Wayne Bennett heads into his third season back at the Broncos, and the jury is out on whether the Broncos will improve on last year’s 5th placing or continue a slide down the NRL ladder in 2017.

Last season placing

League: 5th – Knocked out Second week of finals by North Queensland

Summary

The Broncos have had a reasonably busy off season, with the signings of David Mead, Benji Marshall and Korbin Sims and the news of Ben Hunt’s signing with the Dragons for 2018 under the ridiculous rule that a player can sign for another club a whole season early. The NRL must fix this as it is a situation where there are very few winners. It will probably end in tears for Hunt and no premiership from Brisbane.

The recruitment of Benji Marshall seems a strange one, especially when there was talk of him playing in the centres, but with Wayne Bennett there always seems like there is a master plan in mind or mind games to be played. It seems that the major beneficiary of the move will be the fans at Dolphin Oval, but with lingering doubts over Ben Hunt, who knows how it will all end.

Another off season distraction was the incident involving James Roberts at a Gold Coast nightclub. The Broncos will be hoping the centre with the potential to be the very best three quarter in the game will live up to that and be as slick on the field as the club were off it in avoiding any major penalties.

As ever, there’s a lot happening at the Brisbane club, and a real pity none of that will happen on a Sunday afternoon.

Key Players

Whoever ultimately replaces Corey Parker at Lock:

Josh McGuire appears to have the inside running on replacing the workhorse Corey Parker at lock for 2017, but the big question will be whether he can match the output and impact Parker had on the Broncos in recent seasons. McGuire is a quality footballer no doubt, and has many skills and great qualities for a big man, but is he as good as Corey Parker at lock? If not, then one of young up and comers, especially Jai Arrow could step up to the number 13 jersey, but that will take time and with a Brisbane fan base getting more anxious for another title, they may not have that luxury.

Ben Hunt:

All eyes will be on Ben Hunt in 2017 after his $6 Million, 5 year deal to play for the Dragons from 2018. The fingers will also be ready to be pointed if the Broncos start struggling and/or Ben Hunt’s form continues to dip in 2017. Ben Hunt had a stellar 2015, there was even talk of Origin, up to the point of the infamous Grand Final spill. 2016 started with being banned from Origin selection after the breaking the emerging Origin camp curfew among others, and by the time 2016 was finished Hunt’s form was far from Origin selection.

With his Dragons contract already inked for 2018, it won’t take much to put the fans offside in 2017. It doesn’t seem out of the question that if the form gets worse this season that he may end up playing in the Intrust Super Cup or move to Sydney earlier than 2018.

Korbin Sims:

A late January 2017 signing after Newcastle let the youngest Sims brother leave a year earlier than contracted, his trial form suggest he will bring the extra punch that the Broncos have lacked in the forwards in 2016. How the Broncos can attract someone of his calibre for such a cut price deal is testament to lure of the club and its head coach Wayne Bennett.

Story of 2017

It is hard to judge how the Broncos are going to go in 2017. With their star head coach and abundance of talent and the biggest regular crowds filling the coffers, they should easily be a top 4 side in 2017. Despite a form slump which saw the Broncos winning just 3 of 11 games in the middle of 2016, they still finished fifth. Anything less in 2017 will be seen, and probably rightly so, as a failure.

New Captain Darius Boyd will no doubt continue to flourish at fullback, but the rest of their spine can be less relied upon for quality throughout the season. Ben Hunt has already been discussed above, and Andrew McCullough didn’t contribute as much in 2016 due to injury, he works hard but was he as effective in 2016 than the season before? Anthony Milford is a David Warner type who can produce brilliance like no other or have very little effect on a game, but the Broncos will need the gap between his very best and worst to close in 2017 to seriously challenge for the title.

With the high profile additions of PNG speedstar David Mead, Korbin Sims and Benji Marshall in addition to some good fringe players the Broncos have some depth, but those fringe players will need to step up at Origin time in 2017. They can’t afford the same mid season slump this season.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. They still have game breakers and match winners like Darius Boyd, Anthony Millford, Matt Gillett, Corey Oates and so many more. If they play to their best they will be hard to stop.

Whilst I’d love to say that the Broncos will come out and make it a big 2017 for the Sunshine State’s capital, there’s just some lingering doubt that they will improve at all, and the season will not go pear shaped on the back of Ben Hunt, Origin period and whether or not Wayne Bennett still has his premiership winning magic.

Predictions

Top try scorer: David Mead

Top points scorer: Jordan Kahu

Player of the Year: Darius Boyd