As we count down to season 2014, NRL.com identifies 30 players who will be crucial to their team's fortunes this year. From new faces to rising stars to proven performers who will need to lift this season, these are our MVPs for 2014.
2013 was one of the most disappointing seasons in the Broncos' proud 26-year history, with the club missing the finals for just the third time with a lowly 12th place finish. The Broncos seemed to be desperately lacking some sting up front, with topline props Ben Hannant and Josh McGuire each suffering significant injury layoffs. The return of club legend Petero Civoniceva for the 2012 season had papered over some of the cracks as the side slipped into the finals in eighth spot, but there was nowhere to hide last year.
Hannant played just 16 games as a torn calf kept him out for an extended period while McGuire played 19, with an ongoing eye injury causing him to miss a handful of games. They were easily the club's two best props when available, averaging 131 and 118 metres respectively. Scott Anderson was the next best of the specialist bookends with 75 metres per game over his 11 games.
Fringe props including Anderson, Dunamis Lui, Mitchell Dodds, Lama Tasi, David Hala and Jarrod Wallace each played between six and 13 games for the Broncos in 2013 without cementing a regular spot in first grade, while specialist second rower Sam Thaiday spent much of the season with the number 10 on his back – but has recently publicly confirmed his desire to stay in the back row.
Of those, Anderson, Lui and Tasi have moved on, while the club has picked up journeyman prop Jon Green from the Sharks. NYC star and Queensland under-20s State of Origin prop, 115kg Francis Molo, has the size and power to be a future NRL star but at just 19 years old may not be quite ready to stamp himself on the top grade.
It leaves the side looking once again short on powerful props, and especially so for any game where Hannant and/or McGuire are absent.
Enter the former Roosters prop and potential future Queensland State of Origin representative, 6'3", 122kg Martin Kennedy.
Kennedy's strong form for eventual premiers Sydney Roosters last season earned him a call-up to the Queensland squad for the second State of Origin match as 18th man before a knee injury put him out of that series and a couple of months of footy.
But Kennedy's size and strength should be the perfect foil for Hannant and McGuire and if all three stay fit it's far more powerful forward pack than we generally saw from the Broncos in 2013.
For the Roosters last season (in an all-star pack that also included Kiwi test players Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Sam Moa, Sonny Bill Williams and Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Kangaroo Boyd Cordner and former Kangaroo Luke O'Donnell) the 24-year old averaged over 90 metres per game with two tries, while making 25 tackles per game.
Without so many high profile names around him there will be an opportunity for Kennedy to take on more of a leadership role, with additional responsibility. There simply won't be as many superstars demanding the ball for starters, and with a few younger or fringe players around the opportunity to show some leadership skills could help Kennedy progress even further. And no doubt he still has his sights on a Maroon jumper, in which case, playing a starring role as a leader of the Broncos' forward pack is just about the best audition you can get.
Which means all the pieces of the puzzle are there for Kennedy to be arguably the most important man in the Broncos' pack in 2014. Will he – and the Broncos – deliver?