Post Mortem : Brisbane Broncos

The Broncos boasted 11 State of Origin players - six who pulled on the green and gold.

Yet for the past two months the only team they could beat were themselves.

Since the third State of Origin, when their top players backed up for four games in 10 days, the Broncos have been a football side which have lost their way.

They've resembled a champion golfer battling the yips or a struggling test batsman fearful of that opening deliver just outside his off stump.

Some, like Greg Chappell and Mark Taylor, pull through, others like Ian Baker-Finch sadly don't.

As one observer pointed out before Sunday's 28-18 finals loss to the Panthers, seven of the eight teams in the finals played like the Broncos when Brisbane were rugby league's entertainers.

He noted the only side in the finals not playing like the Broncos were the Broncos.

Harsh but fair.

Brisbane used to punish sides for any tiny mistake.

They would delight in burying sides under an avalanche of points.

But for some reason they lost that killer instinct after the Origin series which clearly took a toll physically and mentally.

Not all statistics tell the tale.

But in Brisbane's case their try scoring record pre and post Origin is interesting.

They notched 56 tries before the Origin series at a strike rate of 4.6 per game.

That nose-dived to 32 tries post Origin at 2.6 per game.

In their first eight game they crossed for 35 tries winning six times.

Their record in their last eight games was 22 tries and a record eight straight losses.

In the first half of the season they ran up 318 points (av 26.5pts) compared to 203 points (av 19.9 pts) for their last 12 games.

In the same period, the Broncos' defence gave up 17.2 points a game pre-origin and then 21-4 points after the series, although they played several games without Darren Lockyer and Gorden Tallis.

Yesterday against Penrith was Brisbane's last roll of the dice.

For a while it looked as if they'd found the missing key as they raced to an 18-4 lead with a wind of hope at their backs.

But it wasn't the gale force wind in their faces in the second half which blew them out of the game and the finals as things once again turned pear shaped.

How many past Broncos sides would have lost a finals game after leading 18-4?

Not many, if any.

It's why so many disappointed fans across the state were today asking the question: "what happened?"

Was it the coach's fault?

Had the players forgotten how to win; had they lost their intimidation?

The most common theory was losing strike players Wendell Sailor, Allan Langer and Lote Tuqiri in such a short space of time had finally hit home.

Brisbane's back three against the NRL's most lethal trio yesterday was Lockyer, Scott Minto and Craig Frawley.

Compare that to the world class back three of Lockyer, Sailor and Tuqiri in 2000 when they beat the Sydney Roosters in the grand final and you can draw your own conclusions.

Brisbane sadly miss a player with Langer's organisational skills.

Hopefully, promising youngster Brett Seymour can deliver in that department after being cruelly cut down by a foot injury mid season.

Brisbane also need to find another "Pearl", a player who can score tries at will like Steve Renouf.

Brisbane have developed such a winning culture over the years that just making the finals is not viewed as a successful year.

While it might not be quite that simple, prop Shane Webcke handed coach Wayne Bennett a good 2004 game plan after Sunday's loss.

Front-rowers usually aren't renowned for their "grey matter" but Webcke wasn't far off the mark when asked what Brisbane had to do next season.

"We have to come back next year and play better and try harder," said the no-nonsense prop.

Skipper Tallis, who ran into injury problems when Broncos needed him most, was still hurting after the loss but shared Webcke's philosophy.

"Things like this are what make you want to come back next year and try even harder," said Tallis.

"Life goes on.

"But at the moment it's the worst feeling."