The Broncos career of half, hooker and fullback option Todd Murphy has seemingly come to an end, with the player joining Melbourne Storm feeder club the Sunshine Coast Falcons for the 2019 season.
A graduate of the Broncos’ youth academy, Murphy was the Broncos’ 3rd most productive player amongst the club’s halves, hooker and fullback positional group in 2018. While possessing a solid, albeit unspectacular, long range kicking game, Murphy’s creative production (line breaks and line break assists) and resilience in defence (missed tackles) last season were not at the required standard. As such, the Broncos decision not to re-sign the Sunshine Coast native is a justifiable one.
The challenge for the Broncos ahead of the 2019 season, is extracting more on field production from those players which will comprise the club’s halves, hooking and fullback positional group.
In season 2018, no player in the position group averaged 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.
That said, in season 2018 the Broncos largely failed to generate the required offloads. As a consequence, mainstays Boyd, Milford, McCullough, Nikorima, and Bird, struggled to create.
With Bennett due to remain head coach of the club for the 2019 season, and renowned for his conservative attacking approach, it is highly unlikely that Bennett will employ tactics which best complimented the skill set of the club’s halves, hooking and fullback options in season 2019.
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).
Off season recruit Sean O’Sullivan, who averaged 1 line break assist, 124 kicking metres and 1 forced drop out per match in season 2018, should also help the Broncos’ creativity next season.
That said, the offensive contribution in 2018 from the likes of Boyd, Isaako, Nona, Bird and McCullough was dire, and defensive effort of Scarlett, Dargan, Murphy and Nikorima, was not acceptable. With Murphy now gone, 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, and Dargan, 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 and Dargan, will all need to significantly improve their defensive resilience and consistency, to justify their retention.