Wayne Bennett’s Broncos well and truly exceeded expectations in 2015. The old saying goes that forwards win matches and the backs decide by how much. And this was the case for the Broncos this year.
The Broncos don’t have a big forward pack like the Roosters, Bulldogs, or Cowboys. But they are a supremely fit and mobile group. And, unsurprisingly, they are the most disciplined forward pack in the competition.
After the 36-6 opening round loss to the Rabbitohs, Bennett benched Sam Thaiday for the next few weeks. Many people questioned this decision at the time, but it got the best out of Sam in the end. He played in the ANZAC test, all three Origin games, and has re-signed until the end of 2018. With Josh McGuire back next year, Sam Thaiday won’t have to play as much in the front row.
McGuire, the Broncos’ premier prop, was having a great season until he did his Achilles in the Round 16 game against Newcastle. It must have been a bittersweet season for McGuire: making his Origin debut, a season-ending injury, watching teammates reach and lose a grand final.
Adam Blair earnt the moniker ‘Teddy Blair’ after some woeful performances early in the season. But he got better as the season went on. In the last two months, he was one of the Broncos’ best—taking more hit-ups, pressuring kickers, and hitting hard in tackles. A shrewd signing by Wayne.
Resident silverfox Corey Parker had another fine season. His goalkicking was solid, he was the Broncos’ best metre-eater, and he picked up the Wally Lewis Medal (best player in SOO 2015) and the Dally M medal for Rep player of the year.
Mitchell Dodds and Jarrod Wallace were reliable and important members of the forward rotation, especially when McGuire went down. They quietly went about their business in the minutes they got each week. With Dodds heading to Warrington next season, expect James Gavet to push for a bench spot.
The back row is a real strength of the Broncos. Thaiday, Parker, Alex Glenn, and Matt Gillett are all representative players. Glenn’s season was fairly quiet; he didn’t seem to go looking for the ball enough, and his combination with Anthony Milford is, understandably, a work in progress. Gillett seems to have improved his defence, both in efficacy and workrate. He’s always been a dangerous player in attack with the ability to bust tackles. I think next year Ben Hunt could work on putting Gillett into more holes with short passes.
Andrew McCullough is the rock of the Broncos’ pack and one of the most underrated players in the game. It’s a pity he didn’t have much impact in the grand final, because he had a very good season. His kicking in general play has improved, and his dummy close to the line is a weapon. He will battle Jake Friend to be the heir to Cam Smith’s Origin jersey.
We saw some young talent get a taste of NRL in 2015. Francis Molo and Joe Ofahengaue probably got more game time than they were expecting. Both look promising players.
Kodi Nikorima debuted in Round 2 and was used as the super-sub hooker to give McCullough a spell in most games. Nikorima excelled in this role and it will be interesting to see if he gets more game time next year.
Matt Parcell also made his debut in 2015. He is another speedy hooker who looked at home in first grade. You can’t keep them all though; Parcell’s off to Manly in 2016.