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Brisbane Broncos: Season Review

Regular Season
WINS: 14
LOSSES: 10
POSITION: 6th
HOME RECORD: 8 wins, 4 losses (=6th)
AWAY RECORD: 6 wins, 6 losses (=3rd)
 
After Finals
Won 40-32 v Titans, Won 24-10 v Dragons, Lost 40-10 v Storm to finish fourth.
 
BEST WINNING STREAK: 7 (rounds 22 – Finals Wk 2)
LONGEST LOSING STREAK: 4 (rounds 13-16)
PLAYERS USED: 30.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Yet to be announced.
TRIES SCORED (After 26 rounds): 92 (=6th)
TRIES CONCEDED (After 26 rounds): 100 (=11th)
 
The Broncos’ side of 2009 was one with a split personality; one side was tough, uncompromising and skilful, the other was meek, lacked desire and defended like a pub team.

The ‘good’ Broncos came out firing early in the competition, winning six of the first seven games and making it appear the loss of coach Wayne Bennett wasn’t even a slight concern.

Then the ‘bad’ Broncos turned up for a while and they managed just three wins in their next 12 games, putting the side on the brink of missing their first final series since 1991.

But somehow, from somewhere, the switch was flicked again and Ivan Henjak guided the Broncos to five wins in a row to finish in sixth spot, and then orchestrated two great finals wins before falling to a rampant Melbourne on the penultimate weekend.

As such, the year can certainly be deemed successful, although those in a Broncos jersey obviously wanted more.

Where They Excelled… The Broncos were at their best when they used their brute power and size to bash the opposition. The performance they put on to destroy minor premiers St George Illawarra in the finals was brutal stuff, where from the opening tackle they sent the Dragons’ pack reeling.

The side scored plenty of tries from kicks, thanks to the recruitment of Israel Folau and the emergence of wingers Antonio Winterstein and Jharal Yow Yeh, and also worked out how devastating Souths-bound prop Dave Taylor could be playing out wide on the left fringe.

Where They Struggled… Defensively, especially in the middle part of the year, the Broncos were abysmal.

In an eight-week stretch, the Broncos were averaging over 38 points conceded a match and rightfully were dismissed as premiership hopefuls. At one stage they had almost all of their players occupying a place in the top five of the most ineffective tacklers by position in the competition. Honestly, there were times when the fans must have been embarrassed to support the team as it started to appear they weren’t having a fair dinkum go, but to their credit, after they were humbled 56-0 by the Raiders in Canberra, the Broncos found some defensive resolve.

Other areas the Broncos struggled in included offloads – they were ranked last in the NRL – and conceding tries from long range. And in the turnovers category they were up amongst the worst in the competition.

Missing In Action… The Broncos had injuries throughout the season to men here and there but were able to field a strong side come finals time.

Justin Hodges missed a handful of games as did Israel Folau, Nick Kenny and Jharal Yow Yeh, but no-one of importance missed the majority of the year.

Peter Wallace was cruelly denied the chance to play in the grand final qualifier when he broke his ankle against the Dragons in the dying minutes of their penultimate game.

Turning Point… Was obviously hitting rock bottom in the nation’s capital in Round 21 where they copped a mean green boot fair up the backside.

Their performance to go down 56-0 to a Raiders team already struggling to be in the finals picture was simply appalling. They lacked desire, energy and dare we say it even a semblance of professionalism. Having lost six of seven before that match, the Broncos were rightfully written off by just about everyone post-match and things looked grim.

But they managed to grind out an unimpressive win against the struggling Sharks the following week and when the game was in the balance against Penrith at halftime in Round 23, something Ivan Henjak said really hit home and the Broncos powered over 40 unanswered points to win 58-24 and restore their confidence.

Best Games… The above-mentioned second half against the Panthers was vintage Darren Lockyer and a joy to watch. And the following week’s grinding 12-2 win over a table-topping Dragons in Wollongong was another clinical display, even if not overly exciting.

Their best performance of the year however was not the above, or among early season close ones over the Cowboys (19-18, Round 1) and Storm (16-14, Round 2); rather it was the pulsating 24-10 finals win over St George Illawarra .The Broncos’ forwards destroyed the Dragons’ pack, setting a platform for their skilful backs to execute a well-thought-out game plan… and the rest was history.

Worst Games…
The debacle in Canberra was the absolute worst but others were almost as bad through the middle period.

A 48-4 thrashing at the hands of Melbourne in Round 13 after Origin I was tough; it was followed up by a mauling at the hands of the Bulldogs in Round 14. Another thrashing followed against the Sharks, although it could be somewhat forgiven as it was the ‘baby Broncos’ doing battle without Origin stars.

Further embarrassment came in Rounds 19 and 20, where in back-to-back games, the first at home, the side was humbled by the Rabbitohs (44-12) and Titans (34-18).

Hold Your Head High…
Once the side was back on track Darren Lockyer produced some great football, as did the likes of Dave Taylor and fellow forwards Nick Kenny and Ashton Sims.

In the fair dinkum department all of the Broncos had times of poor performance in 2009 but they also all lifted when they needed to before being below their best against the Storm.

Corey Parker and Antonio Winterstein played every game, while Karmichael Hunt leaves rugby league after a fairly solid year. Israel Folau also looked good at his new club and the emergence of youngsters like Alex Glenn and Andrew McCullough was also pleasing.

Captain Darren Lockyer says… “It was disappointing to finish like we did but when you look back at the season, we will take a lot out of it. We lose a few key players in Dave Taylor and Karmichael Hunt but I think we’ve taken a step forward for next year.

“We needed a good start in the last game but they just gave us nothing. It is a good lesson for a lot of our young kids and we’ll be better for it.”

Conclusion… Considering where they were after Round 21, the fact the Broncos looked a legitimate chance to make the grand final is a real credit to the side. Honestly, they were playing like wooden spooners through the middle of the year but the side absorbed all of the criticism and came out the other end strong.

They were only average against Melbourne in the grand final qualifier but the Storm were in red hot form and how many people can contain Billy Slater and Greg Inglis when they are on a rampage? Not many.

While it wasn’t a premiership year, the Broncos’ fans should be happy the transition to a new coach saw the finals streak continue. And the young talent coming through looks promising.
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