Record (W-L-D): 12-12-0
Top Pointscorer: Corey Parker (114 points)
Top Tryscorer: Dale Copley (16 tries)
The 2014 NRL season was a bit of a mixed bag for the Brisbane Broncos. Despite making their way back to the finals after missing out last season, their final game against the Cowboys would also be coach Anthony Griffin’s last game in charge of the club. With favourite son Wayne Bennett returning to the club in 2015, the writing was on the wall for the man affectionately known as ‘Hook’.
There were times throughout the season when the Broncos were showing enough to be considered a premiership contender but as is the case every year, Origin dented their run. Important players Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett and Corey Parker all missed time during that period through Origin and injury which meant the side were forced to turn to some lesser names.
Consistency ultimately proved to be the Broncos downfall as stringing multiple wins together at important stages proved difficult. However, there were some wins by the team which will be remembered by fans for a long time including two late season wins against the Knights and the Dragons which allowed them to sneak into the finals. Their finals exit summed up their season as despite a late flurry it would be a case of too little too late.
The Broncos season would have been a failure for the Broncos had it not been for one man; Ben Hunt. The halfback was, in my opinion, the most improved player in the competition by a country mile. He led the team around like he had been doing it for years and chipped in when the team needed him most. As a play-maker finishing the season with 13 tries and 19 try-assists is outstanding and had it not been for the excellent form of Jarryd Hayne and Jonathan Thurston then I think he would have been a real chance of winning the Dally M this season.
Despite starting the season with heavy criticism and some poor form, Ben Barba redeemed himself to finish strongly. A hat-trick against the Knights showed glimpses of his 2012 season and playing at five-eighth in the back half of the year seemed to give him confidence and helped the side to some crucial victories. With some top-line players coming and being linked to the club for 2015, that late season form may have saved his Broncos career.
One of the Broncos juniors who really stepped up this season and showed why he may be a future Origin star is outside back Dale Copley. Finishing the season as the clubs leading try scorer and one of the best centres this season, Copley it would seem would be one of the first picked despite some high-profile players coming to the club for 2015.
Despite just creeping into the top 8 there were not many things that could be considered bad. As with any team that doesn’t win the whole competition, there is room for improvement. As stated earlier Brisbane lacked consistency to be a real force. Their squad was not bad in any form and most of their players showed glimpses that next year could be a successful year.
The distraction of the future of Anthony Griffin and Wayne Bennett could be considered a bad part of the season as it derailed their momentum but that should alleviate next season with Bennett taking over.
One player who did disappoint this year after coming to the club in the off-season was Martin Kennedy. Despite being one of the better props in the game during his time at the Roosters, injury and poor form affected his time at Red Hill in 2014. Broncos fans and Wayne Bennett will be hoping the real Kennedy will stand up in 2015.
The Future: 2015
The team which runs out for Brisbane in round one next season may be considerably different to the one which lost in week one of the finals. Along with head coach Bennett being a fresh face, the side will welcome English winger Greg Eden, Melbourne prop Mitch Garbutt and exciting young fullback Anthony Milford. Milford in particular will excite the Broncos fans and his combination with Ben Hunt could lead to some fantastic tries in 2015.
The rumours of Darius Boyd returning to the club in 2015 won’t go away and if he was to come to the Queensland club then there could be an excess of fullbacks. Boyd, Hodges, Barba, Milford and Hoffman would all have to fit into one side which could be difficult but if they can then their attacking potential may be unlimited.
With the most successful coach of the club returning in 2015 and with a side that could trouble most teams with their attacking potential, a top eight position would be a minimum. The pressure of Bennett and the Broncos will be on, the question; Can they handle it?