Paul Vautin scorches Broncos stars on Channel 9's Golden Point.
Paul Vautin scorches Broncos stars on Channel 9's Golden Point.

‘Not NRL standard’: Fatty scorches star

Paul Vautin says unsettled centre James Roberts isn't playing at an NRL level after the Broncos were thumped 38-6 by South Sydney in their showdown with former coach Wayne Bennett on Thursday night.

The former Footy Show host scorched a number of Brisbane stars on Channel 9's Golden Point after witnessing Anthony Seibold's team collapse to a 2-6 start to the 2019 season.

Rugby League immortal Andrew Johns also made a scathing assessment of where the club is at.

However, Vautin's stunning verdict on the form of NSW State of Origin star Roberts' shows how far the club has fallen.

The Manly great said Roberts and centre partner Jack Bird have both had horrible starts to the season, citing their struggles as a key in the Broncos' disjointed attack and sloppy defence.

Despite identifying Bird as one of the Broncos' biggest problems at the moment, Vautin says the former Cronulla talent is the key to getting Brisbane's season back on track - with a move back to fullback.

Under Vautin's spine shake-up, the 59-year-old says Bird should have the No. 1 jumper in a move that would force captain Darius Boyd to the wing or to five-eighth to make a halves pairing with Anthony Milford.

Paul Vautin didn’t like what he saw.
Paul Vautin didn’t like what he saw.

Vautin saved his most stinging criticism for the defensive efforts of Roberts, who was spotted more than once standing out of position and making tentative snatches for intercepts instead of making one-on-one tackles.

Roberts will reportedly look to force a move to South Sydney this week, despite Broncos coach Seibold declaring the speedster wasn't going anywhere in his pre-match press conference this week.

The Rabbitohs have also denied interest in Roberts despite a report on Thursday night which identified Roberts' uncle Amos Roberts as the third party that has spoken to South Sydney about a mid-season move.

Vautin suggested South Sydney may have doubts about chasing Roberts after his poor defensive reads on Thursday night.

"That's a towelling," Vautin told Nine.

"I've got question marks about both the centres. James Roberts' defence at the moment is not first grade defence. We've seen him make too many mistakes in the last few weeks. Jack Bird, I thnk he is and always will be a fullback. I think he could be an outstanding fullback, bringing the ball back with the power that he's got. And I don't think centre suits him.

"I don't know what you do with Darius. Maybe put him back on the wing, or to five-eighth if you want to mix him up. He's got good hands and he's a good link man. I would seriously change it up. They have to change something. Jack Bird back to full back for me."

Meanwhile, Immortal Andrew Johns, speaking on Channel 9, said he thought the Broncos should have been up for the game.

"They just lay down when it gets too hard, there's just no fight," he said.

"It's hard to believe a one team town like Brisbane, they make huge profit and they have so many kids on scholarship but something's not happening up there, I don't know what it is. You look at their team on paper - I tipped them to win the competition this year - they're not going a yard."

Fox League commentator Paul Kent said Brisbane's real troubles are the young forward pack which appears leaderless, despite being the most talented young pack in the competition.

"I'll tell you who shouldn't be (proud of themselves) is the Broncos forwards," NRL 360 host Paul Kent told Fox League.

"They let (debutant halfback Tom Dearden) down. It showed a lack of leader in the pack that no one said 'come on, guys, we've got an 18-year-old kid here who's having a crack and he's shaming us with his effort'.

"No one was there to (look after him). No one was there to even recognise it."

James Roberts had a shocker.
James Roberts had a shocker.

The match was billed as a grudge match between coach Wayne Bennett and his Broncos counterpart Anthony Seibold following their off-season coaching swap. However the game had all but fizzled out as a spectacle by halftime with the Rabbitohs opening up a 24-0 lead thanks to a Cody Walker masterclass.

After being sacked by the Broncos in December, Bennett exacted a measure of revenge against his former club and now has the Rabbitohs flying at 7-1 - the club's equal-best start since 1989.

It was also the Rabbitohs' equal biggest winning margin over the Broncos - joining their 44-12 victory in 2009.

Importantly, the Rabbitohs flexed their muscles after a series of scratchy wins to reinforce their premiership credentials.

Walker had a double inside 18 minutes - on both occasions he caught out Tevita Pangai Junior and fullback Darius Boyd - who was playing his 300th first-grade game.

Halfback Kodi Nikorima sat out the match and is expected to depart for the Warriors after this weekend - his replacement 18-year-old Dearden did a commendable job in difficult circumstances.

He was targeted in defence and absorbed several hard knocks, but was vocal organising his more experienced teammates.

A poor night for the Broncos was summed up when Corey Oates dropped the ball over the line, the catalyst for Sam Burgess to score off the next set to restore the 24-point buffer.

"The scoreboard says we played pretty good but I think there's a lot more improvement in us," Bennett said.

"We put ourselves under some pressure and I think the good teams will hurt us if we do that." Seibold said while his side had to cop their medicine, their effort wasn't as bad as the scoreboard suggested.

"Tonight summed up our season so far - we did some really good things," Seibold said.

"Our main takeaway from tonight is our transition to our next job. We can't dwell on anything."

- with AAP