Why Broncos remain enigmas of 2018 title race
The favourite TV Show of Lee Harvey Oswald, alleged killer of John F Kennedy, was I Lived Three Lives.
If Wayne Bennett was to coin a name for a documentary about his 2018 Brisbane Broncos team he could well call it I Coached Three Teams, because in the last three weeks alone we have seen the full trifecta of displays that makes his unpredictable outfit such a compelling one to watch and dissect.
In the 50-18 win over the Panthers it was total dominance up front, in harmony with razzle-dazzle out wide. The 12-10 triumph over the Cronulla Sharks featured grit and determination in an arm wrestle victory against the masters of that type of contest. That was followed up by disinterest and naivety in the 36-22 loss to the lowly Bulldogs where too many Broncos were waiting for someone else to take charge.
Oswald is regarded as an enigma by historians, and his favourite show showcased the triple life of the central character. Bennett's Broncos are also an enigma and no doubt rugby league annuals about 2018 will reflect that when they are penned.
The coach himself suggested as much after the Bulldogs loss when he said he had "no idea" why his team's performances fluctuated as they do. It is impossible to be sure which Broncos team will turn up in Townsville on Thursday night against North Queensland.
That is what suggests that a Broncos premiership from outside the top four, where they seem set to finish, is so unlikely. Top-four teams can have their off night in the opening week of the finals but that is the only leeway they get.
For Brisbane to win the title they must unveil four consecutive displays of quality. History tells us that has never been done in the NRL era, and that gruelling challenge appears right now beyond a Brisbane team which has not won four games in a row this year.
This season the "shock and awe" Broncos have reared their heads in patches during matches and when they do, few sides can go with them. In the case of win over the Panthers it was for 80 minutes, but second-half comebacks against the Roosters and Raiders featured the skill and speed of James Roberts and Anthony Milford on the back of powerhouse displays up front.
Milford personified the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of his team in the 26-22 comeback win over Canberra where scribes were preparing to give him a baking in their match reports at half-time after a lacklustre display, but 40 minutes later were forced to sing his praises after the Brisbane five-eighth turned on the magic in the second half like only he can.
A remarkable fact about this Brisbane team, despite its youth, is that 10 of their 12 wins this season have been by less than 10 points. That is a tribute to the character of the side in adversity. Considering Jamayne Isaako, Kotoni Staggs, Kodi Nikorima, Matt Lodge, Tevita Pangai jnr and the injured Jaydn Su'A are in the early stages of their careers it is a trait that will no doubt have the club well positioned in years ahead.
That inexperience would also explain the sub-standard displays that have come at home against the Titans, Sea Eagles and Warriors this year. The latter two of those losses were followed up by resounding victories, making any prediction about the Broncos impossible to make with any certainty.
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Bennett's men are running out of time to fix the variance in the standard of their displays from week-to-week. Counting against them hosting a final from fifth or sixth position is their negative for-and-against, a reflection of a couple of spankings they have received and the narrowness of many of their wins.
A seventh- or eighth-placed finish appears right now to be the more likely final position for Brisbane.
If that is the case, to attain the ultimate glory this year will likely take four wins on the trot and on the road, like the famous 1993 Broncos side.
There is nothing in the recent history of Brisbane's performances to suggest such a feat is on the horizon.
The truth is, no-one knows which Broncos side is going to reveal itself on any given day, not even their coach.
Until they fix that glaring deficiency they will remain on the road to nowhere in 2018.