Broncos pivot Anthony Milford.

Why Bennett's past sheds light on Broncos halves' future

To predict the future with any degree of certainty it is essential to have an understanding of the past.

That certainly applies in politics, as it does in equal measure when it comes to the inscrutable Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett.

Last week Bennett effectively gave Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima a ''season pass'' for 2018 when he said there would be no changes in the halves and that he would not be going to the market.

That guarantee does surely not apply for all eternity, particularly if the duo continue to create no line breaks or tries, as has been the case in 2018.

An investigation of Bennett's history is helpful to get a gauge on any changes he may make in the future.

Look back at 2006 and in round four the spine for the Broncos, in a loss to St George Illawarra, had Karmichael Hunt at fullback, Darren Lockyer at five-eighth, Brett Seymour at half and Michael Ennis at hooker.

Ennis suffered a season-ending injury the next week and Bennett tinkered with Casey McGuire and Neville Costigan at hooker before moving Shaun Berrigan into the No.9 jersey at the back end of the year, a position from which he won the Clive Churchill Medal.

Seymour lost his spot and Bennett brought the unheralded Shane Perry up from Redcliffe to play halfback. Hunt was fullback for most of the year but Bennett moved Justin Hodges to the custodian position at the business end of the season where he proved to be a revelation.

The premiership-winning spine was Hodges, Lockyer, Perry and Berrigan. The odds for that at the start of the season would have been long indeed.

Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima.
Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

That season reveals how Bennett is not tied down to a preconceived notion of what should, or will, work in any given season.

With regard to Bennett’s unequivocal statement last week about his halves, Immortal Wally Lewis told NRL.com: ''I've never heard of Bennett giving out season passes before.''

Lewis followed that up and said: ''One of the reasons for that statement was to increase the confidence of those two players.''

The King is on the money there when it comes to the psychology behind Bennett's words.

It is worth noting injuries to Ennis and Hunt during 2006 forced Bennett's hand to some extent. If that happens again then he will have no choice but to make changes.

The Broncos have fewer options than they did last year in the halves when Ben Hunt and Benji Marshall were on the books.

Darius Boyd told NRL.com recently he'd had no conversation with Bennett about playing five-eighth, but was open to the move if asked down the track.

It is worth noting the Broncos' try to Corey Oates in the 15-10 loss to Newcastle came after Boyd slotted into the five-eighth role and threw an inch-perfect right to left pass, his specialty.

Last week Bennett knocked the idea of Boyd playing five-eighth on the head but it remains to be seen if that decision is final.

It is also unknown whether the Broncos have someone in their squad that could fill a Perry-like role. Todd Murphy and Troy Dargan are playing in the halves for Norths Devils while Sam Scarlett is the Souths-Logan halfback. 

Broncos fullback Darius Boyd.
Broncos fullback Darius Boyd. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

Even if one of those did receive a call-up the Broncos do not have a player of Lockyer's calibre to slot in alongside them.

It has been said that Bennett is facing his biggest challenge yet as a Broncos coach but he has stared down far greater ones than this.

In 1999 the Broncos lost nine of their first 11 games and were last on the ladder before turning it all around with 11 wins in a row to make the finals.

Two wins from five does not come close to that scenario, but the Broncos don't have the superstar line-up they did in 1999 either.

Back then Allan Langer ''retired'' after round eight and the next year Ben Ikin came on the scene and partnered Kevin Walters behind a stellar pack in the 2000 premiership win.

In 2004 Bennett famously moved Lockyer to five-eighth to solve a halves problem that was a constant thorn in his side during the 2000s.

Bennett has said his current halves aren't the problem and they will do the job in the future. He's said poor ball control and a lack of forward dominance have made it impossible for them to fire.

The alternate view is Milford and Nikorima are too similar and not game managers.

If Bennett comes to that conclusion himself this year, you can be sure his so-called season pass for the halves will be given the flick pass. He certainly has history on his side.