2010 Position: 10th (11 wins, 13 losses)
Losses: Israel Folau (GWS AFL), Lagi Setu (Mormon Mission), Antonio Winterstein (North Queensland Cowboys), Tariq Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), Ashton Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), Korbin Sims (Newcastle Knights)
It had to happen eventually. After 18 consecutive semi-finals appearances, Brisbane’s amazing run came to an end in 2010 as injury and inconsistency combined to see them fall short of the top eight for the first time since 1991.
Even a mid-season surge (where they won seven out of nine matches) wasn’t enough to see the Broncos keep their finals record alive. Boasting a much younger side than in previous years, it soon became apparent they were missing the experience of such players as Karmichael Hunt,Tonie Carroll and Joel Clinton. A season ending injury to Justin Hodges in pre-season was the icing on the cake to a season that was destined to be tough.
The negatives of last season could be the positives for 2011. Last years rookies now have a season under their belt and will be looking to continue their good form. Players such as Josh Hoffman and Matt Gillett had outstanding seasons and will be looked upon to continue to improve.
Experience won’t be as big an issue this season either with a number of key players returning to the Broncos. Hodges will return cementing on of the centre spots and boosting the squad in both attack and defense. The return of Ben Hannant to Broncos colours will also be a massive boost to the squad and hopefully he will return to his pre-Bulldogs form.
The loss of Israel Folau cannot be understated though. The high flying star will leave a huge hole in the Broncos attack. Folau scored 20 tries last season and Brisbane will struggle to find someone to replace that remarkable strike rate.
The biggest issue surrounding the 2011 season for the Broncos could very well be the coaching situation though. Ivan Henjak was sacked just three weeks before the season kickoff. Rumours of player unrest had been circling for some time, with accusations that Henjak’s relationship with the senior group was strained at best. Many thought Henjak would be the first coach to go if things didn’t pan out for the Broncos in 2011 but no one suspected he’d get the flick this early.
Henjak’s assistant for the past two seasons, Anthony Griffin, was appointed to takeover as head coach. Griffin has a big task trying to get the Brisbane team back into the finals. Not to mention the constant rumours that he is simply keeping the head coach role warm for the return of Wayne Bennett.
What went right in 2010: Outstanding season from some thrilling new talent. Fullback Josh Hoffman averaged 144 metres per game and somewhat made up for the loss of Hunt. Matt Gillett, the multi-talented rookie emerged as a surprise package for the Queensland team and ended up winning the Dally M Rookie of the Year. Big things are expected from these two in 2011.
What went wrong in 2010: The Broncos’ defence bordered on inept at times and despite the efforts of their impressive back row they struggled to contain opposition sides up the middle. They ranked second worst for metres conceded (at almost 1400 per game); line-breaks conceded and missed tackles. They were also the worst team in the premiership when it came to stopping offloads, with their opponents averaging 14.6 against them.
Final Say For 2011: With the record the Broncos have of reaching the finals, it’s hard to imagine they’ll miss them two years in a row. The thing to remember though is that super coach Wayne Bennett was in charge for all but two of them. The Broncos will once again rely on Darren Lockyer to get them over the line and even he has said that he’s only an injury away from retirement. Not a good prognosis. The Broncos 2011 season could be terminal before it kicks off.