PRELIMINARY FINAL PREVIEW
I reckon the best result this weekend would be wins to the Raiders and Storm. It’s not that I’m a particular fan of either club but I’d love to see the grand final played out between two non-Sydney clubs. Why? Because the way the NRL is dragging its heels over letting the 2022 grand final be played outside NSW is beyond annoying, it is bordering on insulting. This attitude that Sydney is the centre of the rugby league universe and that it has some God-given right to hold the showpiece game of the year is out of step with reality. At the risk of going over old ground, it was Queenslanders who gave the game the biggest shot in the arm of all time when they supported the State of Origin concept back in 1980. It is Queenslanders who have provided the biggest club crowds year in year out since the arrival of the Broncos in 1988, and it is Queensland that has the best rugby league ground in the world with Suncorp Stadium. Yet the Sydney-centric administrators of the game can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that the days of the all-powerful NSWRL are ancient history. I reckon having to sit at the hopelessly unsuitable and soon-to-be rebuilt ANZ Stadium and watch two out of town sides fight out the grand final might just be the painful dose of reality that they need. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon last week’s thrashing by the Eels might just be the best thing that has happened to the Broncos for a long time. At first glance it is hard to find the positives in a 58-nil loss but in the future it could prove to be a turning point in the club’s history. If nothing else it will definitely give coach Anthony Seibold the green light to make the changes that he believes are necessary to turn the club around. If the Broncos had gone down to Parramatta by just a few points it would have been easy to say that all was right at Red Hill and that sneaking into the top eight constituted a successful season. No-one is thinking that now. The problems that Seibold inherited when he came into the job are now painfully obvious and it will require decisive action to take Brisbane back to the top of the rugby league mountain. The first step is to bring in some top class playmakers to compliment the club’s outstanding bunch of young forwards, the second is to give Seibold a full pre-season in which to further implement his playing style and cultural requirements. The club hierarchy are making the right noises about reviewing all aspects of what could only be termed a disappointing season and I reckon in years to come this might just be seen as the wake-up call the Broncos needed. What do YOU reckon?
I reckon the Broncos should stop thinking about ANZ Stadium and start looking towards Wembley or Old Trafford. Brisbane did well to reach the NRL finals after the slow start they had to the season, but no matter how far they go over the next few weeks there is no overlooking the huge hole they have in their armoury. In the likes of Payne Haas, David Fifita, Tevita Pangai Jnr and Matt Lodge the Broncos have some of the best young forwards in the game, but without playmakers of a similar standard they are like a bulldozer without a driver. Look at every top four team this season and they have an ideal balance of power and guile. Put a playmaker like Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster, Cooper Cronk, Luke Keary, Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker or Josh Hodgson together with the Broncos pack and their outside backs and they would go from sneaking into the finals to top two or three. Keep going the way they are and they will just be making up the numbers. The problem is, of course, that there are only so many top class playmakers in the country. Which is why they should be looking off-shore. One of the biggest success stories of 2019 has been the turnaround at the Raiders, thanks in no small way to the influx of ball-playing English forwards such as Hodgson and John Bateman. Next season they will be joined by Wigan halfback George Williams. The Storm and Dragons had similar success with Gareth Widdup and the history of the game in this country is liberally sprinkled with the names of talented Englishmen who have added another dimension to local teams. Ideally the Broncos would love to discover another home-grown Queensland playmaker like a Wally Lewis, Alfie Langer, Kevin Walters or Darren Lockyer but until that happens I reckon they should be sending their recruiters on the next Qantas flight to the UK. What do YOU reckon?
BRONCOS v BULLDOGS
I reckon Saturday’s game against the Bulldogs will say a lot about the Broncos. Given the two teams’ position on the table – Broncos seventh, Bulldogs thirteenth – you’d think it should be an easy win to Brisbane. That’s obviously not the case on two levels. Firstly, nothing has been easy for the Broncos this season and secondly, the Bulldogs have proved themselves to be the nuisance side of the competition in recent months. In the last nine rounds they’ve beaten finals contenders the Sharks, Knights, Panthers, Tigers, Rabbitohs and Eels. Due to the Broncos’ poor for-and-against differential, a loss to the Bulldogs and a draw between the Sharks and Tigers would see Brisbane miss the finals. It is an unlikely result but nonetheless one that could happen, which means the Broncos need to win to keep their season alive. More than that, they need to win well to have any sort of momentum going into the play-offs. Given their shocking start to the year, just making the eight could be seen as a triumph in itself but I doubt Anthony Seibold and his players – let alone the fans – will see it that way. Happily the team has shown some good form over the last few weeks and Darius Boyd’s game against the Eels was his best all year. I reckon they’ll win well on Saturday and cause a few headaches in the finals. What do YOU reckon?