Parker hails Broncos' new attitude
They have won six games in a row and conceded less than two tries a game but veteran Brisbane forward Corey Parker has put his side's impenetrable defensive efforts in 2011 down to a simple change in attitude.
Stung by missing the finals last season for the first time in 18 years, the Broncos – along with premier St George Illawarra – have been the standout side of 2011 with consecutive wins over Canberra, Gold Coast, Penrith, Newcastle, Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers since an opening round loss to North Queensland.
Most impressive, however, has been their resolute defence which has conceded a miserly 68 points (10 fewer than the Dragons) and 1.7 tries per game.
The appointment of last year's defensive coach Anthony Griffin in place of Ivan Henjak – who was sacked three weeks before the start of the season – has been credited with aiding the improvement but Parker said it simply came down to attitude.
"I've always been a big believer that defence is sort of reflective of the attitude in the group," Parker told NRL.com ahead of Friday night's blockbuster against the in-form Bulldogs.
"Everyone has the ability to tackle but where it really comes down to is the ability to turn up for your mates and keep turning up for your mates.
"There have been a couple if instances this year where we've let our guard down for a few minutes and teams have come back. The Tigers put 18 points on us in 15 minutes there last week, so we're aware of that.
"But I think the ability to keep turning up is the biggest thing at the moment.
"You don't want to sit in the sheds afterwards and not be able to look at your teammates because you didn't turn up for them in defence.
"Enjoyment comes from hard work and success and so far we're pretty happy with what we're doing."
Among the standout statistics for the Broncos this season is the fact that they've been forced to make more tackles than every other side except Parramatta. Despite that, they rank third in the NRL for least missed tackles and have been almost impossible to break down in the second 40 – where most sides tire – conceding just 1.1 line-breaks per game in second stanzas.
Leading the way is Parker, who has made a team-high 272 tackles at almost 39 per game since moving closer in this season, although he said Griffin had made few major changes since taking over in late February.
"There were a couple of positional changes," he said. "I defended on the left last year and in years gone by – now I'm defending in the middle. Matt Gillett is on the left now although he is injured so Alex Glenn has moved across. Other than that he hasn't really changed too much.
"He has put his spin on a few things and implied what he thinks and believes.
"He is a very straight shooter – there is no grey area with him, which is important I believe. The younger guys in the group feel very comfortable with him. He is very quietly spoken but has some very valid points.
"As a playing group we've all got on board – and you've seen the results."
Parker said that he was particularly pleased with the progress of the Broncos' rising stars this season after the club fell short of the finals in 2010.
"I think the biggest positive to come out of last year was that we had so many young guys experience a full first year in first grade," he said.
"They've started to play some good consistent football now, which is great for the side.
"What we're seeing this year is that everyone in the side is doing their job – young guys included. I enjoy leading the way but it's easy when everyone is doing their job. I think that's why you're seeing Justin Hodges playing the footy that he is and Darren Lockyer playing the football he is. They don't have to worry about doing everyone else's job for them. So through the first seven rounds, that's been the pleasing thing."
Parker himself has been one of the Broncos' best in recent seasons following the departures of a number of high-profile forwards but laughed off suggestions of a State of Origin recall this season.
Parker played three games for Queensland in 2004-05 but has been overlooked since, with the Maroons winning the past five series.
"It's not something I worry about too much," he said. "The only thing I can control is how I play for the Broncos. Origin is a desire and it's something I'll never lose. I've played there before a long time ago and I'd love to be out there playing for Queensland again but I can't control that in regards to the selection process. I haven't given up hope – but all I'm worried about is playing good footy."