The Brisbane Broncos come into the 2022 season with high hopes after a strong recruitment push during the off-season.
Coach Kevin Walters battled with his team during a horror 2021, the Broncos' second-straight bottom-four finish. He has now built a roster that he wants though, and the excuses will be thin for a club with a proud history heading into 2022 if they are to fail again.
They kicked off the 2021 season with just a single win in the first seven rounds, and while they had some strong performances - like a shock Round 11 win over the Sydney Roosters, it was mainly bad news on their way to a 14th-place finish with just seven wins from their 24 games.
Adam Reynolds is the key recruit, however, he is joined by another Origin player in Kurt Capewell, while their crop of young forwards have another year under the belt and should go from strength to strength as the team look to improve.
Ins: Logan Bayliss (2023), Kurt Capewell (Penrith Panthers, 2024), Delouise Hoeter (2022), Ryan James (Canberra Raiders, 2022), Corey Jensen (North Queensland Cowboys, 2023), Brenko Lee (Melbourne Storm, 2023), Te Maire Martin (2022), Jordan Pereira (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2023), Ethan Quai-Ward (2023), Adam Reynolds (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2024), Billy Walters (Wests Tigers, 2022)
Outs: John Asiata (Leigh Centurions), Ethan Bullemor (Manly Sea Eagles), Xavier Coates (Melbourne Storm), Dale Copley (retired), Brodie Croft (Salford Red Devils), Tom Dearden (North Queensland Cowboys), Alex Glenn (retired), Danny Levi (Huddersfield Giants), Matthew Lodge (New Zealand Warriors), Anthony Milford (released), Tevita Pangai Junior (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Isaiah Tass (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Reece Walsh (New Zealand Warriors)
Star player: Adam Reynolds
Reynolds joins the club with the weight of the club on his shoulders.
A Rabbitohs star for the best part of a decade, Reynolds has played in two grand finals, won a premiership and has State of Origin experience. He is the man who must lead the turnaround at the club with his kicking game and organisational play critical.
Rising star: Ezra Mam
Mam may not start the season in first-grade, but there is almost no way he goes the entire season without playing a single game.
The star five-eighth was one of the best players for Souths Logan in the Queensland Cup last year, despite being just 19 years of age. It’s form he will look to carry over to the NRL when he gets his opportunity.
Most under pressure: Corey Oates
Oates has 170 first-grade appearances under his belt for the Broncos despite being just 27 years of age. If he gets it right in the next few years, he could well end up being a 300-game player by the time he hangs up the boots.
However, once a mainstay of the Broncos side, a drop off in form and failed switch to the second row has seen him play just 14 games in each of the last two years. He has the weapons to be an excellent attacking player, but he needs to make this year count in what is a contract season.
Five matches to watch
Match 1: Round 1, vs Rabbitohs, at Suncorp Stadium (Fri, Mar 11, 8:05pm)
Match 2: Round 3, vs Cowboys, at Suncorp Stadium (Sun, Mar 27, 4:05pm)
Match 3: Round 10, vs Sea Eagles, at Suncorp Stadium (Fri, May 13, 8:05pm)
Match 4: Round 15, vs Storm, at AAMI Park (Fri, Jun 17, 7:55pm)
Match 5: Round 24, vs Eels, at Suncorp Stadium (Thu, Aug 25, 7:50pm)
The Broncos will climb the ladder in 2022 - of that there is simply no doubt. There can be no way that a team signing both Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell sit at the bottom of the table yet again.
They are unlikely to be one of the top teams, and whether they make the finals is up in the air, but they will certainly be pushing for a spot in the top eight come the end of the season with a stack of other young talent in the squad, including Payne Haas, Pat Carrigan, Tesi Niu, Selwyn Cobbo and Jake Turpin.
Expect the Broncos to fight for the finals and spend some time in the eight during the season, but ultimately fall just short of playing knockout football.