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Broncos have 7-year NRL premiership itch

Brisbane Broncos fans have a seven-year itch, leaving coach Anthony Griffin feeling the heat to deliver the high-profile club's first NRL premiership since 2006.
Broncos have 7-year NRL premiership itch
by AAP

By Wayne Heming

BRISBANE, Feb 14 AAP - Brisbane Broncos fans have a seven-year itch, leaving coach Anthony Griffin feeling the heat to deliver the high-profile club's first NRL premiership since 2006.

Fortunately, Griffin had a bit of luck in picking up Gold Coast cast-off and premiership-winning halfback Scott Prince, a schemer with a great kicking game and the ability to get his outside backs some early ball, a problem area for Brisbane last season.

The return of 2006 premiership forward David Stagg from the Bulldogs is also a bonus to a playing roster which has lost champion prop Petero Civoniceva, outside back Gerard Beale (St George-Illawarra) and damaging back-rower Ben Te'o (South Sydney).

At first glance it's not obvious how, with an otherwise very similar roster to 2012 and no Darren Lockyer-type standout stud to win them the tight games, the Broncos can do much better than last year's eighth place finish.

But Griffin stands to benefit from the advancement made by many of the club's good young players.

In the backs, fullback Josh Hoffman is now a Kiwi Test player, outside back Dale Copley, is still only 21 but has acquired valuable experience, and halves utility Ben Hunt has more than 50 NRL appearances.

It's the same story with Griffin's young forward pack.

Hooker Andrew McCullough at 23 now has 100 NRL games on the clock.

Props Dave Hala and Dunamis Lui, aged 23 and 22 respectively, offer strong back-up to representative players Ben Hannant and Josh McGuire, who at just 22 is tipped for the big time following the retirement of forward leader Civoniceva.

Then there's 24-year-old utility Matt Gillett coming off a season in which he got his first taste of Origin football and was close to pulling on an Australian jumper.

Griffin knows what maturity means to a footballer and he knows that, given time, Brisbane have the nucleus of a squad that will repay the patience.

Brisbane were in the box seat in the top four after the State of Origin series last season before suffering a string of losses and exiting the finals in the first week.

"We worked very hard to put ourselves in a very good position and then we relaxed and expected we were going to roll into play-offs," said Griffin.

"We had the usual post-Origin fatigue which Melbourne went also through and some injuries to key people.

"But...I guess we weren't as hard as we needed to be towards the end of last season.

"As a side we probably weren't as mature as we needed to be grind out a few tough wins towards the end of the season."

Griffin identified his side's one-point, round 24 loss to Melbourne two weeks out from the finals as the knockout punch.

"They were coming off a win over Penrith which broke a five-match losing streak for them and we were on a five-game losing streak ourselves.

"We got done by one point in probably the game of the season.

"We had the Bulldogs by the throat the previous week but lost and I think if we'd won the Melbourne game it may have turned things around, we weren't playing that badly.

"By then we'd dug ourselves a hole and it was too deep to get out of."

Brisbane clearly missed a player of Darren Lockyer's experience but Griffin said it was his job to develop another match-winner from his young crop.

"A player like Alf (Allan Langer) or Wally Lewis would have been handy, but we don't have one of them at the moment.

"That's the challenge for us as a club to build that maturity when we're faced with that challenge."

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