Match Review: Warriors vs Broncos

A return to the winners’ circle for the Broncos as they beat the Warriors 27 – 18 in New Zealand.

In terms of the Broncos’ squad for the match, with Gillett and Nikorima ruled out through injury, Bird shifted into the halves with the solid but unspectacular Opacic coming into the centres alongside Roberts.  To cover Gillett’s absence in the second row, Bennett promoted Sims to the starting lineup, with Tagatese being rewarded for his excellent Intrust Super Cup performances for the Norths Devils this season, with a call up to the bench.  In a further late change Bennett dropped Pangai Jnr to the bench from one of the staring prop positions, in favour of the underperforming but experienced Thaiday.

As for the Broncos’ on field performance versus the Warriors, there was a significant improvement in the Broncos’ defence from the abysmal 42 missed tackles against the Knights the week prior.  In total the Broncos missed 27 tackles versus the Warriors.  While there is still room for improvement, the vast majority of the Broncos’ players recorded no more than 2 missed tackles for the match, which is an acceptable benchmark for a strong defensive side.

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The Broncos’ defensive prospects were undoubtedly helped by the absence of Gillett and Nikorima from the side’s defensive line.  Those two players alone have respectively missed an average of 4 and 3 tackles per match so far this season. While Glenn’s woeful defensive effort this season continued versus the Warriors with 6 missed tackles, the improved defensive efficency of Milford and Lodge (both of whom were averaging 3 missed tackles prior to the match) needs to be recognised.  The biggest challenge for those 2 players is consistently delivering similarly solid defensive performances match on match.

In attack, a number of players made excellent run metres with Oates, Ofahengaue, McGuire and Lodge all individually contributing well in excess of 100 run metres for the match. There were also solid efforts from Glenn, Roberts and Opacic who each broke the 100 run metre barrier.

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While Isaako’s effort in that regard was underwhelming, of more concern was the poor contribution of Su’A, Pangai Jnr, Sims and Thaiday, all of whom barely or failed to individually contribute more 50 run metres for the match. In terms of Tagatese’s contribution to run metres, it was difficult to judge given he was only afforded a handful of minutes on the field by Bennett.

The repeated lack of run metres from the likes of Su’A, Thaiday and Sims and Bennett’s refusal to give opportunities to the likes of Haas, Fai and Tagatese, who are all excelling in the Intrust Super Cup, is particularly concerning moving forward.

In terms of offloads, it was another
disappointing effort from the Broncos, with only 5 offloads for the match.

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With the likes of Milford and Bird (and Nikorima when fit) not possessing the creative passing game of traditional halves to generate line breaks through their slight of hand with the ball, but all three players blessed with excellent footwork and acceleration, the Broncos need to generate a health 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 and Bird (when deployed in the halves) to showcase their strengths and individually break the opposition’s defensive line or to create simpler line break assist opportunities.

The Broncos failed in that regard versus the Warriors. As a consequence, Boyd (0 line breaks and 1 line break assist), Bird (0 line breaks and 1 line break assist), Milford (0 line breaks and line break assists) and McCullough (0 line breaks and line break assists) struggled to create.

Instead the Broncos’ attack was were very much indebted to moments of individual brilliance from Oates (3 line breaks), Roberts (1 line break) and Su’A (1 line break), who each broke the Warrior’s defensive line through excellent angled runs to either score a try or in the case or Roberts make the final pass to Isaako for the young winger to crash over.

From an attacking sustainability perspective, the Broncos’ reliance  on individual players (e.g. Roberts, Oates, etc) to display moments of brilliance match after match in order for the team to score points, is a problem. It is simply unrealistic to expect those select players to repeatedly produce moments of brilliance match after match (and that’s not even taking into account the impact of injury and form). The Broncos need to develop their attacking strategy by playing to the strengths of their key playmakers (fullback, halves and hooker) and to regularly create line break and line break assist opportunities. Given the strengths of Milford and Nikorima (and Bird when deployed there) are in their footwork and acceleration, that means the Broncos should be looking to regularly offload the ball to create second phase football, disorganisation in the opponent’s defence and ensuing line break and line break assist opportunities for Milford, Nikorima and/or Bird to capitalise on.

