There is little doubt the Brisbane Broncos will be one of the more intriguing teams to watch throughout the 2022 NRL season.
In what will be Brisbane’s final season as the only Brisbane-based team, it’s also a critical one for them to turn things around.
The Broncos have spent two years in the bottom four, with a poorly balanced squad and a team which lacked experience and discipline. They have also had coaching shake-ups and a heavy reliance on players who simply didn’t have the capabilities to carry out the roles being asked of them.
But now they will look to move on from that era of uncertainty and instability.
Here are the burning questions confronting the Brisbane Broncos ahead of the 2022 season getting underway.
Will Tesi Niu make fullback his own?
The Brisbane Broncos faced plenty of problems throughout the 2021 season, but one of the biggest was at fullback.
The role of fullback has become one of, if not the most important position on the field. All of the top teams have excellent fullbacks, with the likes of Ryan Papenhuyzen, James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic all making enormous differences on their high-performing teams.
The Broncos spent time rotating through plenty of options at the back during their dismal 2021 campaign, but once young gun Tesi Niu made the move there in Round 15, he never looked back.
In ten games at the back, he scored seven tries and assisted another three in a badly beaten team, but he was a constant threat, averaging 162 metres per game and making six line breaks to go with 43 tackle busts in those ten games.
He has been strongly rated since he was a junior, and 2022 shapes as a breakout year for Niu.
Can Adam Reynolds keep going in a new system?
Adam Reynolds, a former premiership winner and 2021 grand final player, joins the club in what is potentially the biggest single move this off-season.
He has been a mainstay of the South Sydney Rabbitohs since becoming an established first-grader during his rookie season in 2012 when he played 27 games.
Reynolds may not get the wraps of other stars at the Rabbitohs, namely his halves partner Cody Walker, but he was the man to hold the place together, his kicking game being one of, if not the best in the competition.
He will take that to the Broncos in a different system under Kevin Walters, alongside a far more inexperienced team, while his own age could also pose a problem at 31, but if the Broncos are going to make anything of 2022, they need Reynolds to be among their best.
Who will partner Reynolds in the halves?
This is a big question which the Broncos need to get right.
Too often we see clubs struggling to work out their preferred best 17, and it then costs them with a lack of consistency and continuity from week to week.
The Broncos have plenty of options to take up residence alongside Reynolds in the halves come Round 1, and they have to pick and stick.
Will it be Albert Kelly, Tyson Gamble, new signing Billy Walters or young gun Ezra Mam who, if you haven’t watched play yet, is one of the best youngsters in the game. He has been on the radar since he was just 16 years of age for some pundits, and will likely debut at some point this season.
It would be a tall order for Mam to come straight into the side, and as such, the established Gamble is the favourite for Round 1. If he performs, that’s the way it’ll stay given the likely excellent combination he could form with the more controlling Reynolds, but Mam could well be the back up option.
Do the Broncos have enough experience in the forwards?
The Brisbane Broncos have struggled to have enough experience in their forwards to compete with some of the better teams over the past couple of years.
That problem is starting to solve itself with Payne Haas, Thomas Flegler and Patrick Carrigan beginning to be more established at the top level, while hot-head Tevita Pangai Junior is no longer at the club.
All of Brendan Piakura, Kobe Hetherington, Jordan Riki, Logan Bayliss and Xavier Willison are still very early in their careers though, and it could take the main three names in the middle third staying fit to have the experience to battle for a spot in the top eight.
Can Kotoni Staggs stay fit?
There is less reliance on Kotoni Staggs this season for the Broncos, and that was a necessity.
He played just a handful of games next season in between two devastating injuries, but instantly made the Red Hill-based club look a better team, even from the centres.
There was talk he would move into the halves, however, that now looks unlikely. His spot in the centres is secure, but he needs to be on the field for the entire season.
A good centre can make or break a team, and Staggs is critical to Brisbane.