Nigel Wall,, NRL.com
The Broncos made a great start to the 2012 season but injuries and Origin combined to send their season off the tracks. Will 2013 be a different story for the Brisbane boys?
Strengths: The recent signings of former internationals Scott Prince and David Stagg are a huge boost for Brisbane as they look to rebound from the disappointment of fizzling at the back end of 2012. Corey Norman and Ben Hunt did a fair job at five-eighth in the first year post-Darren Lockyer but Prince’s arrival should ensure he and Peter Wallace develop a formidable halves partnership, with Prince the likely new No.6. Certainly there won’t be a combination in the league that will boast a better kicking game.
Gerard Beale’s move to the Dragons and uncertainty surrounding Jharal Yow Yeh’s comeback from injury could see Norman revert to fullback, with Josh Hoffman pushed to the flank (at least short term). Coach Anthony Griffin maintains Prince is not guaranteed a start in 2013 but the ex-Titan is simply too good a playmaking option to have warming the pine. Besides, Griffin will be looking to convert more opportunities into points in 2013 – this year the Broncos managed the third-most metres on the park but posted just the ninth-most tries off the back of the sixth fewest line-breaks. Prince is the man who can change that: give the 32-year-old the Steeden inside the opposition 20-metre zone and he’s still one of the most dangerous attacking players around.
Former Bulldog Stagg boasts a Nathan Hindmarsh-like work rate and is one of the most dependable defenders in rugby league – his return north of the border will be a massive plus given a drop in tackling intensity was largely to blame for the Broncos’ slide post-Origin that saw them win just three of their final 11 games and slip from second to eighth on the ladder. Also, level-headed Stephen Kearney will provide excellent back-up for Griffin in his new role as assistant coach.
Weaknesses: The Broncos simply have to find a way to post consistent performances throughout the year. No question the representative season will drain them again in 2013 but they need to be confident in their abilities and raise the bar post-Origin; otherwise they’ll risk another damaging puncture on their road to the finals. Petero Civoniceva’s retirement leaves a hole in the forwards, although with just an 85-metre average gain in his final year it’s hardly a gaping one. Ben Te’o’s departure to the bunnies will be missed more.
Traditionally the Broncos have enjoyed success when boasting a formidable front row, but their ranks are a little low on experience and grunt once you push past Ben Hannant and Josh McGuire. They’ll need to find a regular home in their 17 for one and possibly two members of their fringe roster that comprises Dunamis Lui (just nine games in 2012), Mitchell Dodds (10 games), David Hala (one game) and Scott Anderson. Someone from this band needs to step up otherwise the pressure on Hannant and McGuire will mount.