Friday, July 19

“I told you so!” regarding the Broncos, and why the Warriors will be okay if Johnson hangs up his boots.

I hate to say “I told you so”, Broncos fans, but… Actually, who am I kidding? I told you so, Broncos fans.

The Broncos are a genuinely realistic chance of being 3 wins from 9 games by the first week of May. Why?

Travel and injuries.

Two key elements that were abundantly in their favour for the first 11 Rounds in 2023, and which I’ve been talking ad nauseam about since last season. The first 11 rounds of 2024 see the Broncos travel more than they did in all of 2023. Travel contributes to fatigue. Fatigue leads to poor performance and a greater likelihood of injury. Taylan May colliding with your head probably doesn’t help matters either.

If you are playing the Broncos and were told you could pick three players to remove from their side, you’d likely go with Reynolds, Haas, and Walsh. Last Thursday night highlighted the value and importance of that trio. He won’t say it publicly but long-term injuries to two of those three is Kevin Walters’s worst nightmare, and mark my words, he’ll be having some sleepless nights over the next month. The beating they took last Thursday by the team that ripped their hearts out in the Grand Final will have left the bruised Broncos low on confidence.

They now have to get up and face an undefeated Cowboys, followed by the Storm (in Melbourne), then a derby against the Dolphins and a nuggety Raiders side who were one of the few to beat them at Suncorp last season. I’ll be mildly impressed if they win any of these games. They get some respite against the Tigers but then face the Roosters in Round 9. Without Walsh (4-6 weeks), Haas (4 – 5 weeks), and Reynolds who is a week-to-week chance of playing but won’t be 100%, the Broncos are going to struggle. Plus any other injuries, suspensions and concussions that occur to the rest of the team. Three weeks in and they’ve lost hugely influential players and it’s impacted their ability to win.  Imagine if they lose Carrigan and Staggs for a few weeks each as well? I called it pre-season but I don’t see the Broncos making the top four. And they won’t if they are three wins from nine, by May.

The Warriors consistently travel more than any other side in the NRL. Which means they have become accustomed to contending with injuries creating disjointed combinations. Having Shaun Johnson, Pompey and AFB play practically the entire season in 2023 contributed to some consistency in key areas.  But the beginning of 2024 has bought them a swathe of injury concerns.

And so it was that the Warriors had to win ugly against an underrated Raiders outfit who just wouldn’t give up.

You got the sense that the Warriors just needed a weight lifted off their shoulders that had been put there by the momentum of an fanbase thirsting for their success. They had to do whatever it took to get the W. There’s also sense that with that little bit of weight lifted, they’ll play with a bit more intent and accuracy against the Knights at their spiritual home of Mt Smart. The thing is, the Warriors got the win with four key players unavailable from injury and their fullback gone for concussion during the game. Egan, CNK, Walker, and Nuikore are arguably the next key players for the Warriors, outside of AFB, Tohu Harris, Barnett and Johnson.

I’d go so far as to say Egan now almost trumps Johnson.

Why?

Because his decision making from the ruck, along with his ability to straighten the Warriors attack is critical to their success. Absolutely critical. Lussick will develop but he just doesn’t have the ability yet.

By the end of this season, Metcalfe will have developed enough to become their new No. 7 and have Te Marie and CHT in the wings to take over at 6. The leadership from Tohu, Egan, CNK, Barnett, Capewell and RTS will be enough to balance the ship. Shaun Johnson will now forever and always have a place in Warriors fans hearts, but the team looks like it will be okay in 2025 without him, even if he picks up an injury this season. We’d still love him there though.

What the Warriors need, if anything, will be a replacement for Addin Fonua-Blake. While Nuikore fills some of that void, it’s likely not enough. And I think we can all agree that Bunty Afoa doesn’t cut the mustard, and Tom Ale while solid, isn’t a post contact metre eater because he’s only 6 foot and lacks the speed and ability to bend the line – yet he is promising as a solid bench forward.

Next cab off the rank? The iconic Newcastle Knights. Their hallways boast such fabled legends of the game, such as sulky drug addict, Andrew Johns, and more recently the Daly M Player of the year and cocaine user, Kayln Ponga. Neat.

The Knights will want some payback for the finals in 2023 but don’t look anywhere near the side that went on a winning streak on the back end of last season. Whereas the Warriors will just want to improve and will no doubt leave it to the fans to remind Ponga and the Knights, which player should have won the Daly M last season.

Give ‘em hell, Go Media Stadium.

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