Spine alterations catch up with Broncos
They have not used it as an excuse at any point during the season, but Broncos coach Wayne Bennett conceded the constant shuffling of his key playmakers finally caught up with his team in the second half of Friday night's Preliminary Final against the Storm.
After conceding a try two minutes from half-time Brisbane stayed in the fight until the Storm scored their second in the 59th minute and added two more for a final scoreline of 30-0 that did no justice to the closeness of the contest for the first 60 minutes.
Coming into the game after a fortnight out with a hamstring injury, captain Darius Boyd was obviously restricted in his ability to stretch out and was brought from the field in the 53rd minute, forcing Kodi Nikorima to move to fullback as Benji Marshall came on to play halfback.
Given injuries throughout the season to Boyd, Marshall, hooker Andrew McCullough, five-eighth Anthony Milford and halfback Ben Hunt it was a spine adjustment that the Broncos have become accustomed to making, but Bennett admitted that such changes get exposed as you go deep into the finals.
"I've been in a lot of finals series and had a lot of different seasons and I'm going to tell you that the best thing you can have is constant players, the same team every week," Bennett said.
"You crave for that. Even if they're not playing well you're just craving to put the same 17 out every week. That gives you confidence and belief and all the things that you need.
"We haven't managed that this year but hopefully next year we will. That's what you live for and hope for. That's the best thing you can have going for you going into a finals series.
"Every one of our key players in halfback, five-eighth, hooker and fullback, we've had one of those injured all year at some stage but to everyone's credit they overcome that and that's what you expect them to do.
"We just got a little bit exposed here in the second half against a really quality team that produces top football every week."
Boyd admitted that his hamstring was not 100 per cent but "good enough to play" and had no doubt that the injuries to key players contributed to the Broncos not reaching their goal of playing in the 2017 Telstra Premiership Grand Final.
"As a Bronco you always want to be at the top and beat the best so while we didn't win the grand final and we're not there, it's disappointing, but at the same time through different stages of the year we've had injuries to key players – Milford, Andrew McCullough, Ben Hunt, myself," Boyd said.
"So we didn't have the same spine for the majority of the year – even Benji was injured – so to go through that with your spine during the year it's a massive effort to get where we've gotten to."
After Josh Addo-Carr helped to give the Storm an eight-point buffer at the break the Broncos were gifted an attacking opportunity to start the second half when Nelson Asofa-Solomona had the ball jolted free in the first tackle of the half but again Brisbane couldn't find a way through.
"We got a lucky opportunity there, we weren't expecting that," Bennett said of the Asofa-Solomona error.
"It wasn't so much that opportunity but the other two or three that we had in the next six or seven minutes. We kicked two dead and we lost the ball and the opportunities just started to mount.
"The time clock's running down and we're not grabbing some of those chances.
"We're on this bit of a journey at the moment to get to a stage where we don't get exposed like we did here tonight.
"We'd set ourselves to be in the top four and we achieved that. We didn't play great against the Roosters but we were good last week, we were tremendous here for 40-50 minutes but we've got to get better in some areas.
"We're better than we were but we're still not where we want to be."