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2014 NRL Preview: Brisbane Broncos

Brisbane Broncos Stats

2013 Record: 10 wins from 24 premiership games (12th placed)
5-year record: 65 wins from 120 premiership games (54% win record)

Player Movements

Arrivals: Ben Barba, Martin Kennedy, Todd Lowrie, Daniel Vidot, Stewart Mills, Marmin Barba, Jon Green

Departures: Scott Prince, Peter Wallace, Corey Norman, Luke Capewell, Lama Tasi, Delroy Berryman, Kurt Baptiste, Scott Anderson, Dunamis Lui, Caleb Timu, Nick Slyney

Coach: Anthony Griffin

Fixtures to start and end 2014

First five fixtures: Bulldogs (A), Cowboys (H), Roosters (H), Dragons (A), Eels (H)
Final five fixtures: Bulldogs (H), Rabbitohs (A), Knights (H), Dragons (H), Storm (A)

Since the departure of fullback-turned-five-eighth Darren Lockyer, things have never been quite the same at Red Hill. Sailing was not smooth for the Brisbane club’s 2012 & 2013 seasons with 8th and 12th place finishes on the ladder. The pressure’s been mounting for the last two years and it will reach all new heights in 2014.

Between the 2013 NRL season’s end and the 2014 Auckland Nines, major changes swept through the club. It was announced, following rumour and speculation, that Bulldogs fullback Ben Barba would make a return home to Queensland to join the Broncos. The club also nabbed his younger brother Marmin from the Gold Coast outfit down the road. The departure of competition stalwart Scott Prince (retirement) and a cruel knee injury to halves prospect Jordan Kahu in a trial match created a big, headline-grabbing problem for the Broncos – who’s going to play in the halves? That’s still a matter of dispute, depending on who you ask, but a Kodi Nikorima/Ben Barba duo is one of the more talked about combinations for now.

Kiwi international fullback Josh Hoffman had reportedly asked the club for a release on several occasions to no avail. It’s been reported that Hoffman will see out the remainder of his contract in Brisbane, meaning he’ll be around until at least the end of the year. Hoffman had been linked to his cousin Ben Barba’s old jersey number at the Bulldogs; he’d been pictured in several photos at the Rugby League World Cup with fellow New Zealand internationals from Belmore. One for the highlight reel was the group all assuming the unmistakable ‘doggie’ position for the snapshot.

Further up the totem pole, skipper Sam Thaiday handed over the reins to long-serving Broncos Corey Parker and Justin Hodges. As Justin’s still recovering from a leg strain and won’t be on the paddock for several months yet, this leaves Parker solely in charge. The team finished second at the NRL Auckland  Nines competition but were well and truly thrashed by a New Zealand Warriors side in Dunedin the following weekend in a trial match. The game may not, on paper, count for anything, but the humiliating 42-4 scoreline won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

The Brisbane Broncos’ 2014 success will hinge on the mettle of the men who wear jerseys number 1, 6 and 7. These positions were well and truly wrapped up with safe hands last year, albeit several pairs of them, but were hampered by an overall slump in general results. The team will look to rising star Jordan Kahu to step up once he’s left the sick-bed, and all eyes will be well and truly fixated on the position coach Griffin places new recruit Ben Barba, wherever that may be.

The horsemen’s forward pack remains largely unchanged. It’s full of current and former Origin and international reps and no doubt ready to do the business up front this year. Names such as Ben Hannant (as long as the injuries don’t rear up as often as last year), Alex Glenn, Matt Gillett, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker will be written in opponent coaches’ pre-game notebooks as very real threats for every match.

The Brisbane Broncos have been primed, tested, rejuvenated and have no doubt been reminded of what’s expected of them in the year 2014. Observers of the Chinese zodiac system may have noted that 2014 is indeed the Year of the Horse. What will that mean for the Queensland state capital? Only time will tell.

Paul Savage is a freelance rugby league writer from Auckland, New Zealand and is a paid-up member of the Brisbane Broncos.

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