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TEAM BRISBANE BRONCOS
COACH Wayne Bennett
CAPTAIN Gorden Tallis
BACKS With Darren Lockyer moving to five-eighth the Broncos will add another dimension to their attacking potency around the ruck in 2004, Lockyer will get far more touches of the ball but his dynamic running on the fringes will be reduced. Motu Tony is far more comfortable at fullback where his defensive workload is limited allowing his freakish skills to flourish. Brent Tate out indefinitely with his troublesome shoulder will thrive outside Lockyer when he returns, while Michael De Vere and Stuart Kelly look destined for the wing spots. While Shaun Berrigan?s selection in the centres in suggests a permanent shift, he will most likely end up at hooker when Tate returns from injury. Casey McGuire and Tonie Carroll were more accustomed to the centres in 2003 but early indications are their days in the backline are over and a move to the forwards will suit them. Brett Seymour who will start the season at halfback is under enormous pressure to mature into first grade quickly and deliver Lockyer quality ball, while making sure he does not ignoring his own talents with the ball in hand. This year the Broncos do have depth with Craig Frawley, Scott Minto and David Stagg in the wings and a host of talented youngsters headlined by Karmichael Hunt.
FORWARDS Watch out for Gorden Tallis in 2004, with Rep football behind him, the 30 year old is focused on taking the Broncos back to elite status in the NRL. Had he continued for Queensland in Origin, this would have been his last year, but his body will welcome the reduced workload and Tallis may play on for another year or two, which is fantastic news for the Broncos. Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva are the most consistent front row combination in the NRL as they rarely have a down game, a strong platform up front is the key to any success and the Broncos are well served in this department. Dane Carlaw and Brad Meyers have both tapered off since their awesome rookie seasons and need to stand up and be counted in 2004. Carlaw in particular, is the heir-apparent to Tallis as the Broncos attacking backrower and needs to capitalise on his enormous potential to reclaim his Kangaroo jersey. Carl Webb stayed on in Brisbane after being told to look elsewhere and if he can remain fit will be a dynamic bench player, while Corey Parker emerged as the Broncos new workhorse with Andrew Gee now retired. Michael Ryan and Barry Berrigan will have an early crack at the hooking role with Richard Swain departed, but with Shaun Berrigan perferct for the role, both could be on borrowed time. Rounding out the depth chart are several talented young Broncos itching for a regular first grade birth including Neale Wyatt, Sam Thaiday, Tom Learoyd and Neville Costigan.
KEY PLAYER TALLIS ? Although Lockyer is the straw that stirs the Broncos drink; Tallis will be the backbone of this team for the duration of 2004. He is far from finished and capable of raising the tempo of the game on a whim, but he is club-focused for the first time in his career, which bodes well for the Broncos season.
ONE TO WATCH THAIDAY ? Even though his profile picture makes this mammoth kid look like the cartoon character, he is going to be much better in reality. At 19, he is already 108kg and the Broncos expect big things from this talented prop.
BIGGEST ADVANTAGE Lockyer, Tallis and Bennett ? three of the game?s elite mean the Broncos have championship quality in three key areas. Make no mistake these Broncos are not washed up, they have the know how and the talent to make a big impression on the 2004 Premiership and these 3 kings will take them very far.
BIGGEST DISADVANTAGE Without a doubt Origin time, while being Queensland?s Number One team has many advantages, the fact the Broncos supply 2/3rds of the Origin side every year kills this side. No matter where you put the Bye weeks for the Broncos, they will struggle to remain fresh over the Origin period.
BOTTOM LINE Believe it or not the Broncos are on an 8 game losing streak entering 2004, their worst since entering the competition in 1988. They will end that streak very quickly, and the Broncos will bounce back in a big way and threaten another club record (12 consecutive wins). A Top Four finish and Grand Final appearance are definitely NOT out of the equation.
2004 STRONGEST LINEUP 1. M Tony 2. M De Vere 3. B Tate 4. T Carroll 5. S Kelly 6. D Lockyer 7. B Seymour 8. S Webcke 9. S Berrigan 10. P Civoniceva 11. G Tallis ? 12. B Meyers 13. D Carlaw Bench 14. C McGuire 15. C Webb 16. C Parker 17. S Thaiday
Warrick NICOLSON ========================= Freelance Sports Journalist NICOLSON SPORTS CONSULTANCY Ph: 0402 851 485 Fax: 02 9653 1483 [email protected] =========================