The sooner Brisbane Broncos fans can forget about season 2020, the better. It was diabolical and perhaps even that is an understatement.
In a year where everything could go wrong, it did. Poor, inconsistent play on the field. Off-field indiscretions and, perhaps worse of all, the late ACL injury suffered by star centre Kotoni Staggs.
With first-year coach Kevin Walters at the helm in 2021, the pressure is on both he and the players to perform and buck the worrying trend that was 2020.
The young firepower is there and they will need every bit of it – especially in Staggs’ absence – if they are to claw their way back towards respectability.
The Loss of Staggs
It cannot be understated just how much the Broncos will miss Kotoni Staggs to start the year. It would seem he may be out until close to mid-season, eyeing off a return in round 13 or 14.
That is a lot of action to be missing out in a side that is crying out for a genuine x-factor and that is exactly what Staggs proved to be.
Quick, nifty, deceptively strong, and a handful with every attacking run, his potency down the right attacking edge will dramatically hurt the Broncos chances to score points.
To illustrate just how destructive Staggs can be with ball-in-hand, fast forward to 1:31 in this highlights clip to see how he shows acceleration, a bone-rattling fend, and strength, on his way to score.
Trying to replace quality like that is not easy and the Broncos will have their hands full in doing so.
Haas is the leader but can others follow him?
If one thing out of the Broncos organisation is clear, it is that Payne Haas is a revelation as a player.
Leading from the front every week and continuing to stamp his authority as an elite forward, there is only so much that one man can do week in and week out.
He did receive some help from Patrick Carrigan throughout the year but he and others in the Broncos forward rotation need to step up even more.
Interestingly, the bench rotation is reportedly set to be tweaked so that Haas is playing around 60 minutes per game instead of full games.
Whether that nullifies his impact or wills him on to get even more involved, his runs, work-rate, and desire will all be crucial aspects yet again.
Haas himself will want to continue his good form and build upon his representative honours of 2020.
O Milford, wherefore art thou?
Anthony Milford. A man with spades of talent, electrifying on his day and yet, consistency has always eluded him.
An enigmatic playmaker who can change a game in the blink of an eye, 2020 was one of Milford’s most inconsistent to date.
He was in and out of the side, unable to find form and in the end, fell out of favour before injury also struck.
With a new coach, he has a chance to start afresh. The talent and ability is there, and years past have shown just that.
In 2019, he scored six tries, recorded 13 try assists, and averaged more than 100 metres per game.
The scarier part is that that was not even his best season. Milford is capable of much more than that but you have to go back to 2016 to when he had the competition on notice.
If he can come together under Kevin Walters, find his mojo again and become even half the player he was in 2016, then the Broncos will be in good stead in the halves.
They will need it as Milford can be the x-factor in Staggs’ absence.
Player to Watch
He could have shown even more of his ability had a late-season injury not ruled him out but this could be the year that Tesi Niu steps up.
Sticking with the Broncos after rival clubs came knocking, the live-wire utility showed glimpses of how good he can be and will only get better with each game.
As the Broncos spine begins to take a shape with a core of young players, Niu’s impact and guile from the custodian position will be pivotal.
With the fullback role now such an important one in the modern age of rugby league, his development will be fun to watch.
One person who will be able to help him take those next steps is coach Kevin Walters, who himself was a live-wire player in his day as a half/hooker.
His guidance will help Niu and he will expect the very best from the versatile utility.
Gains and Losses
Gains: John Asiata (North Queensland Cowboys) and Dale Copley (Gold Coast Titans).
Losses: Jack Bird (St George Illawarra Dragons), Darius Boyd (retired), David Fifita (Gold Coast Titans), Sean O’Sullivan (New Zealand Warriors), Joe Ofahengaue (Wests Tigers).
NRL News Predicted Line-up at full strength
- Tesi Niu
- Jesse Arthars
- Herbie Farnworth
- Kotoni Staggs
- Xavier Coates
- Anthony Milford
- Xavier Coates
- Payne Haas
- Jake Turpin
- Tevita Pangai Jr
- Alex Glenn (C)
- Jordan Riki
- Patrick Carrigan
- Thomas Flegler
- Corey Oates
- John Asiata
- Matt Lodge