Pleasure and Payne: Young Broncos prove they’ve got what it takes

This match was an absolute beauty. It’s the sort of game that really restores your faith in the product of rugby league. When football is played like that, it makes for such a wonderful spectacle.

There are two things I always say about winning big-match football.

Firstly, if you don’t win the battle of the hitting, you won’t win any of the other battles.

Secondly, you have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. You have to learn to love the battle.

Both these traits were on show in this epic encounter, particularly from the victors.

Some of these brilliant young Bronco talents will have learnt more about playing winning rugby league on Friday night than in all the matches they’ve played in their careers.

You have to win the battle of the hitting.

Barnstorming: Broncos forward Payne Haas celebrates his try with teammates.

Barnstorming: Broncos forward Payne Haas celebrates his try with teammates.Credit:NRL Photos

Modern-day defensive techniques are mainly geared towards “catching” your opponent and slowly wrestling him to the ground to control the speed of play. It’s about securing the ball and preventing quick play-the-balls. Teams of two and three defenders work together in numbers in a form that resembles choreographed dancing, rather than some kind of physical confrontation.

The speed and direction of the defensive line is rehearsed over and over, to the point where it looks like synchronised swimming. It’s pretty to watch when it’s done right and there is not doubt this ability to read the opposition play and react accordingly can separate the good teams from the strugglers.

You have to hit. You have to hit hard. You have to dish out punishment and discourage your opponents.

I get it. It’s all good stuff. Very scientific. It’s a skill that has to be learnt.

But when the stakes are high, when the prize is great, when it absolutely, positively has to be done, there has to be a physical confrontation and intimidating nature to your defence.

You have to hit. You have to hit hard. You have to dish out punishment and discourage your opponents.

Then, if your opponent is up for the battle and willing to reply in kind, then it’s a matter of who can stand it the longest. Which team can dish out and deal with punishment longer than the other guys?
To do that, you have to love the physical examination. You have to love the battle. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Leading light: Anthony Milford played a key role in Brisbane's win.

Leading light: Anthony Milford played a key role in Brisbane’s win.Credit:AAP

This is where the Sydney Roosters often finish on top of lesser teams. They take them to a place where they feel like they can’t breathe. Desire gives way to self-preservation and the Roosters come out on top.

They are very good at it.

On Friday night, however, they met a team of young blokes from Brisbane who were definitely up for the fight. The Broncos gave as good as they got. They hit hard. They ran hard. They refused to be intimidated. In the end it was the Broncos who were dealing out the physical assaults and they came away in the end for a well-earned victory.

It was the kind of win that can turn a season.


Two weeks ago, the Broncos were terrible when they were belted by the Rabbitohs in Sydney. The coach, the captain and the players were all called into question.

A week later they grafted out a tough win over the resilient Manly side. It wasn’t brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but it was effective, and it was a win they badly needed. It gave them the confidence to put it all on the line against the defending premiers on Friday night, and they no doubt came away from the clash having gained plenty of respect among the other NRL teams.

They were awesome.

It was a tremendous team effort. Everyone played their part and contributed to the cause. It’s unfair to single out individuals in such a team performance, however, a couple deserve special mention.

Young front-rower Payne Haas was incredible. For one so young to have such an impact in a high-quality game of this intensity stamps him as a player of the highest order.

Five-eighth Anthony Milford, so often the focal point for critics when things go wrong, played a key role in controlling where and how this match was played. I thought he was excellent.

Captain Darius Boyd was key in maintaining the confidence of his younger players. His leadership was outstanding.

Good call: Anthony Seibold addresses the media after the win over the Roosters.

Good call: Anthony Seibold addresses the media after the win over the Roosters.Credit:ninevms

The coach, Anthony Seibold, also played his part. His team was brilliantly prepared. He also assisted his team by picking the perfect time to inject newly recruited hooker James Segeyaro into the action. It was a key play in the game. Coaches get a lot of the blame when things go wrong. On this occasion, the coach deserves a fist pump for his contribution.

I’m heaping a lot of praise on the Broncos here. After all, they did win.

But nothing can be taken away from the Roosters. I think most other teams in this competition would have been flogged by a Brisbane team that played so well. The Roosters managed to hang in there and take them down to the final minutes.

You learn more about your team in defeat than when you win. Roosters coach Trent Robinson knows the quality of his players and he will be proud of their grit. They will live to fight another day.

All in all, though, it was just wonderful to be a rugby league fan watching such quality teams play with such passion and conviction. I really loved it. Brilliant stuff.

Phil Gould is a League Columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald

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