Dragons v Broncos: Five key points
The Wollongong wet didn't dampen the Broncos' spirits following their 12-8 win over the Dragons on Thursday night. The opener for Round 22 of the Telstra Premiership saw a spirited return from Matt Gillett and a subpar performance from Benji Marshall.
Broncos' Origins reps reunited after two months
Brisbane's six Origin players – including the likes of Matt Gillett, Sam Thaiday and Josh McGuire – haven't run out together for the Broncos since Round 14. Gillett is the man who's missed the most time, with a shoulder injury denying him a game since State of Origin III. McGuire and Thaiday missed the Broncos' last-start loss to the Roosters and coach Wayne Bennett couldn't have been happier to have the three of them back.
"You have to understand that's half your forward pack and they're all current Australian players," he said.
"They're not on the way up in football so taking 50 per cent of your forwards out of your team has a huge impact. They complemented everyone else out there."
Marshall's tough night out
The conjecture surrounding Dragons veteran Marshall's future was reignited following his horror performance. While the former Kiwis captain set up the Dragons' only try in the final five minutes, it was offset by his five errors. Atrocious weather didn't help Marshall's cause, but he was still cause for just under half of his side's mistakes. Dragons coach Paul McGregor refused to blame Marshall for the defeat.
"I'm not here to talk about individuals. We talked about it downstairs. It's a team sport and it's no good sitting in front of anyone talking about individual players," he said.
Marshall's halves partner Gareth Widdop wouldn't be drawn into speculation over the 31-year-old's future.
"I enjoy playing alongside Benji. He's a great bloke and a great player to have around the team," Widdop said. "But at the moment we've just got to worry about playing good football, that's all we can do as players."
Brisbane buck beaten run
The Broncos will be hoping their four-point win ends their mixed bag of recent form. Prior to Round 22, Brisbane had lost six of their past eight games, and the notoriously successful club's win diffuses any pressure over them missing the finals. Bennett was hoping his side can now revisit their early-season form which saw them win nine of their first 11 games.
"We just needed to get the win here and carry on with it next week and each week get a bit better. There's still plenty of time to do that," Bennett said.
"There's four games to go now and it's about the time we started playing well and started getting our game together.
"Hopefully we can pick up what we left off about three months ago and I'll be happy with that. It'll give us the best chance we have of advancing anywhere in the play-offs."
Dragons' finals task gets harder
McGregor all but conceded the Dragons had run their race when it came to finals. The Red V currently sit 12th on the Telstra Premiership ladder and will potentially be four competition points off from eighth position by round's end. McGregor remained upbeat however and said the final month of the season will give him an opportunity to blood several of his younger players.
"You don't like to put pressure on pre-game, about having to win games of footy because then you worry about the outcome before you worry about the process going through it," he said. "But the loss makes it difficult."
Milford, Hunt lift in Wollongong wet
Broncos halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford had their best games in a number of weeks despite the Wollongong weather heavily influencing both sides' attacking output. Hunt controlled the game expertly with his kicking game while Milford showed glimpses of his attacking best with an inch-perfect grubber for Sam Thaiday helping Brisbane to the game's first try.
"They were good last week and they were good here," Bennett said. "It was a difficult night for halfbacks but they did what they had to do. They ran the ball and took the opposition on, on several occasions."