2021 Review: Brisbane Broncos

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Andrew Jackson looks back at the 2021 campaign which saw the Brisbane Broncos shed the wooden spoon - but they didn't climb too much higher.


Five years prior, a Kyle Feldt try in the dying seconds had brought the North Queensland faithful to its feet and Darius Boyd to his knees.  

A piece of history taken away in a matter of seconds.  

Fast-forward to 2020 and Feldt again was crossing in the corner, three times, to seal Brisbane's fate once more. 

This time there was no denying the Broncos this piece of history, an unwanted one, wooden spooners for the first time in the club's history. 

So, in a bid to move forward, Brisbane went backwards - in time, that is.

Back to the glory days and led by club great Kevin Walters, who would remind the playing group just what it means for play for one of the league's proudest organisations. 

Despite a 14th-place finish there was still plenty to be proud of, particularly in the second half of the season. 

Turning Point

The representative break proved a major turning point in Brisbane's season.  

Dwelling on a 46-0 loss to Souths, Walters boldly declared everything the team did would be completely different when the playing group returned in a fortnight's time.  

"The players are on break, when they come back things will be totally different. The way we prepare ourselves and the way we play as well," he told Triple M at the time.  

It was not just hollow words either, with a 42-24 loss to the Tigers the only real sour point in an otherwise promising end to the season. 

Four-straight heavy losses to the Storm, Dragons, Raiders and Souths exposed Brisbane's brittle defence and mental resilience. 

In the latter stages of the year, it was completely different.  

Tight losses to Newcastle, Penrith and the Roosters in particular proved the Broncos turned a corner in that sense. 

What Worked

Not much but if there is one area Brisbane showed promise, it was second-phase play.  

The Broncos boast, at least on paper, one of the best young forward packs in the business but it rarely told on the stats sheet. 

Haas would regularly top 100 run metres but struggled to get much help.  

Offloads, however, were one way to better test opposition defences and help spark more go-forward. 

The Broncos finished third for offloads in 2021, although Tevita Pangai-Junior and Matt Lodge were two of their best second-phase contributors and both are gone now.  

What didn't

Too often, at least in the first half of the year, the Broncos simply wilted under pressure.  

Take the six games they conceded 40 points or more - in all of those matches they let in either three or four tries in 10-minute periods.  

That spoke to the way Brisbane fell apart, both mentally and physically, when facing sustained scrutiny on its goal-line.  

It improved as the season went on but Walters will want to make sure those same habits don't creep in next year. 

BRISBANE'S SUDDEN COLLAPSES
  • 40-6 LOSS TO STORM: Tries conceded in 25th, 29th, 34th and 36th minutes 
  • 46-6 LOSS TO EELS: Tries conceded in 27th, 31st and 34th minutes 
  • 50-6 LOSS TO SEA EAGLES: Tries conceded in 55th, 58th and 60th minutes 
  • 40-12 LOSS TO STORM: Tries conceded in 32nd, 35th, 41st and 43rd minutes 
  • 52-24 LOSS TO DRAGONS: Tries conceded in 39th, 45th and 50th minutes 
  • 46-6 LOSS TO RABBITOHS: Tries conceded in 55th, 60th and 62nd minutes 

Continuity in the halves did not help either when it came to Brisbane's attack. 

Walters defended his halves merry-go-round, claiming he was fair in his selections and simply trying to find out who would be the ideal halves partner for Adam Reynolds in 2022. 

It makes sense as a long-term approach but in the short-term it definitely had an impact on results. 

Best Players

Even during Brisbane's dark period to open the season, there was one constant - Payne Haas leading the way.  

Walters said as much in the lead-up to an upset win over the Roosters, challenging every other player on the roster to mirror the big man's efforts up front. 

Haas averaged almost 170 run metres in the 2021 season and was a handful to put down with each carry.  

The team's overall form never had an impact on Haas, who has quickly proven himself a genuine leader at Brisbane. 

In terms of other quiet achievers, Selwyn Cobbo showed glimpses of spark at the back to put his name forward as a long-term option at fullback. 

Meanwhile, Herbie Farnworth has established himself as a dependable option in the outside backs with a strong running game and solid decision-making in defence. 

Rookies

Kobe Hetherington, who took out Broncos Rookie of the Year honours, certainly has long-term potential at lock.  

Having come through the system at hooker as well as in the halves, there is plenty of time for Hetherington to develop his ball-playing skills. 

