This is an extended preview of League Express’ club-by-club NRL previews. Check back regularly for a preview like this on every NRL club.
Home Ground: Suncorp Stadium (Lang Park), Milton, Brisbane
Coach: Wayne Bennett
2016 finish: 5th
2016 top try scorer: Corey Oates, 15
2016 Player of the Year: Darius Boyd
Gains: Mitchell Dodds (Warrington Wolves), Benji Marshall (Dragons), David Mead (Titans), Tautau Moga (Cowboys), Korbin Sims (Knights)
Losses: Greg Eden (Castleford Tigers), Lachlan Maranta (rugby union), Corey Parker (retired), Jack Reed (retired), Jarrod Wallace (Titans)
Bookmakers slashed the Broncos odds after last weekend’s defeat to England by the Warrington Wolves. And no doubt each of the opposing NRL coaches will have taken note of the tactics of the winning mentor, Tony Smith.
The former Aussie brought back the ‘charge down’ to rattle the soon-to-be $6 million man, Ben Hunt. After the first time this happened it was certain there would be more … and there will be all this season.
Hunt played it down: “It was not so much of a shock. But they don’t do it in the NRL.” And, in his own words, as a result, the Broncos were “all over shop” for the rest of the match. No doubt Broncos’ coach Wayne Bennett will be working overtime with Hunt in the lead-up to Thursday night’s season-opener against Cronulla to restore his confidence. After all, Hunt will want to leave Brisbane a winner at the end of the year to take up his mammoth contract with the Dragons in 2018.
The Broncos face a horror opening month to the Premiership. After Cronulla, they face the Cowboys, Storm and Raiders – last season’s top four sides. Admittedly three of the four encounters are at home in the Lang Park complex. But it is still a tough start. No wonder Bennett wanted an exacting final ‘friendly’ against Warrington to have his players battle-hardened!
Thank heavens Darius Boyd, the fellow named as the world’s best fullback in Rugby League World’s 2016 ratings, will be there overseeing the proceedings. He regards Bennett as a proxy father (following him from the Broncos, to the Dragons and Knights and back home again). He has been rewarded for the best season of his career by being named as Brisbane’s captain. Stand by for some more inspirational displays.
Having said that, the Broncos will sorely miss the previous skipper Corey Parker, who has retired. The 347-game veteran must rank as one of the most under-estimated Test players in the history of the Australian game. We must expect even more prominent roles from former Samoan and Australian Test prop Josh McGuire and the wonderful Four Nations star Matt Gillett, named on the RLW Team of the Year. Korbin Sims, one of the great Aussie rugby family (male and female) will add starch to the pack.
It will be interesting to see where the mercurial Benji Marshall fits in.
But one of the buys of the off-season (from the Titans), PNG Test man David Mead, will probably cement a spot on one of the wings and will be an able replacement for England Test man Jack Reed forced into early retirement by a shoulder injury.