Broncos coach Anthony Griffin says Corey Norman’s Parramatta signing came as a shock; however he remains confident the No.1 can spearhead Brisbane’s push for the finals – especially during the upcoming draining Origin period.
NRL.com: Anthony, you’ve had a mixed week with that win over the Gold Coast but then injuries to Jack Reed and David Stagg compounding the injury woes you already had. Where does that leave you?
Anthony Griffin: “Well for starters it was a really good show of character by the boys and I suppose the fact that we were able to win convincingly with a number of boys, our starters out, it was very encouraging. Unfortunately, with those two injuries in Stagg and Reed... we thought they would really have stepped up and done a good job for us in the Origin period. They are experienced guys. But anyway, that’s not to be, so we just get on with it.”
Is it frustrating that the Broncos haven’t been able to produce that level of performance with any consistency in 2013?
“I’d say it was just the Parramatta game where we have let ourselves down. It was a game that we had an opportunity to win. There were a few other games there… we’ve had opportunities to win every game we’ve played but the Parramatta game was the most disappointing one.”
How do you feel about the side’s progress so far?
“We are where we are. We’ve gotten ourselves into the season and we’d certainly like to be higher up the ladder [currently 6th] but we’ve got ourselves in a position now where we can move forward.”
What areas do you feel you need to improve in to challenge the big guns?
“Well our team will change dramatically from this week to the one we put on the field next week. The actual technical improvements, we just need to make sure we maintain a really strong attitude and the team we put out on the field needs to be committed every week to do a bit extra and to play above themselves a bit.”
That brings us to the Origin period which starts after this weekend. Are you ready?
“Yeah we’re always ready. We know we’re probably going to have a half dozen players there so on top of the injuries we copped last week we understand that there are going to be massive changes but as I say, it is what it is and we’ll handle it.”
You’ve made the decision to rest your Origin players from club duties during this period over the past two seasons. Will you do so again this year?
“I mean, we’ve rested players when they have been at risk of injury and if that’s the case again we’ll take that approach. It is a case-by-case basis and a game-by-game basis so certainly if someone is at risk of being out for a long period, we won’t be doing that.”
How do you avoid a repeat of 2012 when the side faded badly at the back end of the season?
“Nothing too scientific other than the fact that obviously we’re aware of it. After what we went through last year, I think that’s the biggest thing for everyone. The coaching staff and the players were all bitterly disappointed with the way the season finished and there are a number of reasons you could come up with as to why that happened. Physically and mentally, there were a lot of people carrying injuries and also we probably weren’t seasoned enough. I think the main thing is just being aware of it. We’ll make a couple of little changes here and there to our recovery and things like that but I think the fact we went through that will be the biggest thing in helping us change it.”
Who has pleased you most over the opening 10 rounds?
“I think our senior players – guys like Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker have been fronting up every week and leading from the front. They are probably the main two. In general I think our whole team has been functioning pretty well but those two guys in particular have done a good job.”
You sprang a surprise at the start of the season by naming Corey Norman ahead of Josh Hoffman at fullback. Do you feel vindicated?
“Corey is doing a good job there. He has that ability and the experience at this stage of his career, having played in the halves, where he is summing up ball-playing opportunities very quickly – and Josh has been the beneficiary of a lot of those. Corey is an important part of this team there and is doing a good job.”
He is actually leading the side for both try assists and line-break assists...
“Yeah – and your fullback normally does with the way the game is played these days when you look at all the good ones like Inglis and Barba and Bowen and those sorts of guys. Corey is filling that role well.”
Corey caught you off guard earlier in the year when he signed with Parramatta for 2014. How does that impact upon your long-term plans?
“Yeah that’s no secret that we would have preferred he stayed but it gives us an opportunity to look at some other people over the course of the next few months to see what possibilities are there.”
How does that impact upon your shaping of the side over the coming months? Scott Prince came to the club this year but Ben Hunt has retained his spot at five-eighth this week.
“We’re just trying to win games from week to week at the moment. Scotty needs another week for his hamstring injury and Ben was great last week. He is someone, like Corey, that has been in our system and has always performed well when the opportunities have arisen. He is getting more mature and I thought he jelled last week at five-eighth.”
Speaking of Scott Prince, he copped a bit of flak early in the season. What are your thoughts on his form so far this season?
“It’s always going to be hard for someone changing clubs – especially coming out of a system where he probably ran the show at the Titans and coming into our side which is fairly unchanged from last year. He was probably a little uncomfortable getting used to how we play at the start of the year but I thought his last few games were extremely good. I don’t think he played that bad – it was just a matter of him getting used to how we play.”
You’ve got another huge game against Canterbury this weekend given that you’ll lose players to Origin immediately afterwards. What’s the secret to success?
“They are always a very physical side, the Dogs. They have a very big pack and you’ve really got to muscle up to get into the game with them. If you don’t do that they will walk all over you. Apart from that they have some very good players in Reynolds and Barba at the back. The first thing we need to do is be strong on their big men and get into the game physically and if we do that we’ll give ourselves a chance.”