Brisbane coach Kevin Walters is starting to feel better about the Broncos’ rebuilding efforts but says that’s all in the “rear vision mirror” as they brace for impact with a Melbourne side in historic NRL form.
Last year’s wooden spooners recorded their best result under Walters on the weekend, beating the Sydney Roosters 34-16 in a game marred by sin bins and suspensions.
Brisbane now sit two wins clear (3-8) of last-placed Canterbury – and two wins outside the top eight – but return to Suncorp Stadium to face a Storm side in unparalleled form.
While Penrith (11-0) remain unbeaten and flying on top of the ladder, the Storm last week became the first team to win eight consecutive NRL games by 13 points or more.
That run began with a 40-6 thumping of the Broncos in round four – one of four occasions the Broncos have conceded 35 points or more this season.
“It feels a lot that way,” Walters said when asked if he felt Brisbane had started to show signs of life.
“Our last month has been much improved, but that’s behind us, in the rear vision mirror.
“We need to look at what’s coming in front of us in the windscreen and that’s the Storm side.
“The shorter turnaround (with a Thursday night game) gives them less time to think about what’s happening and go full steam ahead tomorrow night.”
Remarkably the Storm’s surge has come without a large chunk of their spine for a bulk of those games.
Jahrome Hughes will return in the No.7 this week but Ryan Papenhuyzen, Cameron Munster and Harry Grant will all miss the clash.
Nicho Hynes, at one point the club’s third-string fullback, has seized his moment to dominate in either the No.1 jersey or at five-eighth.
The off-contract talent has caught the eye of rival clubs including the Broncos, Walters reluctantly admitting Hynes’ form had been hard to ignore.
“He seems to be coming up quite a lot for them on the highlights reel,” Walters said.
“He’s one of 17 that at the Storm, regardless of who’s playing where, will do well… he’s a fair player.”
Back-rower TC Robati will debut for Brisbane after dominating for unbeaten leaders Wynnum Manly in the Queensland Cup this season.
“He’s very raw, but very physical and I just like his attitude,” Walters said of the 19-year-old.
“He’s been in the top four or five players in the Intrust Super Cup in the last month and earnt his right.”
“They (the forwards) all need to take up the slack (with Matt Lodge suspended); (Tom) Flegler is one we can get more out of, and I guess Asiata.”
Winger or centre Dale Copley is on standby to replace forward Rhys Kennedy, who is battling an infection and didn’t train with the main group on match eve.