2024 NRL Jerseys
55 days ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Andrew Jackson takes in the year that was for the resurgent Brisbane Broncos, whose year finished in a special, albeit heartbreaking, Grand Final appearance.
But there was also cause for optimism, headlined by the return of fullback Reece Walsh while the Broncos also boasted one of the best young forward packs in the competition and a halves pairing that perfectly blended youthful flair and dependable experience.
Really, the biggest question mark hanging over Brisbane surrounded coach Kevin Walters and whether he was more than a lovable larrikin, capable of adapting his game plan under pressure.
He certainly proved that in 2023 and had the Broncos firing at the right time, winning seven of their last eight games with their only loss coming as both Brisbane and Melbourne rested its big names in Round 27.
If you need any proof of just how different this version of the Broncos was under Walters it came the following week as the team ended its hoodoo against the Storm, shutting out Melbourne in a statement 26-0 win to book a spot in the preliminary finals.
While it did not ultimately end in a premiership, the Broncos still have a relatively young squad that is heading in the right direction after the team's first grand final appearance since 2015.
It is hard to pinpoint any specific turning point given Brisbane's consistency throughout the season, although you can probably single out the 18-12 loss to the Gold Coast.
It could have been very easy for the Broncos to follow a similar path to the one they took last year after that defeat, tumbling down the ladder and struggling to capitalise on a successful start to the season.
That is especially true when you consider it also coincided with Reece Walsh being rubbed out for three games for his tirade at referee Chris Butler in that game.
Losing the team's main spark plug in attack could have easily destabilised the team but instead Brisbane went on another winning run to prove itself a serious title contender in 2023.
Ranking second in the league for both points scored and conceded, clearly a lot worked. That's obvious.
Digging a bit deeper though, it was the form of five-eighth Ezra Mam and hooker Billy Walters that really lifted the ceiling of this team.
Adam Reynolds and Reece Walsh were obviously two of the most in-form players at their position too, although there was always some level of expectation that they would perform well.
Mam and Walters, on the other hand, were hardly sure things and viewed before the season as reasons to question Brisbane's premiership credentials.
Mam enjoyed his best season in the NRL, taking home Dally M Five-eighth of the Year honours after finishing the year with 10 linebreak assists, nine try assists, 13 linebreaks and 47 tackle busts.
The 20-year-old was the perfect complement to the more composed and experienced Reynolds while his defence was also much-improved.
As he proved in the grand final, Mam's speed off the mark and evasive running game also made him a constant threat in attack.
As for Walters, he exceeded expectations and only grew in confidence as the season progressed, picking his moments well when it came to running out of dummy-half.
Without the kind of leaps both Mam and Walters made in their game, Brisbane don't go as far as it did.
Not a whole lot. You don't get to a grand final unless a lot of things went right.
If anything, some of Brisbane's younger players - namely Selwyn Cobbo and Reece Walsh - finally had the forgettable moments that we had been waiting for all season long.
For the majority of the season though their performances had largely been unblemished and while it was a shame that both players had a few nervous moments in the biggest game of the year it should not take away from what they put together throughout the whole season.
The Broncos don't have to look far either to see how quickly they could find themselves with another shot at a premiership.
After all, it was only in 2020 that the Panthers lost to the Storm in that year's decider.
That young Penrith group seemed to be a bit overawed by the occasion and at times early in the grand final the same seemed true for Brisbane.
The way the Broncos responded in the early stages of the second half, led by Mam, proves this team has the talent to blow any other away. Maybe the old saying is true and you do need to lose one to win one.
