Wayne Bennett made a comment recently to the effect that he is only scratching the surface when it comes to refining the Broncos’ attack. The fact that the Broncos were the third-ranked attacking team this year bodes well for the next few years.
This year, five-eighth Anthony Milford was Brisbane’s main attacking weapon. He is the fastest at the club over short distances (Corey Oates is apparently the fastest over 100m), and is primarily a runner. Early this season, many questioned the coach’s decision to play Milford at five-eighth. And he did look shaky and out of place. But as the year went on, he got more confident in the Broncos’ system and became a star performer. His combination with Ben Hunt improved, as did his passing and kicking games. But he always stuck to his strength: his agility and elusiveness.
It’s a shame that Ben Hunt had a poor grand final because his season was superb, finishing third in the Dally M player of the year race. He won a number of key games for the Broncos in 2015 (his golden-point try against the Roosters springs to mind). If Hunt can make his kicking game more consistent, he will become a premier halfback.
Captain Justin Hodges had a rollercoaster of a final season in the NRL. It was punctuated by niggling injuries; when he was on the field, though, his contributions were invaluable. He was snubbed for the ANZAC Test, but enjoyed success in his final Origin series. He controversially made it to the grand final after getting off his dangerous throw charge, but had a quiet game and didn’t get the fairytale win. The Broncos will miss him next year.
Darius Boyd returned to Brisbane to play at fullback, but he ruptured his Achilles tendon in preseason. He returned in Round 10 but took a few weeks to get back to his best footy. What Boyd concedes in speed to other fullbacks in the NRL he makes up for in his defensive organisaitonal skills, ball-playing ability, and his safe pair of hands. He was an important player in Brisbane’s surge to the finals.
Jordan Kahu started at fullback in Boyd’s absence and did a good job without setting the world on fire. When Darius returned, he was a regular in the team—mostly on a wing, but occasionally in the centres. Kahu has been remarkably consistent this year and was a handy goalkicker when Corey Parker was off the field. In 2016, he will aim to make the right centre spot his own.
Jack Reed filled the left centre position throughout 2016. Though often maligned by Broncos’ supporters, I thought he had a pretty good year, and an outstanding grand final. His defence is top-notch.
Competition for spots in the backline was a feature of the season. Big Corey Oates played a little bit in the second row, but he was mostly on the left wing. His hitups coming out of our own end were key, and he scored some fantastic tries. Dale Copley, Daniel Vidot, and Lachlan Maranta were in and out the side throughout the year. Copley had a horror run with injuries and struggled to break back in to the side. Vidot was often chosen against teams with big packs; Maranta was preferred in other games or after Vidot had made a number of handling errors.
Young halfback Ash Taylor made his debut when Ben Hunt was injured one week, but unfortunately he fractured his hand after 30 minutes. Hopefully he gets plenty of game time for the Gold Coast Titans next year.
The only backline signing the Broncos have made for 2016 so far is Carlin Anderson, the speedy fullback/winger for the victorious Ipswich Jets. Like Kahu, he is also a goalkicker. Anderson will need to impress in preseason training if he wants to crack into the starting side next year.