When that starts happening in matches (and the Broncos have not demonstrated that thus far this season), they will become a much more dangerous and consistent attacking outlet.

In terms of the Bronco’s kicking game was a significant regression on their 725 kicking metres and 6 forced drop outs that they produced versus the Knights. In total the Broncos only kicked for 447 metres and only forced 2 drop outs for the match.

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While some of that lack of production can be attributed to the absence of Nikorima, who has been averaging 112 kicking metres per game, and his replacement, Bird, lacking kicking skills, McCullough’s consistently poor  kicking contribution this season needs to be addressed. An excellent short and long distance kicker, McCullough skills are not in question. But to only be averaging 57 kicking metres per game for a player with his kicking ability, indicates a significant underperformance from the player.

It is a facet of the Broncos’ attacking strategy that will need to improve moving forward, with most elite sides possessing at least 2 long kicking options and 2 short kicking options amongst their halves, hooker and fullback positional group.

Overall, it was a much improved defensive performance from the Broncos versus Warriors. If the side can reproduce that defensive effort in future matches, increase their kicking production, increase the volume of offloads amongst their forwards and increase the run metres from certain forwards and outside backs (or drop certain players for better performing players from the Intrust Super Cup), the Broncos can still mount a successful title charge despite their inauspicious start to the season.

Freddie08

The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.nrl.com.

Broncos news : Round 6 Preliminary Team Announcement

The Broncos have today announced the following preliminary side to take on the Warriors in New Zealand.

Prelim Team 1.PNGPrelim Team 2

Reaction

Another underwhelming team selection from Bennett, which strengthens the view that Bennett’s thoughts on team selection are clouded by his personal relationships with certain players as opposed to the players’ recent on field performances.

Out the 16 contracted Broncos’ forwards in their top 30 playing squad, Gillett, Su’A, Glenn and Thaiday are currently ranked 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th, in terms of on field production, with Gillett and Glenn missing an average of 4 and 5 tackles per match, only Su’A  averaging an offload per game and none of the four aforementioned players averaging more than 77m run metres. Compare that to the per game production so far this season in the Intrust Super Cup from the likes of Haas (125 run metres, 0 missed tackles and 1 offload), Tagatese (108 run metres, 1 missed tackle, 1 offload), Fai (104 run metres, 2 missed tackles and 1 offload) and Funaki (80 run metres per game, 2 missed tackles and 1 offload) and it’s clear Bennett not picking his 17 based on their on field performances.

Bennett’s comments before the Knights match that Thaiday would effectively continue to be selected in the 17 for the remainder of the season irrespective of his on field performances, clarified a long held suspicion that Bennett selects his team based on:

  • his personal relationships with certain players; and
  • his perception of how loyal and obidient the players in his current squad have been to him and the Broncos as an organisation.

That’s not how to manage a professional rugby league side if they have aspiration of being successful on the field.

The uncomfortable truth for Bennett is that his preferred starting second row, in Gillett and Glenn, and prefers rotational forwards, Thaiday and Su’A, are consistently not producing in terms of run metres and offloads and are missing too many tackles. The failure of those players to consistently generate offloads, in particular, has significantly stifled the attacking effectiveness of Milford and Nikorima, who rely on second phase play and broken defensive lines to showcase their individual strengths (footwork and acceleration).

Objectively, Gillett, Glenn, Thaiday and Sua should have all missed selection for the match versus the Warriors, and I fear the Broncos will again suffer on the weekend as a consequence.

