NRL Rd 12 - Broncos v Sharks
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 31: Kotoni Staggs and Xavier Coates of the Broncos look dejected looks dejected after their team loses the round 12 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks on July 31, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

After hitting rock bottom last season, the Broncos have a lot to do in preparation for 2021. 

The departure of David Fifita is a huge loss, but the Broncos have one of the best crop of young players in the NRL. If harnessed, they have the potential to turn things around and be very competitive in 2021.

The Broncos failed to adjust to the new six-again continuous play rules after the COVID break. Handling errors, poor discipline and an errant kicking game ensured their demise.

NRL Rd 10 - Tigers v Broncos
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JULY 17: The Broncos look dejected during the round 10 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Brisbane Broncos at Leichhardt Oval on July 17, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

To be competitive the Broncos will need a halves combination that can control and drive their young and impressive forward pack around the park. Kevin Walters has worked as a specialist halves coach previously at the Broncos when Anthony Milford was at his best.

Milford isn’t a half in the Cleary or Cherry-Evans mould. He is a natural footballer similar to Cody Walker. This is the mistake that previous coaches have made. Coaches have also played him at the back and although allusive, he is too small to make an impact from fullback as the game is played today.

Thomas Dearden is the hope for the future. A young half back protege, Dearden won the Peter Sterling Award winner for best player in the 2018 schoolboys competition. If Walters can get Dearden on track, he can play the traditional half-back role and enable Milford to play his natural game.

Brodie Croft remains an option at half but the combination with Milford never settled in 2020. Croft was the understudy to Cooper Cronk at Melbourne and has shown glimpses of his potential, but inconsistencies have plagued his development.

A Dearden and Milford combination might be the best option. Walters is a fan of Milford and with belief, confidence and support from Walters, Milford may return to career best form. The 26-year-old needs to return to his running game to enable the Broncos to be a threat.

With a backline of Staggs, Coates, Oates ,Farnworth and Isaako, the Broncos have some of the game’s best young talent.

With the retirement of Darius Boyd, Brisbane have lost their most experienced player but are perhaps better served without him. After a great career, Boyd lingered for one season to long.

Similarly to the backline, the forward stocks are impressive but inexperienced. As with season 2020, the Broncos lack experience of a few hard heads to help the younger players.

If the young Brisbane pack fail to be resilient in 2021, they will again be in for a long, disappointing season.

Walters has walked into a club torn by off-field drama. Something the Broncos have never had to contend with.

Yes, they had the Wally sacking early on in their history, the on-again off-again love affair with Wayne Bennett, but nothing compares to 2020.

Anthony Seibold created a great playing roster. The talent assembled is the envy of most clubs. However, the balance between young talent and experienced old hard heads is lacking.

What the Broncos need is to sign a few experienced reliable players with over 100 first grade games under their belt.

The off-field drama would have created an unsettling atmosphere but the bigger concern is what effect did the humiliating loses in 2020 have on the young playing group.

Walters and his coaching team have a tough job on their hands. However, if he can find the right lever anything is possible.

Brisbane Broncos Training Session
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 15: Assistant Coach Kevin Walters gives directions during the Brisbane Broncos NRL training session on March 15, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

It is my opinion that the Broncos should have offloaded one or more of the youngsters and targeted experienced battlers like Aiden Tolman and James Tamou.

My prediction for 2021 is they will make a huge improvement but not figure as a premiership threat.

Top 10, perhaps even squeeze into the top eight. I have no doubt if this playing group can be kept together, a premiership or two is within their reach within the next few seasons.