Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Former Maroon halfback Allan Langer says Brad Thorn is ripe for a Queensland State of Origin jersey just nine games into his rugby league comeback.
"He'd be in my Origin side for sure," declared Langer within earshot of Queensland selector Gene Miles at a function of past and present Bronco captains.
"I think he's playing great and he's still going to get better."
Thorn was again outstanding in Brisbane's 35-28 win over the Bulldogs last weekend, making 27 tackles and carting the ball into the defence more times than any player on the field.
Queensland selectors have included the rampaging forward in their 22-man Origin preliminary squad and Langer is confident Thorn's intimidating 1.95m, 112kg frame would wreak havoc on the Blues in Origin I at Suncorp Stadium on May 25.
Thorn rejoined the Broncos and coach Wayne Bennett this year after three seasons with Super 12 rugby union outfit the Canterbury Crusaders and 12 Tests for the All Blacks.
Langer said Thorn's best season was in 2000, the year Brisbane won its last premiership and just before he defected to rugby union.
"Brad realised how big and strong he was that year," said Langer, who pulled on the maroon No.7 jumper a record 34 times.
"I think he's come back (to league) even bigger and stronger and with a vengeance,""
Langer knows all about Origin comebacks.
He was the centre of one of Origin's biggest bombshells four years ago when Bennett brought him back from England to play halfback in the deciding game of the 2001 series.
As he almost always did, Langer rose to the occasion, playing a match-winning hand in Queensland's runaway win to clinch the series.
In front of 50,000 screaming Maroon fans at ANZ Stadium, Langer mesmerised the Blues, laying on tries for teammates and scoring himself as Queensland triumphed 40-14.
Langer, who'd been playing under Darryl van de Velde at Warrington at the time, returned to play a farewell season for the Broncos in 2002.
He missed another fairy tale ending when the Roosters eliminated the Broncos 16-12 in the preliminary final.
Miles said Thorn was right in the mix for Origin I despite only returning to league a few months ago.
"He's played Origin, he knows what it's all about and his form has been very good since coming back to league," said Miles.
Queensland will name its final 17-man squad on Monday with all three selectors flying to Townsville to watch Brisbane play the Cowboys on Saturday night.
A number of other key positions could be decided by form over the weekend with Matt Bowen and Karmichael Hunt vying for the fullback jumper along with Melbourne's Billy Slater and Penrith's Origin incumbent, Rhys Wesser.
Cowboys teammates Josh Hannay and Paul Bowman will stage their own form battle against the Broncos this weekend for the vacant Queensland centre spot following an untimely knee injury to the Bulldogs' Willie Tonga, who was a selection certainty.
"We're just hoping we've got 17 fit footballers still standing to choose from," said Miles who's seen selection fortunes turn on maroon selectors in the past.