Brisbane might bea outsiders for Sunday’s sudden-death clash with Parramatta but Broncos legend DARREN LOCKYER has a five-point plan to pull off an ambush.
The Broncos have a mountain to climb at Bankwest Stadium tomorrow.
Playing Parramatta at their shiny new fortress, a sellout pro-Eels crowd, and a predicted hot day in Sydney’s west suggest it’s going to be a hostile occasion for a Broncos side which sneaked into the finals.
But the Eels are certainly beatable if Brisbane can dictate terms by applying pressure with the football and absorb pressure without it.
Here is my five-point tactical blueprint which could see the Broncos pull off a Parramatta boilover.
1. BACK THREE BLITZ
It’s crucial to shut down their back three of fullback Clint Gutherson and wingers Maika Sivo and Blake Ferguson.
Sivo and Ferguson remind me a lot of my former wing teammates Lote Tuqiri and Wendell Sailor at the Broncos.
Big, powerful, supremely gifted athletes who, like Sailor and Tuqiri in their prime, operate as extra forwards carting the ball out of the backfield.
The last time these teams played two weeks ago, the Broncos won 17-16, but Sivo was a real handful and a made a few breaks from the backfield which got Parramatta out of trouble.
Gutherson is a very skilful fullback. He has a great passing game and good spatial awareness.
The Eels skipper has a great blend in his game where he can either push up on the ball from a midfield offload, or chime in out wide as a linkman with a precise pass.
Brisbane’s kick chase must be consistent for 80 minutes. If they present a staggered line to Sivo, Ferguson and Gutherson, the Eels will make them pay
2. BOMB ‘FERGO’
Blake Ferguson is a matchwinner but he can also be susceptible to a blunder in clutch moments.
The Broncos need to bomb him at every opportunity. By doing so, the Broncos will minimise an effective first play. Ferguson is then out of action until play three and by then the Broncos forwards can get their line set and attack with their defence.
The placement of Anthony Milford’s high kicks is critical. Milford’s spiral bombs are superb but he has been landing a lot of them in midfield.
They can be more effective if Milford targets the corner. That would really box Ferguson in.
When you get the opposition coming off the 10×10 metre zone in the corner, it’s a trigger for your forwards and they can get excited jamming up to smash the opposition on play one and two.
Milford can really turn up the heat on the Eels if he can find the corners
3. LIVING ON THE EDGE
Brisbane’s back-rowers David Fifita and Matt Gillett can be potent in different ways.
He may be only 19, but Fifita is one of the most destructive ballrunners in the NRL.
Brisbane need to get him some early ball and just let Fifita do the rest using his power and strength to create a quick play-the-ball, charging back infield on an “unders” line.
He did it against Parramatta two weeks ago to set up the winning field goal. His left foot step is a weapon
It’s been a tough year for Gillett.
Mentally, it’s been tough for him coming back from a serious neck injury and he has lacked some confidence.
Kodi Nikorima, before he joined the Warriors mid-season, had a great understanding with Gillett. He would drift across field and pick up Gillett running hard on a straight line.
Gillett can benefit tomorrow from Jake Turpin or Milford ghosting across field and hitting him with a short ball. There are real opportunities on the edges for the Broncos.
4. DUMMY-HALF RAIDS
The Broncos need to build momentum with their ruck play and get some energy to put heat on Parramatta’s markers and tight defenders.
I’d like to see Milford and Darius Boyd getting into dummy-half more, a lot like James Tedesco does for the Roosters.
They are both effective runners around the rucks and it’s always a good sign for me when Milford is dancing around and wanting his hands on the ball.
The Broncos can’t think structured play will keep the scoreboard ticking over. They need to create second phase and basically say, ‘Let’s knock the door down in the middle of the field’.
The suspension of Tevita Pangai Jr has hurt their offloading capacity, but they can generate momentum out of dummy-half.
Corey Oates can set the tone on play one, followed by snipes from Milford and Boyd, with props Payne Haas and Matt Lodge storming through as well.
Lodge knows how to use the ball in traffic and I hope he is willing to promote the ball.
The Broncos must stop Parramatta’s offloads.
The Eels really troubled Brisbane in round 24 with their second-phase led by Junior Paulo, Manu Ma’u and Shaun Lane.
The Broncos need to lock the ball up and have some disciplined energy in defence because Parramatta have been having a lot of joy this season moving the ball from within their own half with quick shifts from an offload in the rucks.
While the Eels will have the crowd behind them, that in itself can create pressure and expectation.
If the Broncos can strike early and play up-tempo, they have the individual talent to produce telling plays that silence the blue-and-gold army.