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Brisbane Broncos 2020 season preview

The benchmark for the Broncos each year is a top-four finish and after limping into the finals last year and exiting in humiliation the pressure is well and truly on.

The 58-0 loss to the Eels in the opening clash of the 2019 finals was the catalyst for a club-wide review of operations. There have already been changes to the captaincy and the leadership group.

The pre-season has been brutal at Red Hill under a sweltering summer sun and the Broncos have now had their first full pre-season under coach Anthony Seibold.

It is 14 years since the Broncos won a premiership and there is a sense that the squad assembled is capable of ending that drought.

The 2020 outlook

What’s new

The Broncos have already appointed a new captain in Alex Glenn to lead the way after bringing an end to Darius Boyd’s three-year tenure in the role. Boyd remains a member of the leadership group and coach Seibold is banking on the two-time premiership winner rediscovering his best form.

The Broncos have signed former Titans outside back Jesse Arthars and ex-Storm half Brodie Croft.

Arthars has already trained at wing, centre and fullback and will keep the heat on Jamayne Isaako who is set to get the first crack at the No.1 jersey.

Croft has been signed to play No.7 and fulfil a game management role in the hope it will free up Anthony Milford to play his natural game at five-eighth.

In the coaching ranks, 2006 premiership winner Corey Parker now has a full-time role as an assistant coach where his wisdom is viewed as of particular benefit to a young forward pack.

Five key match-ups of the Broncos' 2020 draw

The draw

The Broncos play four of their first five games against teams that finished outside the top eight last year - including the Cowboys twice, Titans (away) and Panthers (away) – and will aim to make the most of it after winning just two of their opening six games last year.

The standout feature of the draw for the Broncos is that from round five until round 16 they play 11 games on either on Thursday or Friday night and will enjoy regular six, seven or eight-day turnarounds. This is a massive advantage when it comes to recovery.

The stat that gives you hope

The Broncos forwards are mostly young and will only improve with experience.

Coach Seibold has already pointed to areas where 20-year-old Payne Haas will progress in 2020 and based on last year’s stats that is a scary thought. Last year Haas ran for 200 metres or more on 10 occasions and had a tackle efficiency rate of more than 92 per cent. Broncos fans will be salivating at the prospect of a bigger and better Haas after a rookie season like that.  

Broncos prop Payne Haas.
Broncos prop Payne Haas. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

What you need to know NRL Fantasy-wise

"Payne Haas ($999k) was last year's buy of the season and is the most valuable player in Fantasy this year, but he's worth the big bucks as captain if you can fit him into your side. David Fifita ($680,000) had a monstrous second half of 2019 and should be an affordable keeper this year while Jamayne Isaako ($471,000) could prove to be a steal if he thrives in the fullback role. Jake Turpin ($557,000) and Kotoni Staggs ($477,000) also look good value." - Lone Scout

The coach

Seibold is well on the way to assembling the squad he wants and in his second year at the Broncos has also made significant changes to the roster and the leadership group.

The coach has already shown his willingness to back youth at the selection table and the elevation of Pat Carrigan, Haas and Croft to the leadership group is a further illustration of the importance he places on the young players taking ownership of the team's performance.

The best of David Fifita's 2019 season

Contract matters

Boom 19-year-old forward David Fifita is off-contract at the end of the year and wrapping him up long term is a priority. Based on Brisbane's recent success at retaining the players they want to keep the odds are that Fifita will stay at Red Hill.

Other contract matters of note for the Broncos relate to the big guns that have player options for 2021. Corey Oates, Anthony Milford, Jack Bird and Andrew McCullough are all in that boat and will at some stage either take their option up or go to the open market.

Former skipper Darius Boyd has a mutual option with the Broncos, the activation of which NRL.com understands depends upon how many Telstra Premiership games he plays this year.

The burning question

There is no question the Broncos have a forward pack to match it with any in the competition but the question that still needs answering is whether a new spine can provide the direction and spark in attack that was lacking last year.

Former winger Jamayne Isaako is set to play fullback if he can hold off a late charge by Jack Bird. Milford and Croft will play in the halves and either Jake Turpin or McCullough at hooker. As a unit they are yet to play together and forging a cohesive partnership early in the season will be paramount to success.

That leads into another key question regarding Boyd's spot in the team. Last year he moved from fullback to five-eighth but this pre-season has mostly trained at left centre. Where he takes the field in round one is yet to be determined but the signs are that he will be given an opportunity to cement the left centre position after a strong performance in the opening trial.

Coates announces himself in the NRL with a beauty

Breakout player to watch

Xavier Coates is a tall, atheletic and fast outside back who made a positive impression in his three first grade games last year.

Coates appears notably stronger on the training field this pre-season and his explosiveness has already earned him the nickname "Little GI" at Red Hill.

The 18-year-old is also strong in the air and his attacking prowess and proven try-scoring ability is likely to result in plenty more NRL action in 2020.

The quote

"We came in the first day of pre-season and spoke about that game and we have used that as motivation to make sure that never happens again…and that we strive for greatness in 2020." - Alex Glenn on how last year's finals exit to the Eels will inspire the Broncos.