With the Broncos’ 2018 season done and dusted, following their premature exit in Week 1 of the finals, it’s time to examine the Broncos squad in preparation for the 2019 season. In particular, it’s an opportune time to identify which players from the Broncos’ currently contracted squad, should the club retain, and which players should the Broncos seek to move on, based upon the players’ on field production after 25 rounds of the NRL and 24 rounds of the Intrust Super Cup in the 2018 season.
In assessing the respective players’ on field production in season 2018, each player is allocated into one of three positional categories (with the exception of Corey Oates, Darius Boyd, Jack Bird and Jamayne Isaako, who are each considered in two positional categories due to their perceived versatility). Those positional categories consist of:
Once categorised, each player’s output in defined key performance indicators (KPIs) for their respective positional category is then considered, using data sourced from the NRL and QRL.
Different weightings are then assigned to the KPI data considered for each positional group based on the assumption that the cornerstones of the Broncos’ tactical approach is as follows:
Internal player rankings
Following Round 25 of the NRL and Intrust Super Cup, the player rankings are as follows:
Starting with the Broncos’ forward options, it was a relatively productive season from the Broncos’ forwards, with a number of the club’s younger forwards (Haas, Carrigan, Ofahengaue, Pangai Junior, Fifita, Fai and Su’A) and the recruited Lodge, along with seasoned players, Oates and McGuire, proving to be highly productive in terms of run metres gained per 40 minute performance, and minimal missed tackles per game (with only Fai recording more than 2 missed tackles).
That said, the productivity level of all the Broncos’ forwards in terms of offloads per 40 minute performance was unacceptably low, and it was no surprise to consequentially see the Broncos’ halves, hooker and fullback options, consistently struggle to individually break the opposition’s defensive line or create line break opportunities for the centre and wing positional group, in the absence of regular second phase play. It is a facet of the Broncos’ attack the forwards will need to substantially improve upon in season 2019.
While the Broncos’ younger forwards showed plenty of promise in terms of their on field productivity, a number of the club’s more established and experience forwards (Tagataese, Sims, Thaiday, Gillet and Glenn) were unacceptably unproductive this season, particular in run metres gained and/or missed tackles per 40 minute performance. Fortunately for the Broncos 2019 prospects, that unproductive forward cohort includes off contract Tagataese, the departing Sims and retiring Thaiday. Surprisingly though, that unproductive forward cohort also includes Gillet and Glenn. Sentiment aside, if the Broncos are serious about wanting to improve their playing group ahead of season 2019, some tough decisions will need to be made by the club regarding the experienced albeit underperforming Gillet and Glenn.
If the Broncos were to move on or not re-sign the likes of Gillet, Glenn, Funaki, Taueli, Flegler, Mago, and/or Tagataese, forwards the Broncos may want to consider pursuing include the following (along with their relative 2018 performance metrics):
Centres and wingers
In terms of the club’s contracted centre and wing options, there was only a couple of players who could legitimately lay claim to having a productive season in 2018. Those players consisted of Oates, Shibasaki, Pearson and youngster Allan, who is due to join the Rabbitohs in 2019. Despite their goal kicking exploits, Staggs and Isaako’s production in terms of run metres and line breaks per 80 minute performance, were underwhelming, as was Boyd, who failed to crack the 100 run metres per 80 minute performance metric. While the likes of Boyd, Staggs and Isaako, were underwhelming, the lack of production from Opacic, Roberts, Kahu and big money recruit Bird, was simply unacceptable.
While Opacic has signed for the Cowboys for season 2019, the Broncos seriously need to consider offloading Roberts, Kahu and Bird ahead of the 2019 season. As for Pangai, while the older brother of Tevita, has undoubted potential to be an extremely damaging, metre eating winger, much like former Bronco Daniel Vidot, Pangai’s ball handling skills are simply not at the required level and I fear he would be a considerable liability if the Broncos were to deploy him on the opposite wing to Oates.
If the Broncos were to move on or not re-sign the likes of Roberts, Kahu, Bird, and/or Pangai, wing or centre options the Broncos may want to consider pursuing include the following (along with their relative 2018 performance metrics):
Halves, hooker and fullback
In the halves, hooking and fullback positional group, on field production has been an issue all season, with no player in the position group averaging a line break per 80 minute performance and only Milford and, New South Welshman, Dargan averaging a line break assist per match.
The lack of line break and line break assist production amongst the positional group was largely due to Bennett not employing tactics which best complimented the skill set of the club’s halves, hooking and fullback options.
With the vast majority of the players in the positional group not possessing the creative passing game of traditional halves, in order to generate line breaks through their slight of hand with the ball, but blessed with excellent footwork and acceleration, the Broncos needed to generate a healthy number of offloads in each match to the create the second phase play and disorganisation in the opposition’s defence to allow the likes of Milford, Nikorima, Boyd, etc, to showcase their strengths and individually break the opposition’s defensive line or to create simpler line break assist opportunities.
As highlighted in the assessment of the Broncos’ forwards, the Broncos largely failed to generate the required offloads this season. As a consequence, mainstays Boyd, Milford, McCullough, Nikorima, and Bird, struggled to create.
Positively though, Milford did significantly improved this season in terms of his defensive resolve and kicking productivity (both in terms of kicking metres and forced drop outs per 80 minute performance).
That said, the offensive contribution from the likes of Boyd, Isaako, Nona, Bird, and McCullough was dire, and defensive effort of Scarlett, Dargan, Murphy and Nikorima, was not acceptable. The retention of any of those players in the Broncos’ halves, hooking and fullback positional group needs to be seriously questioned ahead of the 2019 season. While Boyd and Isaako should survive thanks to their productivity, albeit slightly underwhelming, in the centre and wing positional group, offloading McCullough, Bird and Nona, at a minimum, would appear to be a logical decision.
Deploying Milford, Nikorima, Scarlett, Dargan, and Murphy, in an environment where the Broncos’ forwards regularly offload the ball to create second phase play, would go a long way to determining whether those individuals can practically and consistently apply their inherent ball running skill sets to regularly generate much needed line breaks. That said, Nikorima, Scarlett, Dargan, and Murphy, would all need to significantly improve their defensive resilience and consistency, to justify their retention.
If the Broncos were to move on or not re-sign the likes of McCullough, Bird, Nona, Nikorima, Scarlett, Dargan and/or Murphy, halves, hooking and fullback options the Broncos may want to consider pursuing include the following (along with their relative 2018 performance metrics):
Overall, it was a disappointing season for the Broncos. Too many consistently unproductive players were consistently selected (e.g. Boyd, Roberts, Kahu, Nikorima, McCullough, Thaiday, Glenn, Sims, Mago), while players who proved either in the NRL or Intrust Super Cup to be more productive (e.g. Shibasaki, Pearson, Allan, Dargan, Carrigan, Fai) were consistently overlooked.
In addition, the Broncos failed to employ attacking tactics which best complimented the skill set of the club’s halves, hooking and fullback options. As a consequence, mainstays Boyd, Milford, McCullough, Nikorima, and Bird, struggled to create.
Responsibility for both of those failings rest squarely on the shoulders of Bennett. While it is a positive decision that the Broncos are not going to renew Bennett’s contract beyond 2019, it is concerning that the wonderful potential of a significant portion of the current squad which is at Bennett disposal will again be misused in season 2019.