Broncos must soon start their charge to the finals
WHILE the Broncos have enjoyed indisputable success in their past 27 years in the NRL, they have never been everyone's cup of tea.
Maybe it is simply a case of the long-established Aussie custom of supporting the underdog, but for as many people I meet who love the Broncos, the same number can't cop them. And with the Wayne Bennett-coached boys from Red Hill currently struggling to find form, those cold knives are being sharpened.
No doubt the Broncos are in a deep hole. And irrespective of the effect State of Origin may have had on them, losing six from their past eight signals panic stations.
Sitting sixth with six rounds remaining, plenty of time remains to get their act together. However the suspension of Test forwards Josh McGuire and Sam Thaiday, added to a long list of crucial injuries, is hardly the ideal way to kick-start their stuttering form tonight.
Three points adrift of a vital top-four berth they may be, but the Broncos sit a comfortable four points clear of three clubs chasing eighth spot. Two more wins from here should get them into the eight.
But while most good judges are baffled by the recent demise of the Broncos - they were perched at the top of the ladder after round 11 - I am amused by the varying reasons offered for their collapse. And because every fan is entitled to their opinion, I like to listen and digest all theories.
Heading the list of reasons is the disruption caused by State of Origin, in which the Broncos recently had six players involved. But last year, during the same period, they provided a similar representation and won all six games.
Among the plethora of other explanations is a lack of fitness; the retirement of Justin Hodges; Kevin Walters not being on hand to coach the halves; their heartbreaking grand final loss hangover; a forward pack being bullied; ill disciple and suspensions.
But the absolute doozy is that coach Bennett is keen to get to England ASAP to prepare the Poms for the Four Nations tournament in October and November, hence a spot in the finals for the Broncos is a distraction the coach doesn't need.
The plain, simple facts, however, are that the Broncos are missing key players, and are out of form. And, as my eight year-old grandson Angus pointed out recently when he watched a replay of last year's grand final, apart from Justin Hodges and Mitchell Dodds, the Broncos' roster is identical to the one that waltzed through to last year's grand final, eventually losing in golden-point extra time.
Just one good win could restore lost confidence and kick-start their 24th finals campaign, but it is unlikely that boost will come tonight.