Everyone outside of Brisbane is always looking for a reason to claim the Broncos NRL chances of making the finals are poor in the upcoming season and on nearly every occasion I can recall, they have been proven wrong. This is the often case with Wayne Bennett at the helm and I think 2018 will be another season where critics of the Broncos are left with egg on their face.
While I don’t think they are set for a top 4 finish in 2018, I think they will come close to making the top 4 and are genuine contenders not to be taken lightly. But before looking at their 2018 squad, it is always necessary to go over in detail what happened in 2017.
The Broncos started the season with as tough of a draw as you could imagine. They played the Sharks, Cowboys, Storm and the Raiders, all of whom were top teams the year before. So after 5 matches they were left with only two wins, one of these being a 1 point victory against the Raiders at Suncorp.
But then they got into rhythm and won 6 games straight. In fact, for the remainder of the regular season they only lost 5 games and although they fizzled out in finals by getting smashed by the Storm in the semi-final, the Broncos 2017 season has been too harshly judged by the pundits.
The Broncos suffered some big injuries at crucial times in 2018 (Hunt, Boyd and McCullough) and I am not sure they ever recovered from losing McCullough. While Hunt was sensational in attack at 9, losing a work horse defender like McCullough in the middle of the ruck is one of those challenges that grinds down a team and I think we saw this in the 30-nil drubbing from the Storm that ended the Broncos season.
But the Broncos season should not be defined by that loss to the Storm and a quick look at the season stats for 2017 shows that the Broncos were an attacking powerhouse in 2017:
- Tries (2nd)
- Line breaks (4th)
- Try Assists (3rd)
- Offloads (3rd)
These numbers saw the Broncos score more points than any other team besides the Storm, so I don’t have too many concerns about their attack. Their defence was also quite solid, though it did weaken as the year went on and the Broncos were exposed up the middle at times.
This lack of forward pack muscle can be seen when you look at the statistics at a player level. Although McGuire was racking up over 140 metres per game, he wasn’t getting enough support from other forwards such as Blair, Glenn, Thaiday and Gillett.
I think the inclusion of Lodge, Tagatese and giant youngster Hayne Paas and the potential shifting of Corey Oates to the forwards will help change this and ensure the Broncos have a forward pack that can make metres up the middle with ease.
The recruitment of Jack Bird is the big signing for the Broncos, but when you look at who they lost (Moga, Ese’ese, Marshall, Arrow, Blair and of course Ben Hunt) you can see why the pundits are questioning if the Broncos are going to slip back to the pack in 2018.
However, when you have a junior nursery as strong as South-East Queensland, you are always going to have a steady stream of young guns to draw upon.
With Oates likely to be shifted into the forwards, a backline of Boyd, Kahu, Bird, Roberts, Seve/ Pearson, Milford and Nikorima still looks damn dangerous to me! So I expect the Broncos backline to again be capable of putting on the points.
The Broncos also have an extremely experienced and capable back row in terms of McGuire, Glenn, Gillett and Thaiday… so it really comes down to how well Lodge, Tagatese, Sims, Pangai Jnr and Su’a contribute.
I think Wayne Bennett will get his young bulls firing and the Broncos will once again have a squad that is one of the strongest in the competition.
I think the Broncos have a pretty hard draw. While most analysts look at ‘how many top 8 / top 4 teams from last year does your team play twice’, I dig a little deeper and look at specifically who and when a team plays the heavy hitters.
The Broncos will play the Roosters, Storm and Cowboys twice each and considering these are the three favourties for the competition, that is a pretty rough draw.
The Broncos will play the Roosters, Storm and Cowboys twice each and considering these are the three favourites for the competition, that is a pretty rough draw.
Areas Of Concern
As explained above, there is a big question mark over the Broncos forward pack, but I am confident Bennett will sort this out.
The bigger concern is their lack of depth at 9 and in the halves. Without Hunt and Marshall in 2018, the Broncos are extremely reliant on Nikorima, Milford, Boyd and McCullough getting through the season without a serious injury.
Although Bennett might have a few tricks up his sleeve, I do think that the Broncos could really do with a good quality half or hooker sitting outside their top 17.
The kicking skills and game management of Milford and Nikorima will also be put to the test, with neither player known for being a dominant controlling half. Once again, I do think this is something Bennett will be able to overcome, but it is something to watch early in the season.
At this stage, I think the Broncos are being unfairly written off by the pundits and I believe they will come out and push for a top 4 spot again this year.
The odds are not so wrong to warrant a bet at this stage, but if the Broncos drop a few games early and you can get a good price on them, I will be looking very closely at backing the Broncos in 2018.
Stephen Green is the man behind our NRL Tips membership, which is back ahead of what looks to be a massive 2018 NRL season.
Over the past two seasons, members of NRL Tips have enjoyed profits of $6,000 at 10% Profit on Turnover, and 2018 should be no different.
The NRL season is set to kick-off tonight, so don’t delay and jump on board now to see who Steve is putting his money on over the opening weekend of action.