Broncos v Wests Tigers: Five key points
Milford magic no solo act, talented Tigers unlucky to be last, Adam Blair trumps his former club and Wayne Bennett a realist with regards to Sunday football in Brisbane. The key points to come from the Broncos' 42-16 win over Wests Tigers.
Milford the magician not a solo act
His highlights reel at the Raiders was proliferated by individual acts of brilliance but Anthony Milford is quickly evolving into a half who lets others steal the show. He has brought Broncos fans to their feet with slashing solo runs during the season but on Sunday he went into assistant mode, grubbering in behind the line for Alex Glenn's try in the 36th minute and then putting Darius Boyd into a yawning hole with a perfectly-timed no-look inside pass that led to Jack Reed's try on the stroke of half-time. Four minutes into the second half he flew in from wide out to defuse a dangerous situation created by a Luke Brooks chip-and-chase and his kick that went within inches of being a 40/20 seven minutes from full-time was a great show of game sense.
"I thought some of Milford's work was absolutely class," said Broncos coach Wayne Bennett. "Short passing, little kick, jinking runs, setting up his supports...
"He's a talented football player, always has been. He's a great recruit for the club. Those guys just make such a difference."
Tigers not deserving of wooden spoon
Sitting 16th on the ladder with just seven games to play and trailing 26-0 at half-time makes it hard to find many positives, but given the energy they played with and the skill in their team the Wests Tigers don't deserve to finish last in 2015. The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges and if not for the fact they were banging away at one of the best defences in the competition most likely would have scored first points. The try to Mitchell Moses that reduced the deficit to 10 points early in the second half was one of the best of the season and their energy and effort could never be questioned, causing the competition leaders to have some nervous moments. Their youth may have brought them undone this year but the lessons learned will hold them in good stead for the future.
"First and foremost, really pleased with the way the guys came out to start the second half," said Tigers coach Jason Taylor. "We could have just let the game continue as it was in the first half. We talked about that at half-time, it was really important that we went out there and ran strongly and got ourselves back into the game and we did that. Not good enough clearly for the first 40 and the last 15 or so but some real positivity around the way we fought hard but we've got to find a lot more of that in us and it needs to be there right from the start of the game."
Nothing like a former club to bring out your best
He was the source of much derision during his three-year stint at the Wests Tigers so excuse the frustration of fans when Adam Blair ripped in for his new club on Sunday. From the opening tackle of the game when he charged headlong into the advancing Tigers defence to the deft short ball that drew Martin Taupau off his line and put Broncos prop Jarrod Wallace over under the posts, Blair delivered the type of performance that saw him heralded as one of the best forwards in the game during his time at the Storm. Even when he was knocked flying in trying to tackle Ava Seumanafagai it was the big Tiger who eventually came off second best, Blair finishing the game with 111 metres from 13 carries, 30 tackles, a try assist and a line-break assist.
Upside to Boyd's Achilles injury
The confidence of Jordan Kahu and Lachlan Maranta gleaned in Darius Boyd's absence at the start of the season has given the Broncos backline such a well-rounded look that they could be interchangeable at any time and still be expected to perform at a high level. Kahu switched between centre and wing after filling in at the custodian role early on and has the goal-kicking duties when Corey Parker is off the field. Maranta would not have been considered a certainty to make a full-strength Broncos team before Round 1 but his try to open proceedings on Sunday took his tally to 11 from 15 games and he added two more in the final 12 minutes to extinguish a gallant Tigers comeback, the first hat-trick of his 57-game career to date. When Boyd's Achilles gave way in December Brisbane's premiership odds went the same way but six months later they have a high-performing unit ready for anything and Wayne Bennett believes the best is still to come.
"He's like a lot of the team, they've all grown in confidence," Bennett said of Maranta's form in 2015. "For some of the guys like Lachlan at his age, he's just scratching the surface of it, he's just a kid. I don't know how good he can be down the track but he's doing a good job right now so that's the main thing."
Wayne a realist with regards to future Sunday fixtures
Children seeing the Broncos play live for the first time in 2015 swelled the Sunday afternoon crowd to more than 37,000 in Brisbane, some 5,000 more people than their average crowd of 32,376 through 18 rounds, but coach Wayne Bennett knows the world we currently live in. Families flooded into the Suncorp Stadium concourse two hours prior to kick-off and juniors wearing their club colours paraded around the stadium prior to the NRL match starting but that is the last time the Broncos will see daylight this season. In many ways they are the victim of their own popularity and Bennett can foresee no change until the existing television deal expires at the end of the 2017 season.
"Guys want to play daytime footy. The grounds have no dew or dampness – "It's warmer," added Justin Hodges – warmer, earlier, not sitting around for another three hours thinking about what you've got to do so there's lots of upside with it but the reality is that it's about television. I accept that; they pay the bills," said Bennett.
"You have a lot of wishes in life but the reality is that TV pays a huge amount of money so they can get the games when they want them. We all benefit from that so it's a wasted argument."