WE’RE FALLING SHORT IN 2018
Fox League analyst and former Broncos skipper COREY PARKER runs a rule over Queensland’s NRL sides
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.
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.