WE’RE FALL­ING SHORT IN 2018

Fox League an­a­lyst and for­mer Bron­cos skip­per COREY PARKER runs a rule over Queens­land’s NRL sides

Daily Mercury - - SPORT -

BRIS­BANE BRON­COS

What’s work­ing: The Bron­cos’ strength so far this year has been the evolve­ment of their young for­wards. Te­vita Pan­gai Ju­nior, Joe Ofa­hen­gaue and Jaydn Su’A have re­ally stood up in the face of ad­ver­sity this sea­son. Ofa­hen­gaue’s form in the ab­sence of Josh McGuire, Matt Gil­lette, Korbin Sims and Alex Glenn has been out­stand­ing and will prob­a­bly earn him a State of Ori­gin debut in game two of this year’s se­ries. He’s a big body who finds his front, gets a quick play-the-ball and plays big min­utes. He’s made for Ori­gin. Pan­gai Ju­nior has also ma­tured as a for­ward in 2018 and shown that he’s got some sec­ond phase in him as well. I know he’s pledged his al­liance to Tonga, but I tell you what, if he had de­cided to play Ori­gin he prob­a­bly would have found him­self in Brad Fit­tler’s NSW side for game one. Needs work: The Bron­cos have re­ally strug­gled for con­sis­tency this sea­son. They showed on Sun­day against Mel­bourne that they can match it with the best teams in the com­pe­ti­tion in patches, but they need to find a way to play tough footy for the full 80 min­utes. Un­der the pump: It comes as no sur­prise the player the Bron­cos need to stand up is their chief play­maker, An­thony Mil­ford. He’s shown flashes of bril­liance dur­ing the year but he needs to step up and own a game for 80 min­utes.

Pre­dic­tion: At the mo­ment they’re loi­ter­ing around that sev­enth, eighth po­si­tion and un­less there’s some dra­matic im­prove­ment I can’t see things chang­ing. I tip them to fin­ish sev­enth.

GOLD COAST TI­TANS

What’s work­ing: Af­ter tri­al­ing a few dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions over the past cou­ple of sea­son, it looks like the Ti­tans have found their long-term halves pair­ing. AJ Brim­son looks like the fu­ture for the Ti­tans. He seems a gen­uine foot­baller and has one of the best young halves in the comp, Ash Tay­lor, on the in­side of him. Given the chance to grow, these two will en­sure that’s plenty to cheer about on the Coast in the years to come.

Needs work: Given the age of their squad it’s no sur­prise the Ti­tans are strug­gling to find con­sis­tency this sea­son. They can com­pete with the best teams in the comp but they fade in and out of games too of­ten. Their strength is their young halves, but they can also be a weak­ness. Tay­lor

and Brim­son are still try­ing to find a way to ice a game when it’s in the bal­ance, but that will come with time spent in the mid­dle.

Un­der the pump: I think it will take more than one player to turn the Ti­tans’ sea­son around. They’re a young side and they re­ally need their se­nior play­ing group to lead the way. Ryan James, Nathan Peates, Michael Gor­don and Jar­rod Wal­lace have all been solid this year, but they need to find an­other gear both on and off the field. Off the field they need to be show­ing the younger play­ers in the side what it takes to pre­pare for the weekly grind of the NRL, and on the field they need to own the big mo­ments.

Pre­dic­tion: I can see the Ti­tans be­ing a real nui­sance side for those sides push­ing for the top four and top eight. They’re a com­pet­i­tive foot­ball team who can beat any side in the com­pe­ti­tion on their day, but they aren’t con­sis­tent enough at the mo­ment to push for the top eight. I tip they’ll fin­ish 14th.

NTH QLD COW­BOYS

What’s work­ing: It’s hard to sugar-coat the Cow­boys’ sea­son. They’ve been the most un­der­whelm­ing team in the comp. The ray of hope for the Cow­boys is when they find them­selves be­hind in a game. When they’re chas­ing points they loosen the shack­les and play some ad-lib footy and that’s when they look their best. I also have to give a rap to Jason Tau­malolo. I know there’s been plenty of ques­tion marks over his per­for­mances this year but I think he’s been re­ally good. His me­tres gained may be a lit­tle down on last year but he’s still run for 2369m this sea­son, which is more than any other for­ward in the game.

Needs work: My con­cern go­ing into this sea­son for the Cow­boys was the age of their squad, and it’s proven costly. They’ve con­tin­ued to play the same style of game each week. They run the same block plays or they hit the lead run­ner and it’s be­come far too pre­dictable. The Cow­boys have a des­per­ate need for speed. There’s no doubt there will be some changes at the club next year but they need to find some speed this year if they’re go­ing to threaten other team’s de­fen­sive lines.

Un­der the pump: I want to see Michael Mor­gan find the form that he dis­played at the end of last year. I want to see him find his run­ning game and take on the line more. The same can be said about Lach­lan Coote and Jake Granville. The spine is the most im­por­tant facet of any rugby league side and the Cow­boys’ spine needs to do more.

Pre­dic­tion: Math­e­mat­i­cally they’re still a chance to make the top eight but I can’t see them do­ing it. They’ve left them­selves too much work to do too late in the sea­son. I know it’s dis­ap­point­ing for Johnathan Thurston, who de­serves a fairy­tale fin­ish, but I can’t see the Cow­boys fin­ish­ing higher than 13th.

PHO­TOS: BRADLEY KANARIS/GETTY IMAGES, DAN HIMBRECHTS/AAP, MICHAEL CHAM­BERS/AAP

AMONG THE BEST: Joe Ofa­hen­gaue has been a stand­out for the Bron­cos. In­set: Alexan­der Brim­son (left) has im­pressed for the Ti­tans, and Jason Tau­malolo con­tin­ues to lead the way for the Cow­boys.

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