Brisbane Broncos 2017 Season in Review
The Broncos went within a game of an eighth grand final appearance in 2017 before being swept aside by the all-conquering Storm in the preliminary final. Paul Zalunardo and Joel Gould take a look at the areas in which Wayne Bennett's men excelled - and those where there is room for improvement.
A strong bench and a host of great attacking players gave Broncos fans plenty to smile about in 2017.
The off-seasons exits of Ben Hunt and Adam Blair will be felt the most next season but the acquisition of the versatile and talented Jack Bird will add more class to an already impressive squad.
Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima’s liaison in the halves for their first full season together will be crucial to the side’s chances.
Assistant coach Kevin Walters was optimistic about Brisbane’s chances.
''The Broncos have lost six players from last year’s squad and some experience in that as well, but Brisbane are always strong and have a great brand and a great coach,'' Walters said.
''He [Wayne Bennertt] ensures that brand is somewhere thereabouts most seasons and I don’t see that changing next year. There are some good young players coming through and some older ones still there.
''Sam Thaiday is coming to the end of his career but I believe he is going to be a very important player to the Broncos in everything he does. He is one of those guys we will be relying on to have a good season.
''I'm not sure where Jack Bird will be starting but the best thing is that he is coming. He has great talent that he brings to the field, as he has shown for the Sharks and NSW over the years.''
A great home record (9-3) and more wins than losses (7-5) on the road marked a most impressive regular season for Wayne Bennett’s men. They averaged an impressive 27 points at home and almost 23 on the road.
James Roberts (16) and Corey Oates (13) finished in the top 10 in the league and produced the third-best output from a duo at the same club behind the Storm and Raiders.
For a team that played so well, the Broncos were only a middle-of-the-road team for making yardage from kicks. Anthony Milford led the way for a team that shared the kicking workload.
As a team the Broncos finished ahead of only the Raiders. Hard-working lock Josh McGuire was Brisbane’s best but his total was well adrift of the top 10 in the NRL.
Andrew McCullough’s worth to the Broncos extends beyond the mountain of tackling he gets through and his crisp play out of dummy-half. In his injury-shortened season, he was fifth in the NRL in this category, according to NRL.com/stats.
“That is a credit to Macca and the hard work he did on his game,'' Brisbane assistant coach Jason Demetriou told NRL.com
''One of the things we spoke about in the pre-season was him offering more with the footy to take the pressure off our halves, and he definitely did that. I think that gives him a base to push himself forward to Origin and rep footy in the future.''
Centre Tautau Moga and prop Adam Blair were the chief villains when it came to conceding penalties in 2017. Moga finished the season 10th on this unwanted honour roll.
As a team the Broncos made the third fewest errors during the season, but they weren’t without a quartet of repeat offenders. Corey Oates made 27 errors in 21 matches – the fifth-highest average in the competition.
Demetriou said wingers were more likely to make errors, but Oates did have room for improvement.
''If you are making an error a game, or more, that is too many,'' he said.
''To be fair, your wingers are under the most pressure catching high balls so that is probably an area where you expect to have a few more errors but it is definitely an area Oatesy needs to get better at.''
Having three forwards in the NRL’s top 30 for attracting three of more defenders is a strong result. Korbin Sims led the way, with 58% of his runs needing a group of opponents to bring him down. Herman Ese’ese and Adam Blair also finished inside the top 30.
The lift the Broncos got from their bench was comfortably the best in the NRL. Ben Hunt (who finished with a points differential of +16 from his five bench appearances) led the way, with Korbin Sims (+10.33) and Sam Thaiday (+9.55) completing the top three in the league.
James Roberts’ mix of speed and evasive skills has given opposition defenders many a nightmare – and 2017 was no different. He led Brisbane with an average of 4.2 tackle breaks per game.
''And if you looked at tackle breaks per carry he would be up there with the best in the competition,'' Demetriou said.
''If we can keep working on Jimmy’s fitness and him getting more involvements we will get even more out of him. He is a powerful and fast athlete who is a real competitor as well. He doesn’t like being tackled and every run is a contest to him.''