Back again for another season, it’s Ricky’s NRL previews for the 2019 season, kick-starting with the Brisbane Broncos!
With so much uncertainty around the head coaching role, questions over the halves and juggling the number of young guns, can the Broncos get themselves back into the second or third week of the finals in 2019?
The coaching saga
All off-season, everyone has been talking about Wayne Bennett and Anthony Seibold. Will they swap or will they stay? What would be the differences with either as coach in 2019?
As we know, Bennett is very old-school. One of the greatest coaches that Australian rugby league has ever seen, Bennett is a tough and stern but fair and honest coach.
That sort of approach is one that his players often appreciate.
However, as the game has changed, Bennett’s inability to often change with it has affected his side, the way they play and their unison and cohesiveness as a team.
If Bennett cannot adapt to the ever-changing NRL atmosphere, can he continue to get the best out of any side?
As for Seibold, many see him as one of the coaches on the rise. Surprising many in just how much he managed to extract from the South Sydney Rabbitohs side in 2018, can he do the same at the Broncos?
In the Craig Bellamy mold of coaching, Seibold has an affinity with Queensland and the Brisbane area and so coaching the Broncos seems like a perfect fit. Or is it?
With so much uncertainty surrounding the Broncos side and their overall makeup, fitting in all the young players and satisfying the egos will be difficult.
The halves make-up
Kodi Nikorima or Sean O’Sullivan? One is a relatively established half that has his critics, the other is a young, budding half, yearning for consistent opportunity.
For as long as he has played, Nikorima has always had criticism. Whether it be in general or whether it be specifically related to attack, the naysayers have been there.
A quiet achiever in terms of the way he goes about his business, he has proven on occasion that he is up to the task of leading a team or at least contributing to it.
Alongside Anthony Milford, who is very much a natural ball-runner rather than creator, Nikorima has been forced in some ways to be that creative source.
Despite being a natural ball-runner himself and a player whose versatility has perhaps limited him from developing one particular position in the past, it raises some interesting questions.
Is the Seibold era the one where Nikorima finally has a chance to settle as a half and adapt his game to complement that of Milford’s? Or do you run with the same game plan and just hope that they are both able to penetrate the defence and use quick feet and guile to bamboozle defenders?
Of course, the man on the outside looking in at all of this, is Sean O’Sullivan. A relative newcomer to the first-grade atmosphere, Sydney Roosters fans were and have been impressed with his ability for some time.
Now a Bronco, is it feasible for O’Sullivan to nab a starting spot or even a bench spot in the eyes of the Broncos fans?
Despite his relative inexperience, O’Sullivan impressed enough that some think he deserves a chance.
Is that chance now or will he be forced to wait?
The Young Ones
Blessed are they who are young and able to perform at the NRL level. The Broncos, a team able to produce a litany of talented kids destined for bigger things.
With so many on the horizon, though, and so many already getting a taste of first-grade, who features regularly?
Whether Bennett or Seibold are in charge, tough decisions will have to be made and not everyone will be pleased with those decisions.
Tevita Pangai Jr, Jaydn Su’A, Kotoni Staggs, Gehamat Shibasaki, David Fifita, Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan.
All have the talent and ability but not all will be playing first-grade week in and week out.
One thing is for certain, though. When the Broncos need some quality depth, they won’t be lacking on recruits to call upon.
Player to Watch
One of the best emerging props you will see in 2019, David Fifita is ready to take the rugby league world by storm.
A hulking young forward, Fifita is at the Broncos for the long-term and will be looking to make the most of his opportunities.
Although injury cut his 2018 campaign short, his 11 games were impressive and have many Broncos fans eager to see him run around again.
Whether he starts or comes off the bench remains to be seen but his sheer power and tenacity, are sure to provide a big impact either way.
If he had not of played a total of 11 games, a rookie of the year award may have been on the horizon.
2019 Gains and Losses
Gains: Shaun Fensom (North Queensland Cowboys, 2019), Thomas Dearden (2019), Thomas Flegler (2019), Myles Taueli (2019) and Sean O’Sullivan (Sydney Roosters, 2020).
Losses: Josh McGuire and Tom Opacic (both North Queensland Cowboys), Jonus Pearson and Korbin Sims (both St George Illawarra Dragons), Marion Seve (Melbourne Storm) and Sam Thaiday (retired).
NRL News Predicted Line-up
Darius Boyd (C)
Tevita Pangai Jr.
14. Alex Glenn
15. Payne Haas
16. David Fifita
17. George Fai