It doesn’t happen every season but 2016 was one of those years in which the Broncos fell over during Origin. They went 8-3 over the first 11 rounds with their losses coming in a combined four points against the Sharks, Cowboys and Panthers. Then Origin hit and the Broncos would lose six of the next eight games before a five-game winning streak to close the regular season. This seems to be more a question of focus rather than attrition, as some of the worst players during this period were the non-Origin halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford. Milford averaged 52 in the first 11 games and then 34 in the next 8 while Ben Hunt averaged 54 in the first 11 and 43 in the next 8.
The schedule during the byes this year isn’t helpful with a Round 12 game against the Warriors at Mt Smart where they’ll be missing Origin players and Origin players’ back-up with games against the Roosters, Raiders and Knights. The schedule also hasn’t been kind to the Broncos at the start of the season as they start the year with @Sharks, Cowboys, @Storm, Raiders, @Bulldogs, Roosters, Titans, @Rabbits, Panthers. A slow start combined with a poor Origin period will doom the Broncos.
The Broncos are also continuing the transition from the old guard to the new. In 2014 Justin Hodges retired. In 2015 it was Corey Parker and most likely 2016 will be the last season for Sam Thaiday. The Broncos have the ability to recruit players like few other teams but they have largely focused their strategies on promising youngsters with players like Jai Arrow, Jayden Su’A, Tevita Pangai and Tom Opacic all being groomed for bigger roles, and to date all showing that they deserve them.
The Broncos have added a few players with NRL experience this season with Benji Marshall being the most noteworthy. There’s been a lot of talk about him lining up at centre but the Broncos really don’t need him to do that as James Roberts and Jordan Kahu are both better players than Marshall is. He also won’t beat out Hunt or Milford and doesn’t play dummy half so he shouldn’t take Nikorima’s interchange spot. Overall he doesn’t seem likely to be much of a factor. Of the new recruits David Mead seems most likely to start although Tautau Moga and Mitchell Dodds both have decent NRL experience as well.
The Broncos will have an interesting time when the 2018 salary cap is sorted because the only players they have contracted beyond this year are Matt Gillett, Herman Ese’ese, Tautau Moga, Kodi Nikorima, Tom Opacic, Moses Pangai, Tevita Pangai and Jaydn Su’A so they’ll need to strike quick with a lot of extensions to secure key players like Anthony Milford and Josh McGuire. This is even more crucial as they’ve already lost Ben Hunt. Of course, the nature of third party contracts favour the Broncos greatly so they’ll probably have no issues securing all their talent while poaching a few Raiders
After having Arrow pencilled in at lock since September the acquisition of Korbin Sims seems to put more weight with McGuire, there’s just too many props at the Broncos now. There will be some battles for the interchange spots that I have pencilled in with Joe Ofahengaue.
2016 Positional Minute Split
Other than the continuing downward trend in the starting hooker minutes this is a similar minute split to what the Broncos applied in 2014 and 2015. The second rowers generally play 80 while the hooker, lock and props all take rests. It is possible, although I feel unlikely, that the Broncos might change this up to replace Corey Parker’s minutes.
The Benji Marshall acquisition was strange but it is little risk from the Bronco’s point of view provided they don’t try to cram him into the line-up. Tautau Moga and Tom Opacic are probably the best back-up centres in the competition and there is an army of young forwards capable of making an impact in the 20-30 minutes they’ll be needed for.
Average Fantasy Points Allowed Per Position
Fantasy wingers die against the Broncos. On the other end of the scale the Broncos played a lot up the middle last season which meant lots of tackles for hookers and locks (opponent hookers had the second highest number of tackles against the Broncos and opponent locks the third).
Key Fantasy Changes
The biggest change impacting on fantasy will be replacing Corey Parker. The winner of this job could be a very relevant fantasy player providing it doesn’t end up being a third prop role for Sam Thaiday or Adam Blair. Josh McGuire and Jai Arrow are the two with the strongest case, I think Arrow is a better option but the Broncos have an army of props which might clear the way for McGuire.