Following the departures of three regulars in their forward pack, namely Josh McGuire, Korbin Sims and Sam Thaiday, the young Broncos pack heads into the new season with plenty to prove.
Although the Broncos are losing 625 games of first-grade experience, the turnover is necessary and has been done with one eye firmly on the future.
In spite of the fact that Josh McGuire has been a brilliant servant for the Broncos and has a fantastic output, his abrasive and physical style of play is only sustainable for a certain amount of time.T he fact that he is heading into his 11th full season of NRL means that the clock is ticking on his NRL career.
Sam Thaiday has similarly been a fantastic and loyal servant to the Broncos, but father time had well and truly caught up with big Sam by the time he decided to hang up the boots.
Korbin Sims is similarly no slouch, having been selected in the QAS emerging Maroons squad as recently as 2016. But it would make no financial sense to invest salary cap space into someone that is older and has a lower ceiling than other middle forward rotation options such as Payne Haas, David Fifita and Patrick Carrigan.
The common theme amongst the three aforementioned departing players is that they could all do a fantastic job for the Broncos if they continued on at Red Hill, but the young men taking their spots all have the potential to be 10-year Broncos and forge representative careers at the highest level.
In terms of those that will be in Broncos colours in 2019, this is where it gets exciting for the Brisbane faithful. As they look set to go into the new season with a forward rotation consisting of Alex Glenn, David Fifita, Jaydn Su'A, Joe Ofahengaue, Matt Gillett, Matt Lodge, Payne Haas, and Tevita Pangai Junior. With Kotoni Staggs expected to feature as a utility back off the bench. Between those men, they have an average age of 23.
Of those eight forwards previously mentioned, you would argue that five (Glenn, Pangai Junior, Ofahengaeu, Gillett and Lodge) are proven performers at the top level, due to them being older, more experienced and consistently having above average output. Leaving Su'A, Fifita, and Haas to pick up the slack left by the three experienced campaigners who have departed.
Su'A is the most experienced of the three, having racked up 23 appearances across two seasons in his young career, with a majority of those coming from the bench. While Matt Gillett has a mortgage on the number 12 jersey, Su'A has the chance this pre-season to lock himself in as the Broncos other starting back-rower, and if his performances as a starter last season are anything to go by Broncos fans should be very excited.
Prior to an ankle injury that prematurely ended his season, Su'A had started ten games in a row. It resulted in an impressive return of 98.9 run meters per game, 27.2 tackles per game and 14 tackle breaks. For context in his last full NRL season in 2017, Matt Gillett (who is widely regarded as the games premier second rower) averaged 95.1 meters per game.
Fifita is the second most experienced of the trio, having made 11 appearances in his first NRL season. After his debut in round 16 against Canberra, Fifita impressed the coaching staff so much that he remained in the team for the rest of the season. His performances in the remaining games displayed that he was no slouch, putting up numbers that any experienced forward would be proud of. Averaging 100 running meters per game, recording a tackle efficiency of 88.4%, as well as claiming two tries. Following the departures of middlemen McGuire and Thaiday, Fifita has the opportunity to cement himself in the Broncos pack for years to come.
Haas is the last and least experienced of the rookie trio, having only played three NRL games to date. Yet he has the most hype around him, which may have something to do with the six-year $3 million deal he signed back in July. But his brief outings in the NRL have indicated he will live up to his substantial salary. Particularly displayed during a brutal twenty-minute cameo on debut, in which he racked up 86 running meters. Additionally, in terms of raw physical potential and representative pedigree, Haas is head and shoulders above other players his age. The Newcastle junior has captained NSW in the under 18s and tips the scales at an incredible 119 kg. It's scary to think that the 194cm monster could still have more growing to do.
In terms of the older guard, you know what you are going to get from Gillett and Glenn, no-nonsense with long minutes and consistently above average tackle and running meters a hallmark of both of their games.
Whilst maturing tyros Ofahengaue, Lodge and Pangai Junior are all coming off the best seasons of their young careers. With Pangai Junior and Lodge now the subject of Origin speculation, and Ofahengaue now a regular feature in the Tongan team off the back of a bumper season in which he averaged 117.2 running meters and 27.1 tackles per game. For context, Leeson Ah Mau, who was widely regarded as one of if not the finest bench player in the competition last year, was averaging 111.8 running meters and 24.3 tackles per game.
If the in-experienced quartet of Fifita, Haas, and Su'A can live up to the hype and level of performance they have previously demonstrated, and the remainder of the forward pack can remain consistent on their output from last season, it should be a good year to be a Broncos fan.