Going in to Thursday nights clash with the Eels, the Brisbane Broncos were flying. They were sitting in second place having won three games consecutively. The game was an opportunity for the team to continue to build momentum working towards there first NRL Premiership in over ten years. We all know this did not go to plan with the Broncos having their pants pulled down by a dark horse in the competition. Many in rugby league circles have used this result as a reason to right off Wayne Bennett’s men. However, do this at your own peril.
The last time the Broncos won the Premiership was in 2006 and at no real stage during the year had they stamped themselves as a genuine premiership threat. In their opening game at Suncorp, they were blown off the park by an enthusiastic Cowboys side. After the Origin series, the team hit their usual slump losing five consecutive games. In their opening game of that years final series, they were outmatched by the Dragons and had to rely on other results to remain in the competition. These lulls would have a detrimental effect on most rugby league sides. However, the Broncos are not your everyday side.
The current Broncos side has many resemblances to the one that beat Melbourne in the ’06 decider. They have had the disappointing losses, going down to the Eels 52-34 and the Storm 42-12. They have had injuries to key players with Andrew McCulloch’s ACL injury forcing Sam Thaiday and Ben Hunt to share hooking duties. Very similar circumstances to the 2006 side who lost Michael Ennis forcing Shaun Berrigan into dummy half. Of course the other key resemblance is that both teams featured Darius Boyd in the side and Wayne Bennett pulling the strings.
Despite the heartbreaking loss of Korbin Sims for the remainder of the season with an arm injury, the Broncos will be going into the final series with the confidence that they can go all the way. They have a mixture of youth and experience in their forward pack who all are mobile and share the great ability to offload. They have great intuitive halves who play what is in front of them and can make magic out of nowhere. To top things off, they are led by arguably the greatest coach in the history of the game and his offsider Jason Demetriou is a man who knows all about winning grand finals having done so with the Cowboys in 2015. There is a great deal to like about this years Broncos side and many reasons why they can give the competition a shake.
The loss to the Eels was a disappointing one without question. However, a loss in the second last round is much better than one in a knockout week in the finals. The game will bring the team back to Earth and give them areas to focus on in their last round game against classic rivals The Cowboys.
Finishing second would be great for the side but third place is not too bad ether. After all, this is where they finished in 2006 and we all know how that turned out!