Brisbane coach Kevin Walters remains confident the Broncos are in for a good year despite a pre-season trial fade-out that had all the hallmarks of the 2020 wooden spoon performances.
The Broncos led 18-6 after some brilliant first-half football against North Queensland at Redcliffe on Saturday night but conceded three tries in nine minutes amid a five-try second half rout by the Cowboys.
But rookie NRL coach Walters refused to push the panic button two weeks out from the NRL season with the former Queensland Origin mentor more inclined to focus on the positives.
"We all got something out of it, we had to start somewhere and I said yesterday at the press conference we’ve got to draw a line in the sand to find out where we are so we found out where we are," Walters said.
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"It was a terrific first 40 and a not-so-good second 40. Plenty to work on but I’m walking away tonight confident that the Broncos are going to have a good season.
"I don’t talk to them [the players] too much after the game. I’d like to have a good look at the game and gather all my thoughts. Often things aren’t as bad as they seem and when you win, they’re not quite as good as they seem."
Just as their 2020 season was mired in injuries and suspensions, 2021 looks like getting off to a similar start with Jesse Arthars (ankle) and Thomas Flegler (shoulder) both picking up injury complaints in the trial while Flegler and new recruit John Asiata are both on report for a lifting tackle on Reuben Cotter.
Walters said while there were obvious concerns, he was also confident with some of the progress he’d seen in key positions.
Fullback Jamayne Isaako looked a constant threat with a hand in two first-half tries, halfback Tom Dearden looked in command of the team in attack while hooker Jake Turpin’s speed out of dummy half gives Brisbane an edge it clearly lacked last year.
With Anthony Milford likely to be available for round one, Walters will at least start 2021 with his preferred spine and look to build a team around the skilful quartet.
What he wants to see, though, is more of the first 40 minutes and less of the second half fadeouts.
"That first 40 minutes the way we controlled the game and our defence was especially very good," Walters said.
"We got through our sets and our goal-line defence in the firast half was very good. We’ve got to build on that as a club and we’ll do that.
"We’ve got some time now to sort that out and get into round one with some confidence.
"We didn’t have a bad player in the first half … we’ve just got to get that 40 minutes to 80 minutes and we will be a very good side."