As the National Rugby League season draws closer, we look at how the Brisbane Broncos will go in 2018.
The Brisbane Broncos enter the season after finishing a respectable third on the table in 2017, and making it to the Grand Final Qualifier. With a bunch of departures to deal with, and young talent to build up, the club will be working hard to replicate their success of the last few years and remain relevant in the near future.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Signings – Jack Bird (Sharks), Andre Savelio (Warrington Wolves), Patrick Mogo (Cowboys), Sam Tagataese (Sharks)
Departures – Ben Hunt (Dragons), Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers), Tautau Moga (Knights), Jai Arrow (Titans), Herman Ese’ese (Knights), Francis Molo (released), Adam Blair (Warriors)
First Five – Dragons (A), Cowboys (H), Wests Tigers (A), Titans (H), Knights (A)
WHAT TO EXPECT:
In 2018 more than ever the Broncos will struggle to compete with the other big guns of the competition with the likes of the Raiders, Bulldogs and Tigers looking likely to compete for a spot in the finals. The departures of Ben Hunt, Tautau Moga and Herman Ese’ese in particular reduced the quality of the side, but the arrivals Jack Bird, Sam Tagataese, Matt Lodge and Patrick Mogo will help fill those voids. The injury blow to English import Andre Savelio in the side’s first trial match is unfortunate, given the promising nature of the player, meaning the need of Tagataese and Lodge to step up and perform in the forward pack will be greater. As long as Wayne Bennett is the coach and a strong spine of Boyd, Milford, Nikorima and McCullough remains healthy in 2018 they will remain a competitor.
Anthony Milford’s time to step up
Ben Hunt’s departure opens the door for Anthony Milford to take full control of the backline. Since both men had strong 2015 campaigns, they struggled to coexist and remain consistent. Kodi Nikorima filled in the seven jersey when Hunt was injured or playing off the bench, and that period was when Brisbane arguably were at their best. In order to become more of a focus on the offensive end, Milford will need to perfect his kicking game, as well as developing his leadership skills. In order to achieve this, Milford has the right coach to guide him as well as a long time teammate in Nikorima to support him in the halves.
Jack Bird is without a doubt the biggest arrival for the Broncos, with raw skill mixed in with a great body. He has great experience playing in the halves, centres and at fullback, giving Brisbane a great utility back. Bird will be need to fill in the left side and form a partnership with Corey Oates, one that has the potential to be one of the best centre-wing combos in the game. If all goes to plan, expect Bird to be the buy of the season.
With a load of departures from their forward pack, the Broncos took a gamble to bring in Matt Lodge. Lodge is a former Tiger, who had a promising career as a young prop in 2014. After being arrested in New York in 2015, he was sacked by the club and has failed to find an NRL club since. Lodge was nominated for Player of the Year in the Queensland Cup in 2017, and such good form has been well received by Coach Wayne Bennett. Lodge has revealed his dedication to winning a premiership with the cub, and such attitude will help him become a key part of Brisbane’s forward pack.
A look at their draw
The draw overall looks relatively tough for the Broncos, playing the Storm, Roosters, Sharks and Cowboys twice in 2018. They have a straight forward start against the Dragons, Tigers and Knights on the road and the Cowboys and Titans at home, where they should be aiming for four wins to kick off their campaign. The Broncos will be pleased to travel to New Zealand in week six instead of during the Origin period like they have the last two years, and they should grab a handy road win against the Warriors. They are also fortunate to have a bye round a week before Origin 1, meaning the impact of selection should not harm the team too much going forward.
From weeks 6-16, the Broncos will have to play six out of their nine games against sides who made the top eight in 2017, with the Roosters, Eels, Storm, Sharks and Raiders highlighting a tough stretch. They finish the year with two of their last four matches against the Roosters and Cowboys away from home, games that could determine their place in the top eight.
Top Tryscorer – Corey Oates
Top Pointscorer – Jordan Kahu
Club Player of the Year – Anthony Milford
WHERE WILL BRISBANE FINISH?
It seems now for the third straight year Brisbane will have to patch up positions where key players have departed. It will be interesting to see how the halves combination works across an entire season, and whether Milford can live up to expectations that were somewhat halted with Ben Hunt in the side. Brisbane will have to keep Suncorp Stadium a fortress, especially during the Origin period where they take on tough opponents in a short space of time. It will be a struggle to remain in the top four with a host of other teams all primed for big years, but expect the Broncos be up there with them.
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