Daniel Merrett of the Brisbane Lions during their round 22 game last year.
Daniel Merrett of the Brisbane Lions during their round 22 game last year. DAN PELED

Why the Broncos have brought in an ex-Lion

WAYNE Bennett is one of the shrewdest operators in rugby league.

So trust him to go left-field and hire an ex-AFL star in a bid to fix a glaring problem that haunted his Broncos over the 2016 NRL season.

Rather than poach a former rugby league halfback or specialist coach, Bennett looked across the Brisbane River to steal one of the Lions' longest-serving players for a couple of days a week.

Daniel Merrett - a key defender who played 200 AFL games for Brisbane and retired last year - has been employed by the Broncos in a consulting role over the pre-season.

But what exactly is Merrett's role at Red Hill? And how does he plan on helping Bennett?

The former Lion has been employed by the Broncos to work with the playmakers on their kicking in play, and with the backs on their high-ball contesting.

In 2016 Brisbane scored a total 20 tries from kicks in play. That's not the best in the competition but it's not the worst either - the Broncos were around mid-table for total tries off kicks.

Where they did fall down, though, was their general kicking in play. Halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford came under criticism for their ineffective kicks and last-tackle options, particularly late in the season.

In terms of forcing dropouts, the Broncos were the fourth worst in the NRL. They forced just 35 dropouts in total from their kicks, registering more than only the Tigers, Knights, and Bulldogs. In comparison premier Cronulla forced 71 dropouts in 2016, and the Cowboys forced 70.

Brisbane's defence of opposition kicks was dismal in comparison to the competition.

The Broncos conceded 26 tries from opposition kicks last year, behind only the Dragons, who conceded 31. That's almost a third of Brisbane's total 83 tries conceded.

Of those 26 tries from kicks, only nine came from a high kick. But eight of those nine came after round 17.

It makes sense that Bennett would seek the advice of a former AFL star to help with kicking and catching - skills Merrett has been drilled on since he was young.

On the field he was known as a hard-nut defender, but the ability to catch a ball overhead and to kick an accurate drop punt under pressure are the essentials to make it in Australian football.

Merrett has been working with the likes of Hunt, Milford, Benji Marshall, Kodi Nikorima and Andrew McCullough to hone their kick technique.

"It's all about that ball drop. If you can get that ball drop straight, as opposed to it falling off your foot or going off centre, you're halfway there," Merrett explained to foxsports.com.au.

"Then all it is is momentum towards the target and getting the weight of it right.

"Generally if you've got a nice, straight ball drop and you've got momentum towards your target it's going to get there one way or another."

When the playmakers have perfected the drop punt, Bennett will add pressure on the kickers in simulated drills so they can practise kicking in a game scenario.

The result will, hopefully, be the ability to land the ball on a dime more often than not when the heat is on.

Merrett has also been working with the backs to teach them how to contest a high ball AFL-style.

As a tall defender Merrett's speciality was the contested mark, and it's a skill he says can serve NRL players just as well if they get it right.

"I'm trying to sell the message of catching in your hands, jumping up and marking in your hands, and securing it after that," Merrett said.

"If you're getting up you're getting above the congestion, and you're less chance of making an error.

"If everyone just waits for it, one you're a sitting duck, but two you're going to get knocked off the ball and it's difficult to catch it.

"That's my theory, get yourself out of congestion and get above it in a bit of clean air."

While Merrett's two main objectives are kicking and catching, he's also been teaching some basic skills that could lower the Broncos' error count.

"There's little things that I've brought across as well, which is like ball-handling drills, which we generally do before training or in between weight sessions."

It could be seen as a dangerous move bringing in a cross-code coach to mingle with your club's top talent.

And Merrett admits a couple of Broncos wouldn't look out of place with a Sherrin in hand if they ever want to ditch the Steeden.

"Oatsy (Corey Oates) is the right size for sure. He's a big unit, so I can see him at centre half-forward or full forward taking a mark for sure," Merrett said.

"David Mead can jump as well, and Jimmy Roberts can jump, they would probably be forward pockets but they can jump in the air.

"I like Jonus Pearson as well - super athlete. I reckon he could definitely play AFL."

News Corp Australia

CRACKDOWN: Roma police raid multiple homes, seize drugs/cash

Premium Content CRACKDOWN: Roma police raid multiple homes, seize drugs/cash

In one case, a Roma woman in her 20s was charged with possessing meth and sums of...

Have your say on this notoriously unsafe Darling Downs road

Premium Content Have your say on this notoriously unsafe Darling Downs road

The Department of Transport and Main Roads is looking at upgrades to Toowoomba...

Man busted allegedly drink driving mid morning

Premium Content Man busted allegedly drink driving mid morning

A middle-aged man will front the Charleville courthouse charged with multiple...