Brisbane are bracing for the toughest possible start to the NRL season as they face an acid test of their premiership credentials in the opening four rounds.
The Broncos have drawn last year’s top four in the opening month of this year’s competition, beginning with defending premiers Cronulla in Thursday’s season opener on the road.
They also face chief rivals North Queensland, Melbourne and Canberra in the following weeks, and clash with fellow-2016 finalists Canterbury in the fifth round before hosting the Sydney Roosters in the sixth.
But new Brisbane captain Darius Boyd said the Broncos are relishing the difficult start to the season.
“It doesn’t get any harder than that for the start of the season and it’d be good to test ourselves to see where we’re at,” Boyd told AAP.
“One thing with a successful club you’re always going to have pressure on you, it never changes.”
By round nine, the Broncos will have faced all of the rest of last season’s finalists once.
In comparison, every other team plays at least one side from 2016’s bottom eight in the first four rounds, with Penrith and South Sydney meeting none of last year’s finalists in the opening month.
While premierships are never won in March, they can often be lost.
Only three teams have gone on to make the all-pivotal top four in the past decade after dropping three or more games in the opening four rounds.
Brisbane also come into Thursday’s season opener with just one full trial under their belt – a 27-18 loss to Warrington following their trip to England for the World Club Series.
But Boyd said while his team were out-enthused by the Wolves, the loss could be a bonus ahead of the tough opening month.
“It was our first game together for the year but we can take it as a blessing in disguise,” Boyd said.
“We know that we have to put in some hard work to get what we want.
“It’s a big challenge against Cronulla, the defending premiers, the first game.”