The Brisbane Broncos managed to get off the bottom of the ladder in 2021, after a maiden wooden spoon in 2020. With head coach Kevin Walter’s fingerprints all over this new look squad, will the Broncos be able to get back into final’s contention in 2022.
The 2021 season was quite the rollercoaster for Broncos fans, the club made some huge plays off the field, with the acquisitions of a new CEO (Dave Donaghy, Melbourne Strom) Head of Football Operations (Ben Ikin, NRL 360) and coach (Kevin Walters, Queensland Maroons). Though the Brisbane outfit didn’t stop at backroom additions with plenty of new faces lining up for the club on the field in 2022, headlined by star recruits Kurt Capewell and Adam Reynolds.
Whilst the Broncos managed to shift numerous pieces in the pursuit of a brighter future, positive results were hard to come by for the Red Hill outfit, winning only seven games and suffering 17 defeats. Even though the results weren’t going Brisbane’s way a number of players were selected for representative honours with superstars Payne Haas (NSW) and Xavier Coates (QLD) reprising their Origin roles whilst up and coming enforcer Thomas Flegler also made his Origin debut for Queensland.
During such a tough season, highlights can often be difficult to find, however Broncos fans have lots to smile about with the clubs Rookie of the Year Kobe Hetherington, who had a breakout year in the absence of starting lock Patrick Carrigan (ACL tear).
Logan Bayliss (Souths Logan Magpies), Kurt Capewell (Penrith Panthers), Delouise Hoeter (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Ryan James (Canberra Raiders), Corey Jenson (North Queensland Cowboys), Brenko Lee (Melbourne Storm), Jordan Pereira (St George Illawarra Dragons), Ethan Quai-Ward (Souths Logan Magpies), Adam Reynolds (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Billy Walters (Wests Tigers)
John Asiata (Leigh Centurions), Ethan Bullemor (Manly Sea Eagles), Xavier Coates (Melbourne Storm), Dale Copley (Retired), Brodie Croft (Salford Red Devils), Tom Dearden (North Queensland Cowboys), Alex Glenn (Retired), Dany Levi (Huddersfield Giants), Matthew Lodge (New Zealand Warriors), Tevita Pangai Junior (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)
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Whilst not as injured in their 2020 season, 2021 saw some serious talent on the sidelines for the Brisbane Broncos. Superstar centre Kotoni Staggs suffered both an ACL & MCL tear, whilst boom up and coming lock forward Patrick Carrigan also had a season ending ACL tear. Both were sorely missed and will be valuable additions to the 2022 squad as the Broncos look to compete for finals.
One issue that needs resolving is Brisbane’s inconsistent halves pairing switch ups, with Walters needing to select new signing and captain Adam Reynolds five eighth partner. With a lot of competition for the 6 position Walters will have the best kind of coach’s headache.
Although the halves debate has taken the spotlight, another positional battle has ensued with new signing Jordan Pereira looking to cement a place within the Broncos best 17.
Pereira had a sensational trial game against the Wynnum Manly Seagulls, in which he scored twice and was strong defensively, something Walters consistently states he wants. Corey Oates, Jamayne Issako, David Mead and Selwyn Cobbo will all be kept on their toes if Pereira can bring this form into the NRL.
What to expect
Big things are on the horizon for this Brisbane outfit if Walters can get his squad gelled and firing.
After a competitive end of the season the Broncos will be looking to build into a finals team, thanks largely in part to the key signings of Reynolds and Kurt Capewell joining a young and talented roster.
If Reynolds can manage the clock and set up his team, there is no reason young backline stars Selwyn Cobbo, Herbie Farnworth and Tesi Niu can’t continue their end of season form and grow into more devastating try scorers. Whilst the addition of Premiership and Origin winning second rower Capewell, should be instrumental in the development of young back rower Jordan Riki and powerhouse youngsters TC Robati and Keenan Palasia.
Though it may well be asking too much of these young stars, as with more game time comes more criticism, Walters will have quite the task on his hands to make sure this young squad doesn’t boil over.
It’s a big year for?
Whilst there is a grand question mark around the Broncos halves pairing, it will be an incredibly big year for a number of players in the squad, none more so, than Tesi Niu.
Niu will have first crack in the fullback jersey which he made his own at the back end of last season, thanks to some terrific displays, however the emergence of Indigenous All-Stars representative Selwyn Cobbo has many doubting the future of Niu at the club.
After faltering in the centre jersey at the start of the year and consistent links to the Broncos South-East Queensland rivals the Gold Coast Titans, Niu will have to put in consistent displays to ensure to both the Broncos faithful and his coach Kevin Walters that he deserves an extension and starting role past 2023.
With Cobbo on his tail 2022 is an incredibly big year in the young career of Niu and could very well decide his future at the club.
Biggest unanswered question
Who partners Adam Reynolds in the halves?
It is the biggest question in rugby league at the moment, who will partner Reynolds in the Broncos halves. After signing the long-time South Sydney skipper, the Broncos knew they had locked in one half of their halves for the 2022 season. Though thanks to some big-time performances, even in defeated matches, the Broncos have quite the decision to make in who partner their newly announced captain.
Will the enthusiastic and strong defender Tyson Gamble secure his place in the best 17? Will the Broncos look towards Albert Kelly to replicate the Reynolds-Walker pairing which proved incredibly dangerous for the Rabbitohs? Or will young side-stepping Ezra Mam continue his rugby league rise alongside one of the game’s greatest game managers? Until round 1’s kick-off only Walters will know.
Coach pressure index
Walters bought the club off the bottom of the ladder last year and will be wanting to expand on their end of season form for the new year.
Though the Broncos have tremendous love for one of their favourite sons, Walters can’t afford to rest on his laurels with some big-time new additions to the squad shaking up the old core of the team, pressure will be on Walters to start turning the Broncos back into the powerhouse they once were.
That transition starts with results and if the Broncos are battling for finals, Walters should remain coach for 2023, however Brisbane aren’t afraid to cut legends so if he can’t take that next coaching step up the Broncos won’t be afraid to say goodbye.
Predicted round one lineup
Corey Oates and Selwyn Cobbo look set to start the season the wing beating out the likes of Jordan Pereira, Jamayne Isaako and David Mead.
While Albert Kelly should get first crack at partnering Reynolds, with the likes of Billy Walters, and Tyson Gamble waiting in the wings.
Thomas Flegler’s three-game suspension will see recruit Ryan James get first crack in the starting prop spot.
The Broncos will have high hopes of returning to finals this year, with superstars like Kotoni Staggs, Payne Haas, Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell leading this team, there should be firm belief this squad can make it back to late September footy.
While it widely known the top six is going to be very hard to crack into, but if the Broncos can be around the mark as finals near who knows what can happen.
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