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State of disarray: Broncos' halves musical chairs

With Brisbane set to switch their starting halves pairing once again this week, the club has now changed its starting halves from the previous game 18 times in 51 matches since the start of 2019.

From an era of relative stability in Wayne Bennett's final season at the club in 2018, when Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima started all bar one game together, there has been a constant reshuffling of the deck chairs under Anthony Seibold, Peter Gentle and Kevin Walters.

An NRL.com Stats analysis shows those 51 team lists have included 11 different starting halves pairings, with the most used being Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft (13 total games) with a longest unbroken streak of any pairing coming between Milford and Croft in the first 10 games of 2020.

The No.1 jersey has also rotated between Darius Boyd, Milford, Tesi Niu and Jamayne Isaako while Andrew McCullough, Jake Turpin, Cory Paix and Issac Luke have started at hooker in that time, meaning in 22 of 51 games the spine has changed from the previous game.

These numbers do not take into account mid-game changes, with Croft and Tom Dearden being interchanged from the bench in the past three straight games.

Compare that to this weekend's opponents Penrith, who will use a Nathan Cleary-Jarome Luai halves combination for the 26th time in 29 games this weekend. Their preferred pairing in 2019 was James Maloney and Nathan Cleary, with just four games in the past three years featuring stand-in Matt Burton as an injury or suspension replacement, and the other 48 a combination of Maloney, Cleary and Luai.

The model for playmaking consistency over this period has been the Rabbitohs, with Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker starting together in 49 of 55 games with Origin selection, suspension and injury separating them just six times in three seasons.

Broncos legend Steve Renouf has called for Brisbane's new halves to get busy, believing star playmaker Anthony Milford was finally axed for not wanting to get his hands on the ball as coach Kevin Walters mops up the mess of a recruiting failure in Brisbane.

Milford has not been the same player since he inked the richest deal in Broncos history four years ago and Renouf was surprised it'd taken a Broncos coach this long to hold the five-eighth accountable but was pleased new coach Walters had shown the courage to make the big calls.

"It's understandable with what's happened with Milford, he is just not turning up and nowhere near where he should be," Renouf told NRL.com

"This situation for the club with Milf, this has been going on for a number of years. I just don't get it. It's frustrating from the point of view that it has been let go for a few years.

"How many chances does a player get? For a player of his calibre he is not even getting close to his potential.

Milford dropped as Walters swings axe finally

"I'm sure he would've talked to Milf about that at the start of the season and that's just not happened. It's not consistent enough. He needs to want the ball in his hand. Whether going forward or not he needs to create something but it hasn't happened."

Renouf hopes a few weeks in the Intrust Super Cup may be just the circuit breaker required for Milford to rediscover his confidence and mojo, but says only time will tell if the 26-year-old reacts positively to the selection bombshell.

The Broncos face Penrith at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night and Renouf said the difference between the two clubs' halves was stark given how much Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai demand the ball regardless of where their team is on the field.

"They want the ball in their hands and are directing play, they're just dominating," he said.

"People say they do that behind good forward pack, we have a decent forward pack but you got to want the ball in your hand.

Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Broncos

"[Milford] doesn't want it… I watched him and he didn't want the ball.

"It won't do [Milford's] ego any good but I don't think he has a big ego to be honest. It would want to hurt him I hope it does hurt him and drive him to get back in that first grade.

"He has to take the consequences and what he does with it is up to him. It's now up to these two halves, they've got to be busy. Just get out there and have a go.

"This is the opportunity for Dearden and Croft to secure their spots. It really now puts pressure on them two to step up here.

"We need guidance from halves and where they want the forwards running. They need to rule and run the show.

"Croft has got to step up as well. He can't escape any criticism either. I think Dearden needs to just play what's in front of him. He is too careful. He just needs to go out and have a go and play what's in front of him."

Renouf said he felt for Walters and his coaching staff who were having to clean up the mess left behind from the past few seasons and the recruitment decisions that had left the Broncos with issues with their roster.

Walters believes Broncos are still on the right path

"Kevvie has come in and has to fix this team to be honest," Renouf said.

"He got handed this team and it was a shemozzle to be brutally honest. I feel for Kev and coaching staff but they're working with what they were given.

"A lot of these boys probably should not be playing together if recruitment was done properly.

"The club has ignored the point that the recruiting has been terrible.

"I hate saying it but they look like a bunch of schoolboys at times.

"It's no one else's fault beside the people who team put together. The coaching staff are just working with what little they have."