After a poor start to the season, Brisbane were able to string some wins together to qualify for yet another finals series. Then the wheels fell off.
2019 Club Record
Losses: 12 (Draws: 1)
Competition Points: 25
2019 Player Achievements
The Brisbane Broncos entered the 2019 season with a fairly inexperienced squad. Despite this, the media expected them to finish towards the top half of the ladder. The expectations put on this group were arguably too high given the inexperience of their forward pack. However, new coach Anthony Seibold was confident he could bring his form from South Sydney and apply it to his new Broncos side. They didn’t start well, only winning one of their opening six matches. They turned this around, winning nine of their next fourteen, which put them in a position for a finals berth.
The Broncos’ forward pack started to click in the back half of the season as they reached eighth spot. Despite the media’s predictions, the Broncos struggled and a mid-table finish is a fair representation of where the club is at the moment. It was a fairly decent effort given they had eight players make their NRL debuts this season, and another six were only in their second season in first grade. But as their finals performance against Parramatta showed, there’s still a lot of room to improve, and they’ll need to sort out their halves combination prior to the 2020 season. They struggled to score points in some games this season, and relied too much on the individual brilliance of some of their young forwards to create opportunities. They can’t afford to go into another season with Darius Boyd in the halves – an issue that the club is currently trying to fix.
A season-ending ACL injury (against Manly-Warringah in round nine) sidelined Jack Bird for a second straight year. The 24-year-old has only played 17 games for the Broncos in his first 2 seasons after leaving Cronulla at the end of 2016. The injury-prone centre was officially given permission by the Broncos’ board to negotiate with rival clubs for 2020.
The Broncos also released James Roberts, Jaydn Su’A and Kodi Nikorima during the season, allowing them to play for other clubs, and depleting the depth of the Broncos’ halves stocks. When young Tom Dearden went down with a season-ending ankle injury, the club was forced to play either Jake Turpin and/or Darius Boyd out of position in the halves. This put a truckload of pressure on Anthony Milford, especially when he was moved to fullback; he essentially had to play two positions as he still held the kicking duties. It made it predictable for opposition teams, who could easily apply pressure on Milford when he was kicking.
Given the youth of the squad, the Broncos were certain to have a few breakout players this season. There are four players that stand out above the rest and are ones to watch for next season. Two centres, Kotoni Staggs and Gehamat Shibasaki (both in their second year of first grade) were impressive. Staggs was more of a mainstay in the centres and scored 11 tries this season. Shibasaki wasn’t given the same opportunities, but when he started in the centres his productivity was quite similar to Staggs. Pending any future signings, this could be the centre combination for next year: if so you can expect to get 100 metres/game, 14 tackles/game and 3 tackle breaks/game from the pair.
The other two breakout players were front rower Payne Haas and back rower David Fifita. Haas will be mentioned later on, but Fifita – who made his debut last season as an 18-year-old – became a regular starter throughout the back half of the season. In the 14 games that Fifita started in the back row he averaged 116 metres/game, 6.4 tackle breaks/game, 41 post-contact metres/game and 26 tackles/game. They are fairly handy stats for a 19-year-old who also made his Queensland State of Origin debut this season. He showed his potential in his ability to make barnstorming runs late in the game when the opposition defence tires. The most memorable of them was against Parramatta in round 24, when he broke 6 tackles in a 30-metre run that set up the match-winning field goal.
After their disappointing finals performance, the Broncos made it clear that no player was safe in the end-of-season review. The Broncos are looking to move on veterans Andrew McCullough, Jack Bird and Darius Boyd. Boyd will be the hardest of the trio, with another year left on his contract, and a player option for a second season. Winger Corey Oates is the only off-contract player who is expected to re-sign with the club, that should occur in the coming weeks.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season
In only his second season at the club, 19-year-old Payne Haas has undoubtedly been the Broncos’ best player in 2019. Standing at 194 cm and weighing 119 kilograms, he is an absolute monster of a human for his age. After only 24 games in the top grade, he is not only a superstar in the making, but he has immense potential that perhaps we haven’t seen from a young front rower before. He finished fourth in this year’s Dally M Medal count with 27 votes, finishing behind James Tedesco, Cameron Smith and Mitchell Moses: pretty handy company to be amongst.
At the Dally M Awards, Haas won the Dally M Prop of the Year and Dally M Rookie of the Year awards, averaging a mammoth 185 metres/game. The young front rower also averaged 4.9 tackle breaks/game whilst completing 36 tackles/game. He is able to get through an immense amount of work, and it was not uncommon to see the prop forward spend 65-80 minutes on the park, a tribute to his work ethic. In 8 of the last 9 home and away games this season, he ran for over 200 metres. He is one of the most exciting prospects in the game, and made his debut for New South Wales in Origin one earlier in the season; this week he was rewarded with a spot in the Australian side for the upcoming Test matches later this month. Broncos fans should be very excited about this game-changing player.
2020 GAINS AND LOSSES
Jesse Arthars (2021), Rhys Kennedy (2020).
Tanah Boyd (Gold Coast Titans), Troy Dargan (South Sydney), Kodi Nikorima (Warriors – mid season), James Roberts & Jaydn Su’A (South Sydney – mid season), Shaun Fensom & Sam Tagataese (retired).
George Fai, Alex Glenn, Richie Kennar, Patrick Mago, Corey Oates & James Segeyaro.