|1||Mar 3rd||Fri 8:05pm||A||Penrith||W||13||-||12||Bluebet||17,125||8th|
|2||Mar 10th||Fri 7:00pm||H||North QLD||W||28||-||16||Suncorp||43,162||4th|
|3||Mar 18th||Sat 6:35pm||H||St Geo Illa||W||40||-||18||Suncorp||26,612||1st|
|4||Mar 24th||Fri 7:00pm||A||Dolphins||W||18||-||12||Suncorp||51,047||1st|
|5||Apr 1st||Sat 6:35pm||H||Wests Tigers||W||46||-||12||Suncorp||27,553||1st|
|6||Apr 8th||Sat 7:35pm||H||Canberra||L||14||-||20||Suncorp||31,962||1st|
|7||Apr 15th||Sat 7:35pm||A||Gold Coast||W||43||-||26||Cbus||26,563||1st|
|8||Apr 21st||Fri 7:30pm||A N||Parramatta||W||26||-||16||Darwin||11,864||1st|
|9||Apr 28th||Fri 8:00pm||H||Souths||L||6||-||32||Suncorp||40,102||1st|
|10||May 5th||Fri 8:05pm||A N||Manly||W||32||-||6||Suncorp||50,077||1st|
|11||May 11th||Thu 7:50pm||A||Melbourne||L||16||-||24||AAMI||16,043||3rd|
|12||May 18th||Thu 7:50pm||H||Penrith||L||4||-||15||Suncorp||33,343||5th|
|13||May 27th||Sat 7:30pm||A N||Warriors||W||26||-||22||Napier||16,195||3rd|
|14||Jun 3rd||Sat 7:35pm||A||Cronulla||W||20||-||12||Pointsbet||12,318||2nd|
|15||Jun 10th||Sat 5:30pm||H||Newcastle||W||24||-||20||Suncorp||35,814||1st|
|17||Jun 25th||Sun 2:00pm||H||Gold Coast||L||12||-||18||Suncorp||42,249||3rd|
|18||Jul 1st||Sat 7:35pm||H||Dolphins||W||24||-||16||Gabba||30,606||2nd|
|20||Jul 15th||Sat 3:00pm||A||Canterbury||W||44||-||24||Belmore||17,103||2nd|
|21||Jul 21st||Fri 8:00pm||A N||Souths||W||36||-||20||Sun. Coast||8,931||1st|
|22||Jul 27th||Thu 7:50pm||H||Sydney||W||32||-||10||Gabba||21,841||2nd|
|23||Aug 5th||Sat 3:00pm||A||North QLD||W||30||-||14||QLD C B||22,659||2nd|
|24||Aug 11th||Fri 8:00pm||H||Parramatta||W||54||-||10||Gabba||29,005||1st|
|26||Aug 26th||Sat 7:35pm||A||Canberra||W||29||-||18||GIO||19,400||1st|
|27||Aug 31st||Thu 7:50pm||H||Melbourne||L||22||-||32||Suncorp||43,271||2nd|
|QF||Sep 8th||Fri 7:50pm||H N||Melbourne||W||26||-||0||Suncorp||50,197||-|
|PF||Sep 23rd||Sat 7:50pm||H N||Warriors||W||42||-||12||Suncorp||52,273||-|
|GF||Oct 1st||Sun 7:30pm||A N||Penrith||L||24||-||26||Accor||81,947||-|
Having won the team's player of the year award every season except for his rookie campaign, where he played only three games, front rower Payne Haas obviously headlines this list.
Although lock forward Patrick Carrigan also had his best season in the NRL, rewarded with a spot in the Dally M Team of the Year after averaging 125 metres and 30 tackles per game.
The Broncos workhorse also offered a passing option through the middle that proved particularly lethal close to the line, whether he was playing it short to another forward or out the back to halfback Reynolds.
Speaking of, Reynolds' leadership and calming influence on the field cannot be understated and while he was the perfect halves partner for Mam he also helped balance out the attack with the electric Walsh out the back.
Walsh is another Bronco who enjoyed a career-best season, setting a new Broncos record for most try assists (30).
The standout has to be fullback Tristan Sailor, who was handed a lifeline by Brisbane and took it with both hands while filling in for Walsh.
Sailor averaged 125 metres to go with six try assists, six linebreak assists and 13 tackle busts across his four starts in 2023 and shapes as the kind of player who is simply be too good to be a back-up and may be on the lookout for a new team in the near future.
29 players, average age 25.65yrs
Coach: Kevin Walters
Captains: Adam Reynolds (24), Kurt Capewell (3), Thomas Flegler (1)
Biggest home crowd: 43,271 (vs. Melbourne in round 27)
Average home crowd: 33,793
Top pointscorer: Adam Reynolds (212)
Top tryscorer: Ezra Mam (22)
Another top-four finish is on the cards, although the losses of Herbie Farnworth and Tom Flegler (Dolphins) leave significant holes while Keenan Palasia is also off to the Gold Coast.
For the time being, Reynolds is showing no signs of slowing down and as long as that remains the case the Broncos will be in premiership contention.
based on current signings at time of writing
1. Reece Walsh
2. Jesse Arthars
3. Kotoni Staggs
4. Deine Mariner
5. Selwyn Cobbo
6. Ezra Mam
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Corey Jensen
9. Billy Walters
10. Payne Haas
11. Jordan Riki
12. Kurt Capewell
13. Patrick Carrigan
14. Tyson Smoothy
15. Kobe Hetherington
16. Brendan Piakura
17. Fletcher Baker