In relation to the centre and winger selection, while Bird (averaging 81 run metres, 0 line breaks and 2 missed tackles per match) and Roberts (averaging 73 run metres, 1 line break and 2 missed tackle per match) have been serviceable so far this season and youngest Jamayne Isaako (averaging 93 run metres, 0 line breaks and 1 missed tackle per match) has been solid, all three are   being outperformed by a number of the their internal competition in the centre and winger positional group. This includes the highly impressive Marion Seve (who is averaging 152 run metres, 1 linebreak and 1 missed tackle per game for the Souths-Logan Magpies), Jonus Pearson (who is averaging 113 run metres, 1 line break and 2 missed tackles per game for the Redcliffe Dolphins) and Moses Pengai (who is averaging 109 run metres, 0 line breaks and 2 missed tackles per game for the Redcliffe Dolphins). Given the sheer productivity and consistency of productivity from the likes of Seve, Pearson and Moses Pengai, their continued exclusion by Bennett in favour of Bird and Roberts in particular is a baffling decision from the coach.

A similar argument can also be made for Sam Scarlett, who, despite playing exceptionally well in the halves for South-Logan in the Intrust Super Cup this season (averaging 0 line breaks, 1 line break assist, 2 missed tackles and 259 kicking metres per game), is once again overlooked in the halves, hooking or fullback role. This is despite Scarlett:

  • conceding the same number of missed tackles per match as Boyd and McCullough;
  • conceding less missed tackles per match than Milford and Nikorima;
  • producing the same number of line breaks or line break assists as Boyd, Nikorima and Milford;
  • producing a greater number of line break assists as McCullough; and
  • producing more kicking metres per match than Boyd, Nikorima and McCullough.

Scarlett’s exclusion from the top 17 is another perplexing decision by Bennett.

With the Warriors in excellent form and Bennett persisting with the same underperforming players in his 17 (despite having more productive players available for him to select), I’m expecting the Broncos to go down to the Warriors in New Zealand.

Freddie08

Broncos Analysis: Round 5 Player Analysis and Round 6 team selection

Following each round of the NRL Premiership and Intrust Super Cup, each contracted Broncos player’s season-to-date performance is analysed and ranked against their internal competition.

This analysis process initially categorises players into one of three positional categories (with the exception of Corey Oates and Darius Boyd who are each considered in two positional categories due to their versatility):

  • forwards
  • centres and wingers
  • halves, hooker and fullback.

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 basis is as follows:

  • To minimise missed tackles (=<2 missed tackles per player per game) in all positional categories.
  • To generate 100+ run metres and multiple offloads per game from each player in the forward positional group (to create second phase play for the halves, hooker and/or fullback to individually break the opposition’s defensive line or create line break opportunities for the centre and wing positional group).
  • To generate 100+ run metres and multiple line breaks per game from each player within the centre and winger positional group.
  • To have at least 2 long kicking options and 2 short kicking options amongst the halves, hooker and fullback positional group.

The findings provide an invaluable insight as to:

  • how each player ranks against their internal competition within their positional category; and
  • which 17 players make up the Broncos’ most productive team.

Internal player rankings

Following Round 5 of the NRL and Intrust Super Cup, the player rankings are as follows:

Forwards

Forwards

Centres and wingers

Centres and Wingers

Halves, hooker and fullback

Halves

Round 6 lineup

Based on the above analytical comparison, the 17 players which comprise the Broncos’ most productive team for their Round 6 clash versus the Warrior would appear to be as follows:

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Freddie08

Match Review: Knights vs Broncos

Another disappointing loss for the Broncos as they went down 15-10 to the Knights in Newcastle.

In the lead up to the match, Bennett correctly pointed out that the Broncos forwards needed to create a better platform for Milford and Nikorima to showcase their ability to break the opponent’s defensive line through their acceleration and footwork. It was anticipated that this would have resulted in a substantial increase in the number of offloads from the chosen forward pack.

Unfortunately, the selected Broncos forwards did not respond, with only 6 offloads for the match.

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Their failure to regularly generate offloads restricted the Broncos to just 5 line breaks for the match and limited the attacking effectiveness of Milford and Nikorima, who rely on second phase play and broken defensive lines to showcase their individual strengths (footwork and acceleration).

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As a consequence of the lack of offloads from the Broncos’ forward pack and Milford and Nikorima not possessing the creative passing game of traditional halves to generate line breaks through their slight of hand with the ball, the Broncos again struggled to score points.

Defensively, the Broncos were porous, amassing a staggering 42 missed tackles for the match, with their edge defenders Milford, Nikorima, Gillett and the promoted Su’A key culprits.

