Brisbane players are fighting for their futures with coach Kevin Walters admitting performances over the coming weeks would dictate if new contracts are offered as the Broncos battle to avoid a second straight wooden spoon.
Walters has made it clear nobody is safe in his Red Hill clean-out and while he denied the roster was "a mess", he is determined to fill his 2022 squad with players he knows and trusts can do the job.
The Broncos have secured the likes of Adam Reynolds and Brenko Lee next year but as it stands, Brisbane have 19 players signed for 2022 plus Corey Oates and Jake Turpin who have options in their favour to remain at the club, leaving just nine holes to fill in their 30-man roster.
Almost half of Brisbane’s 19-man squad to face South Sydney on Thursday night are yet to secure new deals for next season with skipper Alex Glenn headlining the off-contract list that includes fullback Tesi Niu, Jesse Arthars, Dale Copley, Tyson Gamble, Karmichael Hunt, Keenan Palasia, Kobe Hetherington and John Asiata.
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Injured stars like Anthony Milford, Ben Te’o and Albert Kelly are also yet to get offers and Walters said players needed to earn a new deal by what they produce in their NRL performances.
"I think they’re playing for their own welfare and own mindset, if you start doing things for anybody else you start getting yourself in trouble," Walters said.
"They need to play the football they’re capable of and I’m sure if they do they will get rewarded with contracts."
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The Broncos' roster is clearly in a state of flux. Matt Lodge has been told he is free to leave if he can find a new deal, but potential suitors like Newcastle have been scared off by his lucrative salary and the potential fallout of signing a player with a troubled off-field history.
Turpin remains an interesting issue, given the hooker has captained the side in 2020 but could look to exit if the Broncos sign Canberra No.9 Josh Hodgson for next season.
Oates meanwhile has been stuck in the Intrust Super Cup for most of the season and while he’s questioned Walters over his future, he won’t walk away from a $500,000 contract option for next season.
"He is contracted so I can’t see why he wouldn’t be [here next year]," Walters said of Oates.
"When Corey plays to his ability he will be back in the side, it’s not that hard."
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This rookie coaching season is turning into an even greater challenge than Walters could have envisioned but with seven of their last 10 games at home, starting on Thursday against the Rabbitohs, he has faith they can end their season strongly.
Walters said it was still too soon to start picking a weekly team aimed at next year, but hinted more changes and debuts would be coming in the second half of 2021.
"I’m not frustrated. Rugby league is a tough world and coaching is tough," he said.
"There’s been some big challenges this year, but it hasn’t been frustrating. We’re making some progress and I can see the small steps we are taking. We continue to move in the right direction we will get there in the end.
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"I know it’s a good run home for us - it’s a chance to get something out of the season.
"We have some big games in front of us … a good strong finish to the season is what we’re looking for and I think we can deliver that.
"It’s all about the moment and playing week to week with a view to what’s happening in the future too.
"We have some guys here that I want to see play first grade before the year is out, some of our younger players, and they will get those opportunities provided that they’re doing everything they can at Intrust Super level.
"We will give them a chance at the next level up to give them a taste of what it’s like to play in the NRL."
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