Tevita Pangai of the Broncos in action against the Dragons.
Tevita Pangai of the Broncos in action against the Dragons.

The mistake that could cost Brisbane a premiership

TREVOR Gillmeister has taken an axe to Brisbane's NRL premiership credentials, declaring the Broncos have made a crucial mistake which could cost them a shot at the 2018 title.

The Broncos will start as underdogs in Friday night's Queensland derby against the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium.

Last Thursday's 34-12 loss to St George Illawarra in the NRL season opener raised plenty of questions about Brisbane's title hopes.

Halves Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford failed to fire and are under mounting pressure to prove they are capable of piloting Brisbane into premiership contention.

But Brisbane's forwards have also come under scrutiny.

Queensland Origin legend Gillmeister, a 72-game Broncos representative and one of the game's most feared defenders in his prime, said Brisbane is lacking a genuine hard-nosed front rower.

A common denominator in the club's six premiership seasons has been the presence of an elite prop like Glenn Lazarus, Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva.

Tomorrow night, Tevita Pangai Jr (33 NRL games) and Matt Lodge (13) will be asked to start against Kangaroos duo Matt Scott (234) and Jordan McLean (87).

"It's only the first game but they did get outplayed in the forwards," Gillmeister said.

"You can't get too carried away in the first few weeks but they've got to aim up against the Cowboys in the forwards. That's probably the Cowboys' strength.

"I've said for a while that the Broncos in the last couple of years have lacked one really good senior front rower.

Brisbane have lacked an experienced prop for several years.
Brisbane have lacked an experienced prop for several years.

"That's no disrespect to the other blokes but it's a bit harder when you don't have a Lazarus, Webcke, Civoniceva or even a Gavin Allen to lead you.

"The Cowboys have been able to do it with Matt Scott. Guys like Jordan McLean and Scott Bolton will learn off Matt Scott.

"The coaches coach and the players learn off them but as a forward there is nothing better than learning every day when you're training and playing with a really experienced front rower.

"That's how you learn and that's something the Broncos have missed over the last couple of years."

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has shifted 280-game veteran Sam Thaiday to the bench for the Cowboys derby, showing his faith in Pangai and Lodge.

The Broncos have some exciting young props emerging in Payne Haas and Thomas Flegler while Pangai and Joe Ofahengaue have improved in recent seasons.

But Gillmeister said the lack of front row experience could be tough for the Broncos to overcome this season.

"Matt Scott has been the best front rower in the game for the last 10 years and there's not many of them around," he said.

"That's the nature of the game. They all want to give $1 million to the halves.

"It makes me laugh because when teams have a really good win, they say 'how good were the halves?'. When they get beaten they all bag the forwards.

"With the salary cap it's hard to keep a senior front rower to teach these blokes how to play.

"The Broncos have been a bit scarce in that department in the last few years."

 



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