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Unfortunately that wasn’t unpredictable as Gillett has missed an average of 4 tackles per match so far this season, while Nikorima and Milford have respectively missed an average of 3 tackles per match. As for Su’A, he is a player of a similar defensive style to Gillet in that he has a tendency to charge out of the defensive line to try to execute a big hit as opposed to focusing on ensuring he doesn’t miss his tackles.  While big hits are great when they comes off, they rarely do and when they don’t and the charging edge defender misses the tackle, this in turn compromises the integrity of the side’s defensive line, creating an overload for the opponent’s attackers on that flank.

Given the known tendencies of Gillett and Su’A and the poor defensive capabilities of Nikorima and Milford, electing to play all four players in the Broncos’ defensive line was alway going to create problems for the Broncos’ ability to keep out the opposition.

While the Broncos were missing Glenn from one of their defensive edges, he is actually a worse defender than either Gillett or Su’A due to his flawed tackling technique. Specifically, Glenn often attempts to tackle his opponent around the chest area and tends to reach with his hands to effect the tackle as opposed to using his shoulder and body to wrestle his opponent to the ground. As a result, his opponents are able to brush off his tackling attempts by deflecting his arms, which in turn creates a missed tackle for Glenn and a potential line break opportunity for his opponent.

That being the case, unless the likes of Gillett and Su’A adopt a more conservative approach to defending, Glenn corrects his tackling techniques or Bennett changes personnel and opts for more defensively secure forwards who can produce run meters at least equivalent to that of Gillett, Glenn and Su’A (e.g. Oates, Ofahengaue, Funaki) as well as deploying more defensively secure halves (e.g. Boyd, McCullough or Sam Scarlett), the Broncos are going to continue to struggle defensively on the edges.

While it was a poor performance from the Broncos in terms of missed tackles and generating offloads and line break opportunities, their kicking game was much improved, forcing 6 dropouts and out kicking Mitchell Pearce, who is one of the best open field kickers in the competition.

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A lot of credit in that regard can go to Milford and Nikorima, who showed significant improvement.

If the Broncos can reproduce their kicking performance versus the Knights, increase the volume of offloads amongst their forwards and reduced the number of missed tackles they are conceding, particularly amongst their second rowers and halves, the team will turn the corner sooner rather than later.

Freddie08

The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.nrl.com.

Broncos news: Walters quits as Assistant Coach

The Broncos have announced some big news regarding their coaching staff with Kevin Walters standing down from his role as Brisbane Broncos’ assistant coach.

Brought back to the club at the start of the season and given the opportunity to specifically shape the Broncos’ attack in season 2018, it has been an inauspicious start to the season for Walters with the Broncos struggling badly to devise and execute a game play which accentuates the strengths of their fleetfooted and nimble halves Nikorima and Milford.

In announcing the decision, Walters advised that he was stepping down from his role at the Broncos to eliminate any perceptions of bias in his role as the Queensland State of Origin team’s head coach and to allow himslf to focus solely on coaching the Maroons.

It’s an odd time for Walters to have made the decision to relinquish his role at the Broncos as one would have thought that the issue of his impartiality would have been considered and resolved when he took up the opportunity to return to the club in a coaching capacity at the start of the season. It is difficult to understand what has monumentally changed on that front after 4 rounds of the NRL premiership.

Then again, based on comments made by Broncos Chief Executive, Paul White, in response to Walters’ decision, the issue may have been more so Walters’ capacity to perform both coaching roles, given Walters’ work ethic.

It will be interesting to see how Walters’ departure affects the Broncos’ attacking strategy for the rest of the season and whether Jason Demetriou or Bennett will assume Walters’ coaching  responsibilities or whether Bennett will bring in another assistant coach to perform that role.

One thing is for certain, if the Broncos are to persist with their current, non traditional halves, Milford and Nikorima, the Broncos’ attack need to start generating more second phase play to enable those two players to individually break the opposition’s defensive line and/or create line break opportunities for the side’s centres and wingers.

