Broncos exceed post-Origin benchmark
It's the six-week period that threatens to derail Brisbane's season every year but Broncos players insist they have exceeded their expectations after State of Origin and are now primed for a run to the finals that could earn them home ground advantage and a crucial second chance.
After they disposed of the Bulldogs 42-12 on Thursday night Brisbane moved into second position and with Manly's loss to the Dragons on Sunday will meet Parramatta on Friday night sitting comfortably in third position.
Origin representatives Josh McGuire and Matt Gillett were afforded a week off in Round 19 and were among their team's best against Canterbury and with Darius Boyd due to return from a thumb injury this week they are near full-strength with six weeks of the regular season still to play.
Five of the Broncos' last six games are against teams currently in the top eight but in his first season with the club Benji Marshall said they were exactly where they had hoped to be coming out of the Origin period.
"Where we are injury-wise we've just got the likes of Darius and Corey [Oates] to come back and then we're full strength," Marshall told NRL.com.
"But where we've put ourselves on the table off the back of Origin is probably a better position than where we've been in the past few years as a Broncos club.
"This year we definitely touched on making sure that when we did come out of the Origin period we were going to be in good stead and I think we've completed all the goals that we set of where we wanted to be."
Only twice since 2005 have the Broncos had at least 28 competition points after 20 rounds of the season and with only one game outside Queensland in their fun to the finals – Friday's visit to Sydney to face the Eels – they have every chance to push for a top-two finish that provides for a home ground in Week One of the finals.
"It starts now, building that form and combinations and confidence," Marshall said.
"The thing with this team is that there's never many games where you're out of the contest when there's one or two minutes to go.
"They always give themselves a chance and that will definitely do us well going into September."
Although admitting that a top-four finish was always the goal, super sub Kodi Nikorima said the key had been not to look too far ahead but he concedes even the thought of finals football is putting a spring in everyone's step.
"[Finishing top four] has been a goal since the start of the year but we knew if we just focused on that too much that it might get away," Nikorima said.
"The focus for us now is just week to week and keep building on what we're doing now.
"Finals footy is just around the corner and we're not there yet, we've still got a lot of improving to do but definitely exciting times ahead."