Broncos finally bury ghosts of 2015
Darius Boyd collapsing in a mix of exhaustion and disbelief as Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt scored in the corner with only seconds on the clock was the most heart-wrenching image of the 2015 Telstra Premiership Grand Final.
Akin to watching the normally unflappable Darren Lockyer fall to the ground and punch the Suncorp Stadium turf when the Storm stole away a semi-final win in the final minute in 2008, Boyd saw in an instant a premiership victory evaporate into thin air.
Sitting behind only the Cowboys and Storm in premiership betting heading into 2017, Boyd admits that the pain of 2015 lingered into last year but that they are now ready to go deep again this September.
"Maybe last year it might have been the back of our minds a little bit, the disappointment," Boyd said of the grand final heartache.
"This year is a new year, a lot of new guys to the club.
"When you come in for a new year, I know I'm personally feeling really excited about this season and what we can do and what we can achieve and it starts with the training now."
The Broncos welcomed back their five-member Four Nations contingent to the first training session of 2017 on Wednesday and have only a month to prepare for the Downer NRL Auckland Nines on February 4.
Two weeks later they will be in the north of England taking on Warrington in the World Club Series and then two weeks after that open the Telstra Premiership season against the defending premiers Cronulla in Sydney.
One of the leading contenders to captain the Broncos this year, Boyd believes a top-four finish will be the club's primary objective when the season kicks off on March 2.
"Top four would be nice. I think we always strive for top four," Boyd said.
"Most teams know that if you can get to that top four position you can really put yourself in good stead for the finals and anything can happen once you get to the finals. It's a new series.
"Without talking to anyone and without having an in-house meeting about it I think top four would be nice."
Although the Broncos have lost veteran and Test and Origin star Corey Parker this year the nucleus of the squad is overflowing with representative experience.
Eleven Broncos have played Origin or Test football for either Australia or New Zealand while the likes of Anthony Milford, James Roberts and David Mead have also made senior representative teams in recent years.
With the experience of 2015 still fresh in their minds the premiership window is well and truly open for the Broncos, back-rower Matt Gillett confident they can break the longest premiership drought in the club's history with a good run with injuries.
"I think we'll have another great year. There's no reason not to," Gillett said.
"We've got the right squad and coaching staff on board so it really does come down to the players and what they want.
"For everyone that [premiership] window is open. You can come into the year and have the best players in your team but as soon as it comes to game-time things sometimes don't go to plan and you start collapsing.
"Every team that is training now has got that in their mind and their goal to be there in the last week of the competition and that's no different for us.
"We were lucky enough [in 2015] that we went through the whole season with pretty much the same squad. The same players took to the field every week whereas last year we struggled a little bit to keep players on the field.
"That happens to every club but if we can be doing the right things to keep ourselves fit and healthy and keep the same squad gelling on the field it will go a long way to helping us."