Darius Boyd continues to come under scrutiny.
Darius Boyd continues to come under scrutiny. Jono Searle

Lack of leadership hurting Broncos

HANDS up those who tipped the Broncos to qualify for the 2019 NRL final series.

Hands up those who believed they had a talent base to finish top four.

Yep, thought so. Now, hands up those who reckon that accepting the underdog tag for Sunday's elimination final against the Eels - as we have read all week - is a reflection of the Broncos' poor composure.

 

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Admittedly, they are underdogs - $2.60 in a two-horse race, excuse the pun. But that certainly wasn't the case back in early March when NewsCorp - publisher of this newspaper - printed its 2019 NRL Ultimate Season Guide.

Back then Ladbrokes had the Broncos at $9 to win the premiership and a miserly $1.28 to finish top eight.

And of the 12 'experts' on the tipping panel in the guide, each listed the Broncos as prospective finalists, with nine of them predicting a top-four finish.

So, what has happened? Why has the best-resourced and one of the most successful NRL clubs of the past three decades suddenly lost its aura?

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 07: Darius Boyd of the Broncos passes the ball during the round 25 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Brisbane Broncos at ANZ Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
Boyd was strong at five-eighth the last time the Broncos played the Eels. Brett Hemmings

Obviously, reasons abound. A new coach, young roster, injuries, suspensions and just plain bad luck could be trotted out as justification for a below-average season, but every other NRL club could use those as excuses.

Former captain Gorden Tallis best summed up the 2019 Broncos a few weeks ago when he said they reminded him of a Ferrari without a driver. In other words, the Broncos have class all over the field but lack a leader.

Darius Boyd has been a wonderful player for the Broncos - even if he did jump ship and dip his toe in the water at the Dragons and the Knights - but his days, surely, are numbered.

Admittedly he was very good against the Eels when the Broncos won a golden-point thriller three weeks ago, but that was his lone standout for the season.

The time has come for Boyd, and the Broncos, to admit the NRL career of the captain is finished.

Brisbane Broncos player Jake Turpin is seen during training in Brisbane, Tuesday, September 3, 2019.  (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING
Jake Turpin will wear the No.7 jersey against the Eels. DAN PELED

On Sunday the Broncos will take on a youthful yet imposing halves combination when they line up against Parramatta, with a converted winger/fullback and an up-and-coming No.9 calling the shots. As Tallis says, the driver's seat is empty.

Prior to last week's inept offering against the Bulldogs, the Broncos had shown some grit in winning seven of their previous nine matches. But when the pressure was applied by a team that had nothing but pride on the line, Brisbane folded.

Maybe that performance was a one off. Perhaps the youngsters needed a mental release before the play-offs. And conceivably, Boyd might have another special performance in the kit bag.

But irrespective of Sunday's result, the Broncos hierarchy has to pull their collective heads out of the sand and find a driver for that Ferrari.

And surely no-one is better qualified for that job than former premiership captain and four-time premiership winner Darren Lockyer who, interestingly, in the pre-season guide, tipped the Broncos to finish fifth.

Maybe one of the greatest playmakers of the modern era could see the writing on the wall?

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