It was another tumultuous season for the Brisbane Broncos; however, their form at the back end of the season can give the club some hope for further improvements next season.
2021 Club RecordEmbed from Getty Images
Competition Points: 16
2021 Player AchievementsEmbed from Getty Images
Most Tries: Xavier Coates – 11
Most Points: Jamayne Isaako – 124
2021 was another disappointing season for the Brisbane Broncos as they finished in 14th spot, the club’s second worst finish to a season (2020 being the worst). After losing respectfully during the opening two weeks, the Broncos knocked off the Bulldogs in Round Three, giving the club and their fans hope for the remainder of the season. However, it quickly became another grim season for the Broncos as they won a measly two games over the next 12 weeks. Much of the same followed for the Broncos until they faced the North Queensland Cowboys in Round 20, defeating their rivals by 19 points, which propelled them into their best form since the start of the 2020 season. During these last six games the Broncos won three (including the win over the Cowboys) and lost the other three by eight points or less. Finally, the Broncos were at least competitive again and finished the season in style, defeating the seventh-placed Newcastle Knights by 13 points.
During their rut at the start of the season, the Broncos made the costly error (with hindsight) of letting then 18-year-old Reece Walsh leave to take up a contract with the Warriors. Walsh in turn showed the Broncos what could have been as he scored nine tries and assisted a further 11 in his 16 appearances for the Warriors this season. The young fullback showed immense potential and was set to make his debut for Queensland in Origin Game Three, although missed out through injury. However, Brisbane do have access to a multitude of incredibly talented players and Tesi Niu and Selwyn Cobbo are two such players showing great promise. Niu scored eight tries during his 16 appearances this season and in his 10 games at fullback averaged 162 run metres per game and assisted three tries. Unlike Niu, Cobbo only featured during the back half of the season, with the 19-year-old scoring two tries in his seven games this year. The youngster averaged 103 run metres per game at either centre or wing, but showed immense skill and potential during his performances with the Wynnum Manly Seagulls throughout the back half of the year. Losing Walsh is tough, but if either of these players can continue to improve, the Broncos should have no issues at the back.
Time to move on to the positive aspects of the Brisbane Broncos’ season.
There’s only one Brisbane player who you could possibly start with and that is Payne Haas. The 21-year-old had another stellar season and continues to assert himself as one of the best middle forwards in the game. The New South Welshman averaged 168.1 run metres per game this season, leading all forwards despite it being the lowest metres per game tally of his career: an exceptional effort. Haas has one of the great motors in the league, playing 60+ minutes in the majority of his appearances this season, as he made 33 tackles per outing and once again proved to be a handful for opposition defences, breaking 3.4 tackles per game. Once again, he was rewarded with State of Origin selection as the Blues won back the shield after last year’s heartbreak.
He was supported by players such as Herbie Farnworth and Jordan Riki throughout the year: both showing vast improvements as the season went on. Firstly, Farnworth finally locked down a permanent spot in the centres this season and the 21-year-old showed a sign of things to come. In his 20 appearances this season, Farnworth averaged 145.3 run metres per game, an increase of 47 metres per game from his 2020 season. Like Haas, Farnworth proved to be a tough task for opposition defences as he broke the line on 11 occasions throughout the year and averaged 2.8 tackle breaks per game. However, the young Englishman only managed to cross the line three times this season, probably a by-product of the Broncos’ weak attack.
Moving onto his fellow 21-year-old teammate Riki, who had only appeared for the Broncos five times before the season started. The second-rower finished with 18 appearances to his name and locked down a regular spot in the back row over the last two months of the season. The youngster only averaged 72 run metres per game, a number which will certainly improve with more experience and a better organised attacking game with Adam Reynolds in the number seven next year. However, he did prove that he has the ability to play as an 80-minute back rower. More often than not, Riki played the full 80 minutes and averaged 33.3 tackles per game, an extraordinary amount for a man playing on the edge. Another positive note for the Broncos is that all three of the aforementioned players are 21 years of age and should theoretically improve as they grow older and gain more experience in the top flight.
2022 will be a big season for Haas, Farnworth, and Riki and they’ll all no doubt benefit from the arrival of South Sydney halfback Reynolds. The grand final runner-up arrives at the Broncos after playing in 25 games for the Bunnies in 2021, scoring five tries and assisting in a further seven. Reynolds also brings a superb kicking game with him as he forced nine drop outs (after forcing 20+ in each of the previous three seasons) throughout the year and constantly put opposition fullbacks under immense pressure with his excellent torpedo bombs. Reynolds is also an accomplished goal kicker, having kicked 860 goals over his career at a success rate of 82.14 per cent. The former New South Wales halfback will bring some much needed organisation and direction to a team that has lacked both for the best part of two seasons now and is arguably the club’s best halfback since Ben Hunt. The Broncos had the third worst attack last season and were the third worst at gaining metres. You’d expect the inclusion of Reynolds to push these numbers north.
However, something that Reynolds may not directly impact is the club’s defence. The Broncos conceded 695 points this season (28.9 per game): the fourth worst in the competition. If they are to improve on their 2021 season the Broncos are going to have to reduce the amount of points they concede, as you’re not winning many games conceding 29 points each week. No doubt coach Kevin Walters will have his side working hard during the off-season to fix the issue. Although we won’t know the results of this until the 2022 season gets underway.
Along with Reynolds, the Broncos welcome Queensland Origin back rower Kurt Capewell to the fold after a premiership-winning season with the Penrith Panthers. He’ll no doubt add to the team and will for sure take one of the starting back row positions. Brenko Lee will join his former Origin teammates in Brisbane and will look to return to the form that he discovered whilst at Melbourne. Meanwhile, Brisbane fans won’t be shattered to see the end of Anthony Milford’s 151 game stint at the club after struggling during the last two seasons.
A loss that will have Broncos fans mourning will be the Melbourne Storm’s acquisition of Queensland winger Xavier Coates, who will no doubt excel under Craig Bellamy down in Victoria. The 20-year-old scored 11 tries for the Broncos this season in just 17 appearances and crossed for the Maroons on two occasions during his five Origin appearances. Regardless, we won’t see the results of these changes until we’re a few weeks into the 2022 season; and after the results of the past two seasons, the Broncos will once again be optimistic about their chances in 2022.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season – Payne HaasEmbed from Getty Images
Run Metres: 3,165
Tackle Busts: 70
Try Assists: 2