How the Brisbane Broncos fared at the Nines
The Broncos had all the promise but none of the punch when it came to the 2020 NRL Nines tournament.
Rated as one of the favourites with a star-studded squad, Brisbane failed to progress past the pool rounds in their first pre-season hit out.
But, while they didn't get the results they wanted, it wasn't all bad news for the Broncos, with some up-and-comers starring across the two days in Perth.
Here's how we rated the Broncos.
1. JAMAYNE ISAAKO
Not the tournament he had hoped for. Made a number of costly errors and his wild pass into thin air in the opening minutes of their Cowboys clash on day one summed up his below-par displays. Scored a try to sink the Storm but the Broncos want him to be tactically smarter if he wants to make the conversion from wing to fullback.
2. HERBIE FARNWORTH
One of Brisbane's busiest players in the tournament and always seemed to be in the thick of the action. Had a few promising attacking raids and one flick pass almost led to a superb Broncos try. The British fullback or winger looks comfortable in NRL company and will be pushing for more game time this season.
4. JESSE ARTHARS
The Titans recruit is rated a genuine contender for the vacant fullback spot. On this evidence, he has something to offer the Broncos as a backline Mr Fixit if injuries hit first-choice teammates. Produced some nice runs and is a quality athlete with an NRL future.
5. KOTONI STAGGS
A late inclusion following the injury-enforced withdrawals of skipper Alex Glenn and young gun Xavier Coates. Ever the competitor, Staggs was returning from a foot injury that has hampered his pre-season but he was among Brisbane's best. A try in Brisbane's 12-8 defeat of the Storm was just reward for his aggressive charges and energetic attitude. A good tune-up for the upcoming trials.
6. ANTHONY MILFORD
Nines coach Richards said before the tournament Milford had failed to "fire a shot" at past Nines carnivals and again he fired blanks. This time, injury cruelled him. Milford looked hungry in the opening game against the Cowboys with some solo runs to spark Brisbane's attack, only to tweak his hamstring in the dying minutes. Milford was sidelined on day two although the Broncos are confident he will be fit for Round 1.
7. BRODIE CROFT
A promising debut in Broncos colours. His first run against the Cowboys was slick as he straightened the attack and made a half bust. Made some solid hits in defence and combined well in sharing the playmaking duties with Tom Dearden. Impressed with his communication when mic'd up by Fox Sports, suggesting he can be the vocal, confident game manager the Broncos crave.
8 . TOM FLEGLER
Got some mongrel back in his game. Entered the NRL last season with a bang but the grind of the season wore him down. Provided more punch in the Nines with some aggressive runs and handy offloads.
9. JAKE TURPIN
Fired the first shot in the battle with Andrew McCullough for the No. 9 jumper with a very good tournament. Trials will be a better barometer but Turpin did everything right at the Nines. Scored Brisbane's opening try with a 40-metre dash and was typically hungry in defence. Showed good speed out of dummy half. The No. 9 jumper is his to lose.
10. PAYNE HAAS
Another big-name forward who failed to dominate. After seeing his rampaging runs in the NRL last year, Haas was tipped to run riot with four fewer defenders and more room to move but he never really got going. There were a few promising moments but a jersey grab here and there blunted any hope of the magical 40-metre solo try that saw Haas sink the Panthers last season. His workrate was solid.
12. DAVID FIFITA
The disappointment of the Nines. Broncos fans were salivating at the prospect of Fifita running onto HBF Park after he destroyed opponents at last year's World Nines. But the 107kg wrecking ball was emphatically muzzled as the Cowboys and Storm devised clever plans to shut him down. Rarely got a chance to see open space with clean ball. He was expected to monster defenders like Viliame Kikau did for the Panthers but the Fifita party was a fizzer.
13. ETHAN BULLEMOR
One of Brisbane's emerging crop who was picked for some NRL experience. A highly-rated prop, Bullemor was given some game time against the Cowboys before being rested on day two. Another promising forward talent.
14. TOM DEARDEN
A genuine pass mark from the 18-year-old halfback. Dearden was called upon to do more when Milford was ruled out mid-tournament and he relished the extra responsibility. Threw a nice pass which released Jake Turpin for Brisbane's opening try of the tournament and was always probing. If Croft falters in the NRL, Dearden will be ready to pounce.
15. CORY PAIX
Received limited opportunities as a back-up playmaker to Croft and Dearden but will be pleased with the hit out. Played both games. Almost scored a superb try in the second game against the Storm when he showed excellent speed to win the race to a kick but his follow-up kick ahead just beat him to the dead-ball line.
16. TESI NIU
Broncos Nines coach Kurt Richards labelled him Brisbane's most dangerous player across the two days. The 18-year-old was a constant menace whenever he touched the ball and his razor-sharp feet are perfectly suited chiming in on a backman play in the No. 1 jumper. Wasn't overawed by seasoned NRL players. Niu looks the goods.
17. ILIKENA VUDOGO
The Fijian flyer got his chance against the Storm but the Broncos rarely had clean ball in field position to utilise his well-built frame.
18. COREY PARKER
Great to see the 347-game legend come out of retirement for a Nines cameo. The old warhorse is still in great shape and at 94kg, is 8kg lighter from his playing days. Rested on day one, he appeared against the Storm and more than held his own in attack and defence. Gets an extra point for mixing it at age 37. We dare 'Cozza' to make a full NRL comeback.