Broncos heed lessons in Manly-ness
They'd be well served to borrow the Manly manual in how to handle off-field distractions but Broncos coach Anthony Griffin has suggested that it was the lessons learnt on the field that has reignited his side's finals aspirations.
Brisbane kept touch with the top eight with a clinical 41-10 disposing of a Bulldogs team that continually invited the home side to attack their line and after a couple of near misses early piled on seven tries to two to move into ninth position on the table.
Coming off the back of a 16-4 defeat at the hands of the Sea Eagles the week prior, Brisbane's halves pairing of Ben Hunt and Ben Barba had a far greater number of runners to choose from against the Bulldogs as well as scoring wonderful individual efforts of their own.
Hunt grabbed a double in the dying stages when he ran an aggressive line off a Josh McGuire pass close to the line to burst through an attempted tackle by Tony Williams with Griffin praising his players for putting into practice what they had learned the week before.
"We did a lot of things right last week to get ourselves in a position to beat Manly but the one thing we didn't do right was we weren't aggressive enough with the ball and when we're playing well, we are," Griffin said.
"We learnt from that last week against Manly so tonight we had to be more aggressive, more direct, more disciplined with the football.
"We're enjoying our footy and I think you saw there tonight that we're not a team that's turning our toes up.
"We gave ourselves a chance to beat the top team last week and through our own lack of execution we didn't but we fixed a bit of that this week against a team that's ahead of us on the ladder so we've just got to worry about that next week."
Over the past fortnight the Broncos have had to come to terms with the sacking of their coach and a salary cap investigation bubbling away in the background, the type of off-field distractions that never appear to upset how a Manly team performs on game-day.
Captain Corey Parker refused to blame any ongoing speculation on the side's poor performances in recent weeks but admitted that there was a greater purpose to their work against the Bulldogs.
"There's been some disruptions and I guess the easy thing to say is that it has played on our minds but what we haven't done is turn up on the weekend," Parker said.
"We made a real conscious effort of turning up and doing a job and tonight was a good example of that."
In his fourth game at five-eighth Barba was in the thick of the action for much of the evening, scoring a spectacular try on the stroke of half-time, coming up with a try-saving tackle on Mitch Brown in the first half and looking fare more threatening with each of his 38 touches.
Combined with a return to form of Dally M contender Hunt and big contributions from Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett and Daniel Vidot, it was the type of performance that has Griffin convinced they have enough to trouble the very best teams in the competition.
"He's warming into it, it's only his third or fourth game there," Griffin said of Barba's display. "As a team it was good to see everyone, including Ben, contribute for such an important game at this stage of the year and that's where we are as a football team.
"We've been thereabouts all year and it's just a matter of being consistent. You talk about disruptions and those types of things, they're always going to be there, we've just got to clear all that out and make sure that we're playing the best football we can every week. Ben's an example of that; he's been steadily getting better every week.
"We've been disappointed with the way we've played the last couple of weeks and tonight was just a matter of getting ourselves right. Next Thursday [against South Sydney at ANZ Stadium] is the only thing we can worry about now so we'll celebrate tonight and get ready for next Thursday."