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2021 Brisbane Broncos Team Preview

As the National Rugby League season draws closer, we look at how the Brisbane Broncos will go in 2021.

After an abysmal 2020 season, the Brisbane Broncos, alongside new coach Kevin Walters, will be aiming to restore some sense of pride back to the former powerhouse club.

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

NRL Squad

As at 4th February 2021

Jesse Arthars, John Asiata, Ethan Bullemor, Patrick Carrigan, Xavier Coates, Dale Copley, Brodie Croft, Thomas Dearden, Herbie Farnworth, Thomas Flegler, Alex Glenn, Payne Haas, Jamayne Isaako, Rhys Kennedy, Matthew Lodge, Andrew McCullough, David Mead, Anthony Milford, Fanitesi Niu, Corey Oates, Cory Paix, Keenan Palasia, Tevita Pangai jnr, Jordan Riki, Kotoni Staggs, Ben Te’o, Jake Turpin.

Signings

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John Asiata (North Queensland Cowboys), Dale Copley (Gold Coast Titans), David Mead (Catalans Dragons), Isaiah Tass (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs).

Departures

Jack Bird (St. George Illawarra Dragons), Darius Boyd (retired), David Fifita (Gold Coast Titans), Sean O’Sullivan (New Zealand Warriors), Joe Ofahengaue (Wests Tigers), Izaia Perese (rugby union).

First Five

Parramatta Eels (H), Gold Coast Titans (A), Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (H), Melbourne Storm (A), South Sydney Rabbitohs (A).

WHAT TO EXPECT

The Brisbane Broncos were abysmal during the 2020 season, winning just three of their 20 matches, including just one win in their last 18 fixtures. It was a tough year with the departure of coach Anthony Seibold after round 13, the loss of David Fifita (one of the brightest young talents in the game) to rivals the Gold Coast Titans, and the club’s first ever wooden spoon. The silver lining for the Broncos is it can’t get much worse in 2021. New coach Kevin Walters will have a similar squad to work with, but a fresh approach from a new coach could be exactly what the Broncos are after. The playing group will be determined to deliver much better performances for their diehard fan base who suffered through a tough year. Although, with no real big inclusions to the squad, will the Broncos be able to deliver better performances?

It could be another tough year for the Broncos, although an improvement on last season is definitely possible. It won’t help being without their star centre Kotoni Staggs after he suffered a knee injury late last season: he won’t be expected to return until the middle of the season. His omission could give the young Tesi Niu an opportunity to lock down a spot: he made his debut last year before succumbing to injury. But the performances of the year could boil down to how Anthony Milford, Brodie Croft, and the young Tom Dearden go. Milford had his worst season in the maroon and yellow, recording just one try and four try assists in his 13-game season: in his final year of his contract, he will be looking to earn a solid pay day by the season’s end. Croft proved to be a dud signing for the Broncos last season, with the former Melbourne Storm halfback losing his place in the side after round 14 due to recording a sole try assist in his 14 appearances. The Broncos expected big things from Croft and their fans were thoroughly disappointed in his performances.

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These two halves need a big 2021 season, not only to help the club win games, but also for their potential future in the game. Dearden was the most impressive of the three last year, earning his spot in the starting side halfway through the season and impressing enough to wear the number seven jersey for the remainder of the season. At just 19 years of age, there is still plenty to come from young Dearden and hopefully 2021 could be a season to remember for the young Queenslander.

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Payne Haas will be one of the most important players in the Broncos side for the upcoming season. The four-time New South Wales representative had another stellar season for Brisbane in 2020, working through a mammoth 175 run metres and 44 tackles per game. Now 41 games into his career, Haas will be leaning into his international and state experience to help guide the Broncos from the bottom of the ladder onto higher prospects during the 2021 season. Despite being just 21 years of age, the prop forward is one of the more experienced forwards in the side, and now with the talented David Fifita leaving the club, Haas will have even more responsibility on his shoulders; if he continues to develop into the footballer he is touted to be, it could go a long way to helping the Broncos from the bottom of the ladder.

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The Broncos have made four additions to their 2021 squad: they’re not the most outstanding crop of players, but they’ll welcome Dale Copley and David Mead back to the club, alongside new signings John Asiata, and the young Isaiah Tass. The player likely to have the most impact out of the four is the former North Queensland Cowboys forward Asiata. The 27-year-old played 128 games for the Cowboys over the span of seven seasons and is a current Tongan international. Asiata appeared in just 11 games last season due to battling a knee injury during the middle of the season; he was restricted to a bench role for the majority of the year, playing behind a front row including the likes of Jason Taumalolo, Josh McGuire, and Jordan McLean. The Broncos’ new signing averaged just 54.2 metres per game in limited game time but his carries were coming at 8.9 metres per attempt, putting him ahead of McGuire in that statistic. Asiata joins a young forward pack which only features one established player to carry the ball for more than 8.9 metres per attempt (Haas at 9.6 metres per carry). Asiata’s go-forward, ball-playing abilities, and premiership experience will be a useful addition to the young talented Broncos forwards that are screaming for some leadership.

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It’s going to be a tough start for the Broncos: they have to face top four sides on four occasions throughout the opening seven rounds of the competition. Two matches against Parramatta and one each against the Storm and the Panthers will prove to be a tough test for the six-time premiers. However, they’ll be eyeing off their round two and three clashes against the Titans and Bulldogs as games they’ll be confident of winning. The rest of their draw is a bit mixed, but overall it’s a tough draw as the 2020 wooden spooners play all four of the top four sides from last season twice throughout the year. A bounce back from last season is desperately needed, but given their draw, it could be another tough year for the Broncos.

FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

Top Tryscorer – Tesi Niu

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Top Pointscorer – Jamayne Isaako

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Club Player of the Year – Payne Haas

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