DCE backs Broncos halves to break 12-year title drought
Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans believes much maligned Brisbane pairing Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima can lead the Broncos to a premiership from sixth place...because of their unorthodox attributes, not despite of them.
After being unable to stop the Broncos halves create five of Brisbane's first six tries in the Sea Eagles' 48-16 loss at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, Cherry-Evans predicted Milford and Nikorima could become the wild cards of the finals if the big men in front of them continue their form of the past month.
The Broncos little men have been under fire all season because of their inconsistency, inability to game-manager their team in the tough moments and an apparent lack of an innate play-making qualities.
Yet their brilliant running games and unpredictability, and their improved confidence of recent weeks, is what will make them such a formidable pairing in the finals – provided their forwards continue to dominate, says DCE.
"They are the surprise package of the finals series and when they're on, like days like today, it's so hard to play against them because they are very unpredictable," Cherry-Evans said after Sunday's loss.
"If their forward pack can continue to lay a platform like they did for them today, the natural ability of Milford and Nikorima is going to be a real threatening sight for opposing teams in the finals.
"They both have a very strong running game which is not a natural attribute for a halves pairing. I can see why people say they need a traditional halfback because they essentially have two five-eighths; the halfback role isn't usually associated with a strong running game.
"When Brisbane go forward, what those two players can do ... I'm sure in their heads it's not unpredictable but it looks so unpredictable as a defender and you're never quite sure what they're going to do because they possess more than one skill.
"They are going to be dangerous, that's for sure."
Never has the top eight been so compacted on the competition ladder and Cherry-Evans says that, while history says a team from the bottom half can't usually take the title, Brisbane are the biggest danger.
"History says you can't [win from fifth to eighth] but I'm not a person to write off anyone from the bottom four this year, particularly the Broncos, because of how close the top of the competition has been this year.
"The Broncos are a bit more than a dark horse to be honest," Cherry-Evans says. "Starting off with a home semi is a great launching pad for them.
"If their forward pack continues to go forward like they have for the past month, it's no secret what attacking ability they possess in the backs."
Yet the Queensland Origin half, who was also Manly's Clive Churchill Medal winner in their 2013 grand final defeat against the Sydney Roosters, says it is the Broncos' pairing's temperament in the more frantic finals that could determine how far they progress.
"Their temperament is the key because at the end of the day everyone is going to try a bit harder, run a bit harder, tackle a bit harder and everything is going to be amplified," he said.
"That's the test for them but if they continue to keep a level head and continue to put teams under pressure with their kicking game which they did to us, that's the steady stuff that can really give your team that extra edge.
"And the fact they've got two genuine strike players in their halves means it is going to be very hard for opposing teams to handle them."