Freddie08

Broncos news : Round 5 Preliminary Team Announcement

The Broncos have today announced the following preliminary side to take on the Knights in Newcaste.

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Reaction

Like Bennett’s team selection for the Titans match, I’m really disappointed Bennett didn’t elect to drop Gillett, Glenn, Thaiday and Sua to the Intrust Super Cup for the match versus the Knights. All four players have failed to meaningfully contribute to the Broncos’ run meters in the opening four rounds (Glenn – 70m per game (pg), Gillett – 78m pg, Thaiday – 49m pg, Sua – 38m pg). Glenn, Gillett and Thaiday have also failed to generate any offloads in the opening four rounds, which has significantly stifled the attacking effectiveness of Milford and Nikorima in particular, who rely on second phase play and broken defensive lines to showcase their individual strengths (footwork and acceleration). On top of this, Glenn and Gillet have also collectively missed an average of 9 tackles per match so far, which makes their continued selection somewhat baffling.

Given the respective performance levels of those 4 players and that of Fai (105m pg, 2 missed tackles pg and 1 offload pg), Tagatese (103m pg, 2 missed tackles pg and 1 offload pg), Haas (125m pg, 2 missed tackles pg and 1 offload pg) and Funaki (80m pg, 2 missed tackles pg and 1 offload pg) in the Intrust Super Cup, Gillett, Glenn, Thaiday and Sua should have, objectively, all missed selection for the match versus the Knights.

The same goes for Bird, Roberts and Opacic who have all struggled in recent weeks to generate meaningful run metres and line breaks (lb) in the centre positions (Bird – 82m and 0 lb, Roberts – 62m and 0 lb, Opacic – 53m and 0 lb). Contrast their performances with that of the highly impressive Seve (145m pg and 1 lb) and Isaako (99m pg and 0 lb) and there are justifiable reasons Seve and Isaako should be starting in the Broncos’ centre positions, ahead of the likes of Bird, Roberts and Opacic for the match versus the Knights.

Based on his output, Nikorima place in the halves should also be in question, with Sam Scarlett playing exceptionally well for South-Logan. That said, it is hard to be too critical of Nikorima’s performances when the Broncos’ forwards, in particular, are not playing to Nikorima’s strengths by regularly offloading the ball and allowing him to showcase his acceleration and footwork.

The problem is Bennett does not appear to be selecting his match day squads based on their on-field production levels, but rather he appears to select his top 17 based on his personal relationships with the players. That’s a recipe for disaster and is translating into poor on field performances by the Broncos. Like the match versus the Titans, the clash versus the Knighta could be a lot closer than most are predicting.

Freddie08

Broncos Analysis: Round 4 Player Analysis and Round 5 team selection

Following each round of the NRL Premiership and Intrust Super Cup, each contracted Broncos player’s season-to-date  performance is analysed and ranked against their internal competition.

This analysis process initially categorises players into one of three positional categories:

  • forwards
  • centres and wingers
  • halves, hooker and fullback.

Once categorised, each players’ output i 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 basis is as follows:

  • To minimise missed tackles (=<2  missed tackles per player per game) in all positional categories.
  • To generate 100+ run metres and multiple offloads per game from each player in the forward positional group (to create second phase play for the halves, hooker or fullback to individually break the opposition’s defensive line or create line break opportunities for the centre and wing positional group).
  • To generate 100+ run metres and multiple line breaks per game from each player within the centre positional group.
  • To have at least 2 long kicking options and 2 short kicking options amongst the halves, hooker and fullback positional group.

The findings provide an invaluable insight as to:

  • how each player ranks against their internal competition within their positional category; and
  • which 17 players make up the Broncos’ most productive team.

Internal player rankings

Following Round 4 of the NRL and Intrust Super Cup, the player rankings are as follows:

Forwards

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Centres and wingers

Centre &amp; Wing

Halves, hooker and fullback

Halves Analysis

Round 5 lineup

Based on the above analytical comparison, the 17 players which comprise the Broncos’ most productive team for their Round 5 clash versus Newcastle would appear to be as follows:

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Freddie08