It will only make him an even more valuable addition in the pack having proven himself to be an aggressive force up front in his stints off the bench this season.  

As mention earlier, Cobbo also quickly established himself as an exciting prospect at the back with his maiden NRL try against the Raiders proof of his clever instincts. 

Looking Ahead

Adam Reynolds is a genuine leader to guide the Broncos towards a brighter future. 

The loss of Xavier Coates will hurt but is outweighed by some shrewd purchases, with Kurt Capewell and Ryan James also adding some valuable experience up front.  

With an exciting backline and much better balanced forward bolstered by the return of Patrick Carrigan, Brisbane will be pushing for a top-eight berth in 2022.  

Current projected 2022 lineup

as at time of publishing - 25 October 2021

1 Selwyn Cobbo 
2 Herbie Farnworth 
3 Brenko Lee 
4 Kotoni Staggs 
5 Corey Oates 
6 Tyson Gamble 
7 Adam Reynolds  
8 Payne Haas 
9 Cory Paix 
10 Patrick Carrigan 
11 Jordan Riki 
12 Kurt Capewell 
13 Kobe Hetherington 

14 Tesi Niu 
15 Brendan Piakura 
16 Thomas Flegler 
17 TC Robati 


Keep across 2022 Player Movements for the NRL season across all 16 clubs here.


2021 results

RndH/AOppositionScoreVenueCrowdRank
1HParramattaL16 - 24Suncorp28,3139th
2AGold CoastL16 - 28CBUS17,82212th
3HCanterburyW24 -  0Suncorp22,50910th
4AMelbourneL 6 - 40AAMI14,13512th
5ASouthsL 6 - 35ANZ9,14212th
6HPenrithL12 - 20Suncorp21,22414th
7A NParramattaL 6 - 46Darwin12,05615th
8HGold CoastW36 - 28Suncorp21,32215th
9ANorth QldL18 - 19QLD C.B.22,22214th
10A NManlyL 6 - 50Suncorp41,36715th
11ASydneyW34 - 16SCG13,18615th
12HMelbourneL12 - 40Suncorp23,60015th
13ASt Geo IllaL24 - 52Netstrata5,10715th
14ACanberraL16 - 38GIO9,60815th
15HSouthsL 0 - 46Suncorp19,17616th
16HCronullaW26 - 18Suncorp13,84015th
18HWests TigersL24 - 42Suncorp24,89415th
19A NPenrithL12 - 18Suncorp8,01915th
20HNorth QldW37 - 18Suncorp29,13615th
21A NNewcastleL20 - 28SuncorpNone15th
22HSydneyL20 - 21Suncorp14,31415th
23HWarriorsW24 - 22SuncorpNone14th
24A NCronullaL16 - 24Suncorp8,61815th
25HNewcastleW35 - 22Suncorp20,74714th

(NOTE - 'N' in H/A column indicates match played at a neutral venue)


2021 player record

PlayerAgePldS13IntTGFGPts
TURPIN, Jake242222-----
FARNWORTH, Herbert212020-311-34
FLEGLER, Thomas222010101--4
HAAS, Payne212020-1--4
GLENN, Alex331818-2--8
ISAAKO, Jamayne251818-650-124
RIKI, Jordan21181533--12
BULLEMOR, Ethan21171163--12
COATES, Xavier201717-11--44
KENNEDY, Rhys26162141--4
NIU, Fanitesi201616-8--32
PANGAI JR, Tevita25151413--12
HETHERINGTON, Kobe2214953--12
OATES, Corey261414-4--16
GAMBLE, Tyson251313-13111
MILFORD, Anthony27131212-19
CROFT, Brodie24121021--4
LODGE, Matt261212-----
MEAD, David32121115--20
ARTHARS, Jesse23119252-24
ASIATA, John2810371--4
ROBATI, Teui1910462--8
LEVI, Daniel25927----
PALASIA, Keenan249451--4
CARRIGAN, Patrick2388-----
KELLY, Albert308712--8
COBBO, Selwyn1977-22-12
DEARDEN, Tom205411--4
TE'O, Ben345-5----
PAIX, Cory214-4----
STAGGS, Kotoni2244-3--12
COPLEY, Dale303211--4
WILLISON, Xavier193-31--4
HUNT, Karmichael3422-----
KENNAR, Richard2622-----
PIAKURA, Brendan-1-1----

All stats courtesy of RugbyLeagueProject.