Drama would be an understatement when describing the Brisbane Broncos pre-season thus far.
Wayne Bennett was unceremoniously shipped out of town in favour of the outgoing South Sydney coach, Anthony Seibold, while an exodus of experienced players including Josh McGuire, Korbin Sims and Sam Thaiday have forced a club shakeup.
The pack perennially dubbed the “Baby Broncos” will take a significant change of direction to the team that clawed its way to sixth on the ladder in 2018 before being picked to pieces in the first round of the finals by the Tariq Sims-led Dragons.
The silver lining for Broncos fans is that these high-profile losses open more minutes and opportunities for exciting young players such as Tevita Pangai Jr, Joe Ofahengaue and Payne Haas, while the team also welcomes back Matt Gillett and Jack Bird from injury. The pressure will be on Seibold to deliver with his youth movement in the wake of the “Super Coach’s” departure and rebuild the Broncos to their former glory.
Check out all of our pre-season content:
2019 GAINS & LOSSES
Gains – Thomas Dearden, Thomas Flegler, Sean O’Sullivan (Roosters), Myles Taueli and Shaun Fensom (Cowboys)
Outs – Josh McGuire (Cowboys), Tom Opacic (Cowboys), Jonus Pearson (Dragons), Marion Seve (Storm), Korbin Sims (Dragons) and Sam Thaiday (retirement).
LIKELY STARTING 17
1 Darius Boyd 2 Corey Oates 3 Jack Bird 4 James Roberts 5 Jamayne Isaako 6 Anthony Milford 7 Kodi Nikorima 8 Matt Lodge 9 Andrew McCullough 10 Joe Ofahengaue 11 Alex Glenn 12 Matt Gillett 13 Tevita Pangai Jr 14 Jadyn Su’a 15 David Fifita 16 Payne Haas 17 Kotoni Staggs
Other squad members: Patrick Carrigan, Troy Dargan, George Fai, Thomas Flegler, Jordan Kahu, Patrick Mago, Sean O’Sullivan, Andre Savelio, Gehamat Shibasaki, Myles Taueli, Sam Tagataese
*The addition today of Shaun Fensom may change the make-up of the bench.
To anyone claiming of Broncos’ favouritism by the NRL, take a look at the opening two months of the draw. They start the season against the Storm in Melbourne, and then go on to play the Dragons, Roosters, Tigers (a surprisingly stingy defensive team from an SuperCoach perspective), Sharks and Rabbitohs (everyone needs to watch this game!) in the first eight weeks. Following this, they are lucky enough to play the Roosters again in round 10. Then comes the Origin period.
Keep this in mind when selecting your opening team, an attack-reliant Broncos player might find it hard to get going in the opening third of the competition and could be ripe for picking after the first bye round.
Anthony Milford (Price: $511.9k, Position: 5/8, 2018 average: 55)
Oh Anthony Milford, what happened to you?
After averaging a career high 70 PPG in 2017, hopes were high for Milford and I, like many SuperCoaches, loaded up on shares in round 1. Despite showing flashes of a partnership in 2017, the first full year of the Milford-Kodi Nikorima halves pairing was at times painful to watch. When Ben Hunt was steering the team around the park, Milford was able to run the ball and show his creative flair in attack. When partnered with Nikorima, another ball runner, Milford clearly tried to adjust his playstyle, but the results weren’t there and he sunk to a career low SuperCoach output by becoming a catch-and-pass player.
While his BPPG (19) remained the same as 2017, his scoring and create and evade stats were down across the board. New coach Anthony Seibold is no stranger to talented five-eights having coached Cody Walker in the past two years, so a return to the 67 PPG (his career average with the Broncos) is not out of the question and would give us an elite keeper on the cheap.
The spotlight will be well and truly on the halves pairing in the early rounds, and despite Seibold guaranteeing Nikorima the halfback spot to start the season, it would not surprise me to see talented youngster Sean O’Sullivan get a run if success doesn’t come early.
Tevita Pangai Jr (Price: $495.5k, Positon: 2RF/FRF, 2018 average: 53)
2018 was not quite the breakout year we were expecting from PPM monster and SuperCoach darling, Tevita Pangai Jr (“TPJ”), but the hulking Broncos forward still showed us enough in his first year as a starter to warrant gun status heading into 2019.
