THE Broncos should not hit the panic button after Thursday night’s horror show against the Eels, but alarm bells will ring if they can’t get it right this week against the Cowboys.
In such a brutal competition, you can understand if a team has a bad night at the office.
I’m prepared to write off Brisbane’s Suncorp shocker against the Eels. It should not be viewed as a sign that they can’t win the premiership.
But how they respond will be a window to their soul.
If they come out and play poorly for a second consecutive week in the Queensland derby, it will start to impact on morale, and Broncos coach Wayne Bennett will then have every right to be nervous about his side’s title credentials.
There are two key facets the Broncos must address to right the wrongs for the playoffs.
One is their ball control. The other is the attitude of their forward pack.
If the Broncos are going to beat the likes of Melbourne, the Roosters and Parramatta, you need to be completing at 80 per cent. In their previous win against the Dragons, Brisbane completed at 68 per cent.
A completion rate like that will not be effective in the finals.
The Broncos have attracted some criticism for the enterprise they are showing in their attacking approach. Some would say they are playing too “loose”.
To me, the issue is less about how Brisbane are operating in attack and more about the latitude being provided by their big men.
If the Broncos are going to play to the strength of their halves Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima, who are both quick, instinctive players, their forwards need to win the arm wrestle to let them flourish.
Milford and Nikorima are most potent against a retreating defence. Unless Brisbane’s forwards win the middle third, their offence will not get the scope to execute.
The Broncos should not tinker with their game plan so close to the finals. Instead, the likes of Adam Blair, Josh McGuire, Sam Thaiday and Tevita Pangai Jr need to roll the sleeves up and dominate the yardage battle.
The loss of Korbin Sims, a willing prop with great heart, to a broken arm only amplifies the pressure on his engine-room cohort Blair.
The Eels defeat was a reality check for Blair.
Parramatta’s remarkable opening try, after just 12 seconds, came as a result of a poor offload from Blair, who had not yet earned the right to be creating second-phase football.
Nikorima has attracted some criticism but to be honest, I didn’t feel he did a lot wrong.
Still, he can take some lessons from the Eels defeat.
When the Broncos trailed 18-0, Nikorima, as the side’s conductor, needed to hold his nerve and steady the ship by kicking deep to apply pressure on the Eels.
The Broncos have done a lot right this season to suggest they can be there on grand final day, but this is no time for a slump. The next seven days are vital.