Brisbane aura restored after Reece and Labor change

There was a time…a time before cable, when the Brisbane Broncos reigned supreme.

If the Anchorman narrator’s voice didn’t register when you read this introduction, try again and you’ll hear it.

It has been 30 years since Brisbane won its first premiership and that period can be split into two distinct periods – the dynasty of six prime ministers from 1992 to 2006 and a drought since.

The Broncos lost their aura when Darren Lockyer hung up his boots in 2011, the last pivot of the Golden Age.

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They have only won five finals matches in the AD (After Darren) period – including two when they qualified for the 2015 decider before losing in the dying seconds to the Cowboys – and have not tasted victory in the playoffs for six years.

Kotoni Staggs brand. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

After the wooden spoon nadir in 2020, the Broncos are finally back.

The only team unbeaten after four rounds, they are atop the premiership ladder for the first time since round 10 of 2016 and are favorites to make five on the trot when they host the Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium . Saturday evening.

After being a leading pre-season contender to be the first coach to be kicked, Kevin Walters looks like he deserves not just another try next year, but a decent extension as a reward for rebuilding.

How the Broncos bucked the losing trend

One of the biggest factors in their buoyant opening month was not recruiting, but getting a player they never should have let go in the first place.

The decision to release Reece Walsh two years ago to join the Warriors after failing to match their offer was the worst in a long list of Broncos contract mistakes in a short period of time – overpaying for Matt Lodge, Tevita Pangai jnr, Darius Boyd long-term deals then cut them for free in advance.

Whether it was luck or karma, they were able to pick him up a year early from the Warriors after letting him go a season early.

The more realistic scenario is that the Broncos mismanaged their salary cap a few years ago and couldn’t pay Walsh what he was worth, but after finally putting their books away they were able to pay him market value and he suddenly developed homesickness. which could only be cured by a maroon and gold No.1 shirt and the contract that comes with it.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 18: Reece Walsh of Broncos celebrates his try during the NRL Third Round game between Brisbane Broncos and St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium on March 18, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Reece Walsh celebrates a try. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Warriors have at least gotten a quality player in return with Kiwi international Te Maire Martin returning to his homeland after reviving his career with the Broncos.

After missing Round 1 upset by the Panthers in Penrith with a facial fracture, Walsh gave the Broncos a much-needed injection of speed from fullback along with a side game option to reduce the load on Adam Reynolds and, in turn, his inexperienced partner Ezra Mam.

Against the Cowboys, Walsh notched three assists, including one leading to a try while scoring one himself.

He backed it up against the Dragons in the late blitz with two tries and creating a few extra line breaks, including a try play.

And last week against the Dolphins in their first Brisbane derby, Walsh produced an assist as he created two line breaks against their determined local rivals.

His seven assists down the line are two more than anyone else in the competition, despite only playing three games.

Reynolds is actually slightly more involved than last year at 48.7 touches per game (down from 45.1), but he’s by no means as dominant as the other head playmakers, ranking 10th among NRL half-backs.

Simply put, he takes care of the amount of Brisbane’s attacking play and Walsh adds extra quality where needed.

With outgoing Maroons fullback Kalyn Ponga’s playing future clouded by repeated concussions, Walsh emerges as the favorite for the spot ahead of Dolphins counterpart Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow when Billy Slater selects his opening team this month. next.

Break the harness

Brisbane were overly conservative in attack throughout last year as they adjusted to Reynolds taking over at half-back, a task made more difficult by a few short absences due to COVID-19 and broken ribs.

The Broncos, who fell late in the season from the top four to ninth with a 1-5 record to finish, were officially on offense.

They therefore ranked ninth in tries and points while struggling to enter the opposition 20-yard zone, last at 24.3 games per game on the business side.

Brisbane valued possession over power – third at 79% in completion rate while ranking 14th in offloads (8.1 per game) and assists (90.7).

Brisbane aura restored after Reece and Labor change

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

With star forwards Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan in the lead, the Broncos go wild in the middle to build momentum for Reynolds and Walsh to attack a retreating defensive line.

They lead the league in tackle jumps (37 per game), yards covered at 1,902 (although for what it’s worth, the winless Wests Tigers are second at 1,891) and dwarf the rest of the field in yards post-contact at 681.4 (the Eels are best after four rounds at 599.4).

Haas has more post-contact counters than many NRL forwards manage in a game.

His 91.1 average eclipses second-best Panthers winger Brian To’o. Brisbane have four players in the top 10 with Carrigan fourth (71), compatriot Thomas Flegler ninth at 65.4 and center Herbie Farnworth 10th at 64.7.

Their completion rate has slipped to ninth overall, which isn’t a problem, quite the contrary – they’re now giving the ball air. Brisbane are now fifth in offloads at 10 per game and eighth in passing.

Walters impressed with defensive upgrades

Walters was impressed with his team’s improvement at the defensive end with just 58 points conceded in the first four rounds.

As great as the Broncos teams of yesteryear were with the ball in hand, they were always ruthless on defense.

The Tigers present a possible danger game – they upset Brisbane in their end-of-season fadeout last year and Walters is taking nothing for granted, particularly wary of the team going downhill after the LA win hype last week against the Dolphins.

“We had a big month of football, not just last week,” Walters said Friday during his captain’s press conference.

“We played Premiers and a top four team at the Cowboys. Then the Dragons were very good against us too. It’s no different here at the Broncos. People want to come to Suncorp and play well, so we have to take on that challenge,” he said.

“I don’t see it as a danger game. It’s another football game for us. The Tigers will be ready to play, we will be ready to go too. There is a good atmosphere between them all, a good bond not to let each other down.

“There are a few teams we owe to last year, but if we keep looking back, we won’t see what’s ahead.”

Sports Grp2

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