, after such a promising year. It isn’t an easy fix, the club has a long way to go, but the key to improving next year must be fixing their attitude.
Now looking into 2023, the Broncos are set to have numerous committee meetings around the future of their coaching staff and new player signings. The best way forward for Brisbane is planning. If they do intend on keeping Kevin Walters as the coach they need to decide on that ASAP, to at least allow the players to know what their plan is for next season.
The incoming acquisition of Reece Walsh is one that should excite Broncos fans, however, the loss of key back-ups Brenko Lee, Te Marie Martin, Tyson Gamble, and the always under spotlight question around Payne Haas’s future need to be addressed properly. Who will be the starting hooker? Who will be the utility option? Who will be the primary back-ups to the backline? These are questions that need to be sorted out as soon as possible for the Brisbane Broncos to have a successful season in 2023.