I was listening to the Countdown Show (cough, cough free plug) before round 1 lockout when it was announced that TPJ would be getting the start. I rushed to get him into my side in both Classic and Draft, and was promptly rewarded with 57 points, followed up by 71 in round 2. However, chronic hamstring injuries and an inconsistent role under Wayne Bennett – who also told him to put away the offload that made him so damaging – saw his PPM drop from a career average of over 1.4 to 1.05 in 2018.
Teammates have recently questioned his motor when asked about his ability to play 60+ minutes at lock, but TPJ seemingly has the inside track to make the position his own in 2019. If Seibold gives the green light for his offload and he can keep his hamstrings together, the Blues aspirant has a chance at joining the 60/60 club this season for a sub $500k investment. He’s also playing for a new contract, having only re-signed for one year.
Jamayne Isaako (Price: $521.3k, Position: CTW/FLB, 2018 average: 56
How good is the Iceman?
This kid is electrifying to watch, a born finisher and a sniper with the boot.
Many brought him in as a cheapie at the start of the season and he went on to score the fifth most points of any CTW with the seventh highest average for those astute enough to hold him. Not bad for the 22-year-old who should only keep improving.
As mentioned above the Broncos have a tough start to the season and don’t play the first bye, but Isaako could be the keeper you bring in for a peaked cow after round 12.
With Darius Boyd’s aging body, injury history and a two month window to show up at the Rabbitohs, it would not surprise me to find Isaako at fullback at some stage this season.
With a strong base due to his golden boot and penchant for tries, he’s someone I’ll definitely try to get in later in the season.
Matt Gillett (Price: $432.9k, Position: 2RF, 2018 average: 51)
Matt Gillet broke his neck in an awkward tackle against the Dragons in round 1 last year, before finally succumbing to the injury after round 5 and missing the rest of the season.
Let that sink in.
This man broke his neck, then played another four games. Suddenly his 51 PPG average doesn’t look so bad, right?
In the three seasons prior, Gillet averaged 57, 57 and 66 PPG, with decent base stats and the ability to crack the ton when he gets it going in attack (in 2017, he topped 100 points 3 times).
Gillett reportedly has lost a lot of weight since his surgery and will be working his way back to game shape, but he will slot straight back into a starting edge role and should provide both value and points as a third of fourth second row option to start the season
Jack Bird (Price: $320.9k, Position: CTW, 2RF, 2018 average: 26)
What a disaster the 2018 season was for the Broncos newest million-dollar man Jack Bird.
He entered the season overweight and under an injury cloud, surfacing in round 3 to play only eight games for a paltry 25.8 PPG average before being shut down with an ongoing sternum issue. After all that, how could he possibly still be on the bust list? Expectations.
I’ve seen some early chat about Bird on this very website, with many growing excited about the whispers that he could be used at lock with TPJ on an edge and Alex Glenn to the bench. If that were to eventuate he would be in my side immediately, but with the talented forwards on the roster (and the signing of Shaun Fenson) it is hard to see him getting that chance despite being brought in the the club as a utility.
While he would make you some money, he is priced at $100k more than those with the same average and is only 20k cheaper than Kurt Capewell, who will start on an edge for the Sharks with the same positional flexibility. A second row forward who you can be picked as a centre / wing is SuperCoach gold. A centre / wing in the forwards? Not so much, unless you have someone you can flip him with.
Expect an average in the mid-high 40s at best if he remains in the centres, and with the Broncos tough start to the season he could see some low scores out of the gate.
Payne Haas (Price: $181,100, Position: FRF, 2018 Average: 15)
Though boasting many youngsters for their 2019 campaign, due to the slew of injuries last season many of the baby Broncos got multiple games of match experience and are thus priced outside of cheapie range. However, Payne Haas ($181.1k) represents a slow burning cash cow at a tricky front row forward position.
Wayne Bennett was notorious for blooding his young forwards slowly but Seibold has no such hang-ups, having played young forwards like Junior Tatola and Cameron Murray for decent minutes at the Rabbitohs.
The Payne-demic (patent pending) only averaged 15 PPG in an injury-affected three game stint in 2018, but will get far more opportunities this upcoming season and his 1.19 PPM should translate into cold hard cash for us SuperCoaches.