Ben Blaschke,, NRL.com
Scott Prince always expected it would take some time for his return to the Broncos this season to really click into gear, but after coming in for heavy criticism during the side’s early struggles the veteran playmaker is adamant he is starting to find his feet.
Having remained largely quiet during the opening rounds – particularly in the lead-up to Brisbane’s Round 5 clash with the Gold Coast club that effectively punted him at the end of 2012 – Prince told NRL.com that he was pleased with his progress after a tough start to the year that saw him emerge as the scapegoat for the side’s defensive frailties and a lack of spark in attack.
“There is always going to be criticism about my game and that’s just standard but if that gives someone else a break, then that’s okay,” Prince said ahead of Saturday night’s clash with Wests Tigers. “But I’ve got standards that I want to hit. Certainly when I have a below-par game there is no better person that knows that than myself.
“At the end of the day, I’ve got a job and a role in the team and I try and go out there and play the best that I can. Every Monday and Tuesday I have to look the boys in the face after the game and if I’ve done my job, that’s good. If I’ve let anyone down I’ve got to deal with that in front of the team. I don’t need to worry about anyone outside the four walls of the Broncos.”
It certainly hasn’t been an easy ride this season for Prince. After the Broncos’ Round 1 loss to Manly, he came under fire for his perceived defensive liabilities which have so far seen him miss 20 tackles on Brisbane’s right edge this season – the same number as teammate Michael Gillett and Canterbury captain Michael Ennis and one less than Australian Test five-eighth Johnathan Thurston. He was also targeted for his attack following a dour 8-0 loss to Sydney Roosters two weeks later.
Asked for his own assessment of 2013 which has also seen him return to five-eighth for the first time since 2006, Prince said: “I must admit the first few games were about finding my feet. I was a little bit lost at times but I’d have to say the past couple of weeks I’ve felt more comfortable with my role in the team and I guess that has shown with the way that I’ve played.
“You know, the No.6 and No.7 these days are very similar but I think with the structure of the Broncos and the amount of talent in the squad… when I was at the Titans I was calling the plays and trying to create in attack. I really don’t need to do that here. I just need to stick to my role and my job and do that the best that I can.
“I’ve got Peter Wallace here who does a lot of the kicking and takes a lot of the pressure off me in terms of playing, that’s for sure. And especially with Corey (Norman) playing at the back, he provides another point in attack as well, which is great.
“But certainly I’m always looking to still work hard and better myself as a player, that’s for sure.”
Prince also insisted he had moved on from his somewhat bitter departure from the Titans last year, which saw him shopped around in England before ultimately signing with Brisbane, but said it was no coincidence that his best performance of the year to date came in a 32-12 win over his former club three weeks ago.
Ironically, Prince can complete a hat-trick of wins against his former clubs in consecutive weeks when he faces the Tigers on Saturday, having notched back-to-back results against the Titans and Cowboys in his past two outings.
“It’s always good playing against your old team,” he said. “It’s one thing that really brings the best out of you but that Titans game was one that we just needed to win. It didn’t matter who we were playing against. We really needed to focus on our own backyard and getting our stuff in order.
“Obviously it was a tough start to the year but we knew that and we also knew that we’ve got the systems in place whereby when we hit those marks we go a long way towards winning the game. Certainly it was always going to take a little bit of time in terms of establishing combinations with me in the picture as well and getting used to everything.
“I think you’d have to say that what we worked on in the pre-season is starting to take shape. There are a lot of talented guys at this club and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”
Prince returns to familiar territory this week when the Broncos travel to Campbelltown to take on the Tigers, who he captained to their one and only premiership back in 2005.
And he still believes he knows a thing or two about his old teammates, too.
While Tigers coach Mick Potter has named their fourth different halves combination of the year with Curtis Sironen and Tim Moltzen in the six and seven, Prince suspects that his old sparring partner Benji Marshall could well be a late inclusion after missing the past two weeks with a toe injury.
“I’ve got a feeling that Benji will play,” he said. “At this stage, I’m just predicting personally that he will be there but at the end of the day we’ve just got to bring our A-game no matter what.”