Brisbane Broncos 2019 season preview

The Broncos embark on the post-Wayne Bennett era aiming to break a 13-year premiership drought under the guidance of new coach Anthony Seibold.

The faithful are getting restless, and with good reason when you consider that the Broncos had won five premierships by the end of their first 13 seasons in the top flight.

For a club that sets a top-four finish as a benchmark, Seibold and his team won't be given a chance to ease their way into a world without Bennett.

When asked about challenging for the title in 2019, Brisbane CEO Paul White told NRL.com there was optimism tinged with "the weight of expectation".  

"There is a real energy in the organisation and an air of excitement ... and real anticipation but the starter's gun hasn't gone off and we have got to deliver," White said.

The 2019 outlook

What’s New

On the player front, former Raiders and Cowboys workhorse forward Shaun Fensom and former Roosters halfback Sean O'Sullivan are the major recruits.

Watch Broncos training and another notable feature is the presence for the first time of 17-year-old halfback Thomas Dearden. He plans to be nipping at the heels of O'Sullivan to be the club’s back-up half behind Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima.

Brisbane half Sean O'Sullivan.
Brisbane half Sean O'Sullivan. ©broncos.com.au

In the coaching department, Red Hill has had revolutionary change. Most of Bennett's men have gone and Seibold has brought his own staff in. They include new assistant coaches Peter Gentle and Ben Cross, and high-performance chief Paul Devlin.

You could write a lengthy essay about the difference between Seibold's way of doing business and that of Bennett.

Bennett’s methods have won him seven premierships. Seibold’s are in their embryonic stage at NRL level but, according to the players, they certainly have included higher intensity training sessions.

From his pre-season comments so far Seibold has indicated the "new" way Brisbane will play this year includes faster play the ball speeds from his forwards and more shifting of the football, as was the case at South Sydney last year where the right to left sweeping movements were a highlight

"I think it is the young and more new age system now with Seibs," Broncos winger Corey Oates told NRL.com.

"I've always said that there is nothing wrong with the way Wayne coaches, and his record proves that, but something different for us is exciting."

The Draw

The Broncos start the season with matches against the Storm, Cowboys, Dragons and Roosters. That should provide an excellent barometer of the club's chances going forward.

The round eight showdown at ANZ Stadium where Bennett's Rabbitohs host the Broncos looms as one of the highlights of the season. If Darius Boyd stays fit and healthy it will also be his 300th NRL game, up against his former coach for the first time at club level.

The Broncos play 13 times against sides that missed the top eight last year and have an eight-game block between round 17 and round 24 where they don't leave Queensland.

Stat to give you hope

Milford is "the money man" for the Broncos this year.

The Broncos five-eighth is blessed with innate skills that few in the game possess but a heartening development in his game last year was the way he embraced becoming more of a game manager with his tactical kicking.

This was evidenced statistically where Milford led the Broncos stats with kicks for the season (279), average kicks per game (11.6), kicking metres for the season (8712m) and average kick metres per game (363m) where he also placed second, fifth, first and second in the NRL respectively.

This will give supporters hope that Milford's game is on the ascendancy.

What you need to know NRL-Fantasy Wise

Anthony Milford ($750,000) and Andrew McCullough ($710,000) are Brisbane's Fantasy big guns but the value buys are to be found in their young forward pack – the likes of rising stars Tevita Pangai jnr ($640,000), David Fifita ($557,000) and Payne Haas ($231,000) – as well as in the backline where Jack Bird ($289,000) is as cheap as he's been since his rookie season at the Sharks following an injury-affected first year at the Broncos.

New Broncos coach Anthony Seibold and captain Darius Boyd.
New Broncos coach Anthony Seibold and captain Darius Boyd. ©broncos.com.au

The coach

Seibold has started a five-year tenure at the club and from his first day as head coach made it clear what he stands for and what sort of club he wants the Broncos to be.

Within 24 hours of his arrival at Broncos HQ the former Rabbitohs mentor had met with every person in the organisation.

The "Bennett way" has been replaced by the "Seibold way" and that includes a desire to give the players and coaching staff as much professional development as possible.

As a result key members of the spine, including star halves Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima, have spent several days of learning at the North Melbourne Kangaroos and been sent to premiership winning playmaker Matthew Johns to fine tune their skills.

Contract matters

It won't be long until the futures of off-contract stars Tevita Pangai jnr and Oates will again be subject to press attention and speculation.

Last year there were complex reasons why it took so long for them to re-sign with Brisbane, as both ultimately did in early December on one-year extensions.

Both will be key retention targets for the Broncos, as will off-contract prop Joe Ofahengaue who is on the cusp of State of Origin selection for Queensland.

Burning question

Will the youthful forward pack have the steel and the stamina to match it with the best in the NRL over 24 rounds and possibly the finals?

The youthful Brisbane forward pack will get an initiation to remember in the opening four rounds and all eyes will be on how the likes of leading middle forwards Matthew Lodge, Ofahengaue and Pangai jnr handle it.

Representative bolter

Yet to play a full season of NRL, Kiwi-born back-rower Jaydn Su'A has a menacing presence on an edge reminiscent of former Bronco Ben Te’o.

He idolised Sonny Bill Williams growing up and has modelled his game on the dual-international.

The Maroons have identified Su’A as a long-term prospect in the State of Origin arena. While he has plenty of competition with Matt Gillett and Gavin Cooper still on the scene, a strong opening two months from Su'A will put his name right in the frame.

Player you should follow on social media

Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to both his loved ones and rugby league.

The 23-year-old has shown great pride in running out for the Broncos each week and putting on the red and white jersey to represent Tonga.

Across his Instagram, the hard-working forward has also given plenty of love to the ones closest to him, in particular, his girlfriend Sofi who is in remission from her battle with cancer.

 
 
 
 
 
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Every session we all trying to get better ! I’m loving the new challenge 🔥 #YouRidinWithUs #BronxNation

A post shared by Joe Ofahengaue (@joe_ofahengaue) on

The quote

"If you look at individuals and look at the team collectively last year, on their best day they were 9 out of 10, on their worst day they were 3 or 4 out of 10 ... We've still got some inconsistencies across the group. We need to close the gap and the only way I know how to do it is be consistent at training." - Broncos coach Anthony Seibold

Arrows indicate players who signed after the submission of initial rosters on November 1, 2018.