2010 SEASON REVIEW: Brisbane Broncos

Wins: 11
Losses: 13
Position: 10th
Home Record: 5 wins, 7 losses (Equal 12th)
Away Record: 6 wins, 6 losses (Equal 5th)
Best Winning Streak: 5 (Rounds 9-14) Equal 1st
Longest Losing Streak: 4 (Rounds 2-5, Rounds 23-26) Equal 10th
Players Used: 28
Player of the Year: Yet to be announced.
Tries Scored: 90 (Equal 7th)
Tries Conceded: 94 (11th)

It had to happen eventually. After 18 consecutive semi-finals appearances, Brisbane’s amazing run came to an end in 2010 as injury and inconsistency combined to see them fall short of the top eight for the first time since 1991.

A mid-year surge that saw them win seven games from nine starts wasn’t enough to save the Broncos from a slow start and disastrous finish – four consecutive losses from Round 23 through Round 26 seeing them fall one game short of the top eight. In reality, it wasn’t completely unexpected.

Having come to within one game of the grand final 12 months ago, Brisbane boasted a much younger side in 2010 following the departures of key players Karmichael Hunt, Dave Taylor, Tonie Carroll and Joel Clinton. They also lost centre Justin Hodges for the entire season after he suffered a serious knee injury in the pre-season while captain Darren Lockyer – by far the most important player at the club – missed the end of the year with a rib injury.

But already the inquisition has begun, with coach Ivan Henjak under pressure to keep his job. The rugby league world can be an impatient one – especially at a club that has become so used to success.

Where They Excelled: When the Broncos fired they proved to be one of the most lethal attacking units in the NRL. They ranked first in the competition for tackle-breaks with 42 per game, third for line-breaks (5.1) and fifth for both metres gained (1367.6) and offloads (12.7).

They also unveiled some thrilling new talent, with fullback Josh Hoffman averaging 144 metres per game and Matt Gillett emerging as a surprise shining light as Rookie of the Year.

Where They Struggled: The Broncos’ defence bordered on inept at times and despite the efforts of their impressive back row they struggled to contain opposition sides up the middle.

They ranked second worst for metres conceded (at almost 1400 per game); line-breaks conceded and missed tackles. They were also the worst team in the premiership when it came to stopping offloads, with their opponents averaging 14.6 against them.

Missing In Action: Brisbane was hurt by the untimely loss of two of their stars in Justin Hodges and Darren Lockyer.

Hodges was sorely missed out wide in an otherwise very young backline after injuring his knee in the pre-season and wasn’t sighted again all year.

But it was the rib injury that saw Darren Lockyer miss the final four games of the season – all of which the Broncos lost – that ruined the side’s campaign.

Just one win in those matches would have seen Brisbane climb into the top eight but they looked a shadow of their best without their inspirational leader.

Turning Point: The rib injury suffered by Lockyer against North Queensland in Round 22 proved one hurdle too many for the Broncos. Despite the setbacks that plagued them in 2010, the young side looked certain to ease their way into the top eight and sat comfortably in seventh with four games remaining – but hit a brick wall in Lockyer’s absence to lose four straight to Parramatta, Newcastle, the Warriors and Canberra.

Best Games: Brisbane’s 36-14 win over Melbourne at AAMI Park in Round 9 was their standout performance of the season and an example of just what they are capable of when fit and firing. Inspired by a rampaging Israel Folau, the Broncos raced on four first-half tries in the space of 15 minutes to overwhelm the raging favourites and went on with the job with clinical precision after the break.

That win also proved crucial after the side’s slow start to the season, as it kicked off a five- game winning streak.

Worst Games: The Warriors are tough to beat on home soil but the manner in which Brisbane capitulated in their Round 25 clash in a game in which they had everything to play for bordered on embarrassing.

The Broncos trailed 24-0 at half-time before eventually falling 36-4 and never looked like they were in the hunt.

Ironically, another forgettable day for Brisbane was their earlier clash with the Warriors in Round 3 when they were smashed 48-16 on home soil.

Hold Your Head High: Back-rowers Sam Thaiday and Ben Te’o were standouts for the Broncos in 2010.

Thaiday has been hot and cold in the past but after quitting smoking in the off-season and putting in an enormous pre-season, he reaped the rewards with his most consistent season to date – averaging 115 metres and 30 tackles per game.

Te’o, meanwhile, emerged as a leader in the forward pack with his combination of bone-jarring defence and ever-improving attack. His 11 tries for the year saw him rank behind only Israel Folau (20) and Matt Gillett (12) at the club in 2010.

Coach Ivan Henjak says: “I thought there were a lot of positives to come out of the season. A lot of young kids did really well and we had a good middle part of the year, which we’ ve always found difficult, to get ourselves back into the competition. We finished the year poorly – that was the disappointing thing, but I still look at it as a really positive year.

“We lost a lot of experience and a lot of strike at the beginning of the year and we missed ‘Locky’ for a quarter of the year as well, so we faced some hurdles without a doubt.

“Given the players that we’ve lost over the last couple of years, this year we just couldn’t afford to lose our big guns – and we did. That certainly affected us.”

Conclusion: The Broncos paid the price for a poor start to the year but the reality is that having lost so much experience at the end of last season, losing Justin Hodges before a ball had been kicked and then seeing captain Darren Lockyer fall right at the death made life extremely difficult. Unfortunately for Ivan Henjak, his second season in charge will be remembered as the one where Brisbane’s mighty record of finals appearances came to an end. But once he overcomes the disappointment of an early exit, he should be excited about what the future holds. The Broncos unveiled some exciting new talent in 2010 and the arrival of superstar Greg Inglis next year will have rival sides quaking in their boots.