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Shape, halves, forwards: what is going wrong with the Broncos

After being at the SCG last Thursday, it was really surprising to witness the performance Brisbane put in. They have issues right across the field.

While we have to acknowledge how well the Roosters played, Brisbane looked like they have problems with their shape, directional issues with their halves and  an inexperienced forward pack that doesn't have a strong leader.

Structure

It is still early days but the shape of the Broncos right now is very poor.

Their work off the ball when they're in possession and the eyes-up play is not there. They're very one-dimensional in attack and there were times on Thursday when you could have almost thrown a handkerchief over the whole team.

They're not creating enough opportunities on either side of the ruck and they look too predictable.

Yes you have to play it a bit safe and get to your kick when coming out of your own half but you can still be setting up off the ball, presenting opportunities and the threat of potentially attacking down the short side or kicking long.

Every try from Round 4

That opens up the opposition defence to have to mark up against that.

Because they were so compressed, the Roosters defensive line all play inside the tram tracks on either side. The Broncos could never force them to make one-on-one tackle and create fast play the balls.

Contrast that to what the Roosters were doing.

They had good shape, players were supporting off the forwards, there was a half out behind the runner to go deep and wide and the outside backs and edge second-rowers were pushing up and threatening.

As a result, the Brisbane defence had to stretch wider and that's when front-rowers can hit the line, force a quick play-the-ball and create some momentum.

Unhappy Brisbane players.
Unhappy Brisbane players. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

At half time the Broncos had missed 31 tackles and the Roosters just two.

Halves

Brisbane were using too many plays to start setting up for something in the attacking zone.

They were playing three or four predictable hit-ups for a play that was then poorly executed whereas the Roosters would get a turnover and in one play they had shape on both sides of field.

They were all playing eyes up and looking for mismatches in the defence.

A large part is what they practice at training and if they go through drills to get to different positions on the field and have options from there.

If Brisbane are drilled to have those structures available, it's 100 per cent down to those halves taking the right options. But if they don't have those tricks up their sleeve then that's on the coach.

Annesley discusses key decisions from Round 4

In a tough game where momentum is going against you, you want a half who takes control of the game, settles it down, plays position and percentages and sticks to structures.

At the moment it doesn't seem like Anthony Milford or Kodi Nikorima are playing that role. 

Forwards

For starters, their forwards need to work harder on tackles four and five.

They can afford to give up those few metres and not fight so much and instead just work on getting a quick play-the-ball.

Then the halves can catch it on the run on the front foot – that's how you build pressure and momentum.

If they don't have that they need that forward leader, the talismanic type guys that go "I'll sort this out" and be physical and run over a few blokes. Sam Burgess, Jason Taumalolo or Andrew Fifita can turn the run of play through an incredible tackle or moment of individual brilliance.

They're not creating enough opportunities on either side of the ruck and they look too predictable

That trio might take two or three big carries in one set when they need to and they're not doing it for their own statistics but to get going motivated and running off the back of them.

Things like that almost embarrass the other guys in the team into lifting their own game.

Brisbane don't have that at the moment. Tevita Pangai jnr could be that player – he has the ability and physical presence and fitness and strength. But the question is does he have the ability to recognise when in a game when he needs to do that because you can't do that all the time.

There will be tough moments in games when your team is crying out for that and that's when they need to deliver. Gorden Tallis used to do that for Brisbane. Pangai can do it but needs to identify when that time is.

Maybe Seibold needs to take him through that but with such a young pack and the fact older heads like Matt Gillett and Alex Glenn are not really the type to fill that role so he'll have to learn quickly.

We see him trying to be aggressive and sometimes he gets it wrong like he did with the hit on Cooper Cronk but it's a little bit misplaced.

Sadly the Broncos, it's not the only thing that's been misplaced over the opening month of the season.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.