Daniel Nichols looks back at the 2013 NRL season for all 16 clubs. Today he looks backs at the Brisbane Broncos season.
Fan Prediction: 4th
What Went Wrong: The Broncos started the year by signing experienced halfback Scott Prince in hope he would add some experience and composure to a halves partnership that struggled in 2012. Although Prince could never be accused of phoning it in, his partnership with Wallace never clicked. Wallace soon found himself in a bench utility role, replaced by younger Ben Hunt before being released to join the Panthers. The Broncos started the year with an all Origin representative halves pairing with a quality half backup in Corey Norman, yet only managed 23 try assists between them, 12 of which came from Norman. Prince is now retired, Norman is off to the Eels and Wallace is a Panther leaving the Broncos further away than ever in their quest to find a post Lockyer halves combination.
Injuries to key players disrupted the Broncos severely in 2013, with superstar Justin Hodges managing only 14 games and front row general Ben Hannant playing only 16 games. The Broncos missed Hannant’s go forward and experience, especially with big Petero Civoniceva having retired last season. Hodges injury was perhaps even more instrumental in the Broncos recording only 10 wins this season as they missed his ability to create out wide and mentor the young outside backs. Corey Oates, Jordan Kahu and co. look like future star, but looked lost at times without the leadership of Hodges.
The once feared calderon of Suncorp Stadium became almost a happy hunting ground for travelling sides in 2013 as the Broncos lost more games than they won at home. The side managed only 5 wins from 11 games at the Brisbane venue including a 56-18 flogging at the hands of the Warriors. Broncos coach Anthony Griffin will want the team to win more games in front of their big fan base next season.
What Went Right: Corey Parker was an absolute star for the Broncos in 2013. Parker recorded stats that make his amazing efforts in past seasons look like he was in second gear. Averaging a massive 40+ tackles a game and recording an average of over 140 metres per game, Parker was at his absolute best all season. Stats can be deceiving but Parker was worth every tackle and every metre for the Brisbane outfit and even recorded 66 offloads, 20 more than his nearest teammate. Parker’s performances in Origin were also first rate and his amazing season has landed him the ultimate prize, a Kangaroos jersey in the World Cup squad.
Although the Broncos struggled in the halves this season, out wide they seem to always have an abundant of talent. Youngster Jordan Kahu burst onto the scene after debuting in round 4, playing 10 games and scoring 4 tries. Corey Oates debuted later in the season scoring an amazing 8 tries in his 9 first grade games. In Oates and Kahu the Broncos have 2 talented, young wingers who have committed to the club. Centre Jack Reed has an inconsistent season after his amazing 2012 but showed touches of genuine class and will be a long term fixture in the Brisbane backline. When Hodges is back to full fitness, the Broncos will have a dangerous backline with a great mixture of youth and experience.
Where they did struggle a little this season was at fullback. Josh Hoffman, the man who will likely play in the number 1 for the New Zealanders in the World Cup seemed to lack confidence at times this season. The Broncos have signed 2012 Daly M medalist Ben Barba to play in the number 1 spot for 2014, possibly allowing Hoffman to move into the halves. Barba’s 2013 was disastrous to say the least, with his off season problems taking a huge toll on his game. He asked for and was granted a release to join the Broncos to follow his ex partner and their children home to Brisbane. Barba’s off field dramas will need to be taken care of if the star is to be any chance of returning to his destructive best but the general feeling is his moving closer to home will do him the world of good. If the Broncos can get the best out of the wayward star, they certainly won’t have any problems in the number 1 jersey next season.
Verdict: 2013 was a disappointing season for the Brisbane based team. Nothing short of a finals appearance is deemed acceptable by the fans and officials and the pressure will be on Griffin and the senior players to produce early next season. Ben Barba is a huge gain for the Broncos and will surely inject some spark into their faltering attack, but he will need a supporting cast to achieve success. Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Ben Hannant and co. should lay a good platform for the new look Broncos halves in 2014. Broncos fans won’t want to hear about the club having another rebuilding year, they will want a top 8 finish and given the roster at the Brisbane club, that should be within their grasp