When Herbie Farnworth confirmed he would exit the Brisbane Broncos at the end of the 2023 NRL campaign, there was a real sense that the position simply wouldn't be able to be filled to the same standards.

There is little doubt about exactly how good Herbie Farnworth was last year.

Sure, Brisbane had plenty of key players on their run to a grand final appearance, but the performances of Farnworth - as well as fellow centre Kotoni Staggs on the other side of the park - simply had the Red Hill-based outfit built different to many squads in 2023.

But, one could argue that Cobbo's performances have taken the Broncos to a whole new level in 2024. A different level, one that has seen Brisbane's edge become one of the dominant strike weapons in the competition.

There is little to no doubt that Brisbane will miss him this weekend as he sits on the sideline with an injury that coach Kevin Walters described as “benefiting from a week off.

That quote would suggest the injury is not cause for concern, and, had it been a final this weekend, Cobbo would again be lining up in the centres.

What Selwyn Cobbo has brought to Brisbane this year in the centres is simply excellent.

MACKAY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 26: Selwyn Cobbo of the Broncos runs the ball during the NRL Trial match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Brisbane Broncos at BB Print Stadium on February 26, 2022 in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

His last two seasons - where he managed 18 games in 2022 and 24 games in 2023 - saw him play on the wing and excel in that position.

While there were some questions early on about his defence and his work ethic - particularly with Brisbane on the back foot - these have well and truly been answered. He is now a walk-up State of Origin starter, having scored a staggering 20 tries to go with an average of 147 metres per game last season.

Cobbo has long-term aspirations to play at fullback - that is well-known in rugby league circles - unsurprising given his talent and experience playing there from his time in juniors. He will undoubtedly go well there if and when an opportunity presents itself, although that seems unlikely to be at the Broncos while Reece Walsh has a stranglehold on both the Brisbane and Queensland number one jersey.

He could well be a consideration to play for the Kangaroos this year, too, if James Tedesco can't get back to his best.

While that's not an option for the Broncos right now, Kevin Walters took the brave call of moving Cobbo into the centres, while Deine Mariner - another young gun who was originally expected to take Farnworth's role in the three-quarters - has slotted into the now vacant wing position.

Farnworth, who played 26 games in 2023, scored 15 tries, ran for a staggering 168 metres per game - which as a centre is no mean feat, putting him in an elite class - and was productive for most of those metres, adding 16 line breaks, countless tackle busts and playing a hand in plenty of scoring opportunities for Brisbane despite being credited with only three try assists.

NRL Rd 1 -  Dolphins v Cowboys
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 10: Herbie Farnworth of the Dolphins takes on the defence during the round one NRL match between the Dolphins and North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium, on March 10, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Those numbers, as well as his influence on the intangibles not seen on a stats sheet, left a big question: whether Walters was actively diminishing two positions for the benefit of moving Cobbo closer to the ball. 

The intended outcome - Cobbo touching the football more often - was certainly worth a look, but still an enormous risk given he didn't have a great deal of experience in the centres, which has quickly turned into one of the NRL's busiest positions, particularly in defence where traffic is directed all game, and defensive decisions are as tough as they come.

But Cobbo has taken to the role so strongly that the pre-season questions have been not just forgotten, but obliterated in just seven weeks.

Given some of those games have also been played without stars like Reece Walsh and Adam Reynolds making him look like a million dollars out of the middle of the park, while the Broncos have also been without Payne Haas and Brendan Piakura for a chunk of time, his performances - and Brisbane's four wins from seven games - and three in their last four - is all the more impressive.

From seven games, Cobbo has scored three tries - all coming in his last two games - but it's his involvement elsewhere, which has made fans sit up and take notice of the talented youngster.

He has 44 tackle busts at more than six per game, seven offloads, four line breaks and an average of 153 metres per game. With Brisbane on the back foot more than once this season, those numbers are mighty impressive.

His influence over the last fortnight in their wins over the Dolphins and Raiders - both on and off the ball - has been clear for all to see, with the Cherbourg product busting ten tackles against the Raiders and being a nightmare to defend.

 2024-04-12T10:00:00Z 
 
 
Suncorp Stadium
BRI   
28
FT
14
   DOL
   Crowd: 46,224
 2024-04-20T09:35:00Z 
 
 
Suncorp Stadium
BRI   
34
FT
10
   CBR
   Crowd: 37,286

His footwork, agility, acceleration and speed make him a danger on the edge, and it has put him in the top echelon of centres in the competitions over the opening two months of the season.

If you had tipped Selwyn Cobbo to be there during the preseason - in the top handful of centres in the competition so far - you would likely have been laughed out of the building given some of the talent floating around the competition in the three-quarter line.

But so good has Cobbo been so far, the question must now realistically be asked whether he is in fact in line to play in the centres for Queensland at State of Origin level.

It's a move Valentine Holmes has made in recent times, with the Cowboy playing there for the Maroons last year. His form this season has been mixed so far, though, and Holmes has scored plenty of tries for both Queensland and Australia on the wing. 

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Selwyn Cobbo of the Maroons celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Essentially, the Maroons, come Origin time, have Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Valentine Holmes and Selwyn Cobbo who can play either centre or wing, and with the flexibility to mix, match and roam as they see fit, will be an exceptional danger for the NSW Blues' defensive line.

Whichever way Queensland go, the Broncos will be sweating on Cobbo remaining on track after a blistering start to the season which has last year's grand finalists humming.

With Reynolds, Haas, Piakura and Mariner back this week from injury, and two wins in a row under the belt, Brisbane will be hoping that Cobbo's form is enough to continue their charge towards a drought-breaking - and built different - premiership.

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