Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett with Jason Demetriou and Corey Oates.
Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett with Jason Demetriou and Corey Oates.

Pressure high on Broncos before pre-season

EVERY season the internal and external pressures grow heavier for the Broncos as they look to end their longest title drought in history.

Next year will be no different.

In 2018, all the momentum was building for Brisbane to claim their first premiership since 2006 before a shock loss to the Dragons in week one of the finals.

As they prepare to return for pre-season next Thursday (November 8), there is no doubt the club and playing group are still hurting from that early exit but they are in a great position to turn it around.

They are expected to get back a number of key players from injury, including Matt Gillett, Jaydn Su'A and Payne Haas, and will no doubt want to give Wayne Bennett the best farewell possible.

KEY PLAYER - ANTHONY MILFORD

BRISBANE'S million dollar man will always be the club's "key".

He has spent parts of the last two seasons playing through shoulder pain but still managed to be crowned the club's best player at the end of 2018.

If he can remain injury-free in 2019, it will be his best chance yet to steer Brisbane to their greatly-desired premiership.

He said at the start of October he is more motivated than ever to "exceed all the expectations of being a Bronco".

This is his time to deliver.

 

Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett speaks to Jack Bird. Picture: AAP
Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett speaks to Jack Bird. Picture: AAP

 

UNDER PRESSURE - JACK BIRD

THE Cronulla recruit last year copped heavy criticism for his eight appearances with the Broncos before it was revealed Bird was playing through the pain of a sternum injury.

He was eventually ruled out for the season but that did not stop him from being unfairly targeted.

Bird arrived at Red Hill already carrying heavy expectations from the rugby league world on his shoulders and that will have only worsened for season 2019.

Given there is also no clear plan as to where the Broncos will play Bird next year, he is certainly a man under pressure.

The test for Bird in 2019 is whether he can shelve those expectations and the outside noise to return to his best.

 

Payne Haas (centre) looks set to take the game on this season.
Payne Haas (centre) looks set to take the game on this season.

 

ONE TO WATCH - PAYNE HAAS

THERE was so much hype around young forward Payne Haas last year that people forget he only played three NRL games before a shoulder injury ended his season.

The 19-year-old sensation - who signed a monster million-dollar deal in July - is now expected to be part of Brisbane's 17 on a weekly basis and will certainly be one to keep an eye on.

Rugby league fans only saw a glimpse of what Haas is capable of in 2018 and he is poised to show much more next season.

 

Whether Wayne Bennett stays or goes in 2019 will be the main talking point.
Whether Wayne Bennett stays or goes in 2019 will be the main talking point.

 

MAIN TALKING POINT - WAYNE BENNETT

IF Bennett and the Broncos stick to their word, the supercoach will be with the club in 2019.

And his presence will continue to be the main talking point for Brisbane as they chase their seventh premiership.

Bennett is South Sydney-bound in 2020 but will want to farewell the club where he has enjoyed so much success with one last trophy.

He may not want 2019 to be "for Bennett", but there is no doubt it will be a season-long theme.

GAINS AND LOSSES

Gains: Sean O'Sullivan (Roosters)

Losses: Korbin Sims, Jonus Pearson (Dragons), Sam Thaiday (retired), Tom Opacic (Cowboys), Marion Seve (Storm)

OFF CONTRACT IN 2019

Alex Glenn, Joe Ofahengaue, George Fai, Patrick Mago, Andre Savelio, Patrick Carrigan.