SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 22: Keenan Palasia of the Broncos celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round 11 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Brisbane Broncos at Sydney Cricket Ground, on May 22, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The Broncos managed to sneak away from the bottom of the table, however, back-to-back bottom-four finishes have left fans wondering what's next.

Pre-season predicted finish: 16th
Actual finish: 14th
Record: Seven Wins (-249)

2021 Season snapshot

The Broncos entered 2021 as short-priced favourites to 'defend' their 2020 wooden spoon. They managed to play every so slightly better than that.

2021 was not a good season for Brisbane on the field. They finished 14th and missed the finals by three wins and a massive point differential.

Off the field they did enjoy much more success. We'll cover that in more detail below but if I'm a Broncos fan, I'm a lot happier now than I was this time last season.

Kevin Walters said he wasn't aiming for instant success, which is good as they fell well short of any such expectations.

Star player: Payne Haas

Perhaps the easiest Star player to name. Payne Haas was an absolute monster for the Broncos in 2021. I'd go so far as top say he's now a top three prop, at worst!

He averaged over 165 metres per game, recorded a ridiculous 68 tackle breaks and tackled at almost 98 per cent. Those numbers are incredible.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 16: Payne Haas of the Broncos in action during the round 22 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Penrith Panthers at Suncorp Stadium on August 16, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

1,485 post contact metres in 20 games is a fantasy football-like number. He is the most difficult player in the league to tackle.

Haas is playing years beyond his age, which is still just 21. He is poised to sign the biggest contract in rugby league history (if the numbers and rumours are to be believed) and looks well worth the investment.

Breakout star: Tesi Niu

Niu started the season as a centre, yet grew into the side's first-choice fullback option. He was always a dangerous runner but has added ballplaying to his repertoire.

Across his 16 appearances he crossed for eight tries, laid on three try assists, ran for 114 metres per game, delivered six line breaks and broke 54 tackles.

TESI NIU
Centre
Broncos
2021 SEASON AVG
0.2
Try Assists
0.3
LB Assists
0.5
Tries

His game grew in every way once he was shifted into the custodian role. As it stands he's the unbackable favourite to start the 2022 season in the number one.

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Positives

- Quick Rebuild: In terms of signings, the Broncos landed among the top three sides. They added premiership winners Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell as well as Brenko Lee, Ryan James and Jordan Pereira.

The side that runs out in Round 1 will look far different and will be much more complete than any side who ran out in 2021.

Reynolds' signing completely reshapes their side. His leadership, experience and kicking game are worth their weight in gold. He was one of the most sought after players on the market.

The Broncs went a long way to answering a lot of questions with their recruitment drive.

- Young starts emerge: The big wrap on the Broncos has been their stars. They may have lost David Fifita but their forward pack is still shaping up to match the elite.

Haas and Niu have been covered but Herbie Farnworth (21) and Selwyn Cobbo (19) form a centre pairing of huge potential.

Up front Jordan Riki (21) and Thomas Flegler (22) set themselves up for a monster future at Red Hill.

Despite a horror run of results, Broncs fans may look back on this season as one of great importance given the emergence of some future stars.

Negatives

- Question's over Walters: A full season has gone and we are no closer to answering the question as to whether Kevin Walters is the answer or not.

It's tough to decide over the course of one season, especially considering the mess he inherited, but some of the decisions made this season were headscratchers.

I still don't know who the first choice wingers are after a full season. I dare suggest that Walters doesn't know either.

As for the halves... The less said the better! I guess we'll see in 2022.

Brisbane Broncos Training Session
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Coach Kevin Walters directs his players during a Brisbane Broncos NRL training session at Clive Berghofer Field on March 09, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

- Constant floggings: Although the record books say differently, some losses are way worse than others. The Broncos suffered some shockers in 2021.

On eight occasions this season the Broncos conceded 35 points or more. They copped huge losses to the Storm, Rabbitohs, Eels (twice) and Manly but also the Tigers, Dragons and Raiders.

17 losses never makes for good reading but there's a difference between losing by a field goal and losing by 30. They simply weren't in enough games this season.

Season Grade: D

The cold, hard fact is that the Broncos improved on last season. That's not a huge wrap considering they finished dead last in 2020, but small steps.

As mentioned above, they had many of their young stars emerge and provide evidence that they'll realise their potential.

Those youngsters, combined with a brilliant signing spree, and another year of experience under the belt of Kevin Walters and co, next season should see a big improvement.

That improvement is required as if Brisbane fans are forced to endure another season like this year they will be pulling hair out.

Not a successful season on the field, in any way, shape or form, but ultimately they're in a better position now than they were, so there's that.