The Darius Boyd five-eighth experiment must end. Picture: AAP
The Darius Boyd five-eighth experiment must end. Picture: AAP

Boyd switch to fix Broncos’ broken spine

THE Broncos have made a mess of their playmaking spine.

For that reason, skipper Darius Boyd should be moved from five-eighth to centre to prolong his NRL career at a time when the Broncos need every scintilla of experience to guide their rookies through the turbulence of the next 12 to 18 months.

Clubs are ultimately judged on winning premierships.

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Broncos coach Anthony Seibold would probably beg to differ to my assessment, but right now, the Broncos cannot break the longest title drought in their history with the composition of their present playmaking spine.

A scrumbase alliance of 32-year-old Boyd, teamed with either Jake Turpin or Tom Dearden at halfback, is not the magical formula that will deliver Brisbane to the promised premiership land.

Brisbane have a wonderful batch of young forwards that can help the club build the Broncos' next golden dynasty.

But history shows premierships are not won without a dominant nerve centre that capitalises on forward firepower.

Seibold’s Anthony Milford sacrifice. Picture: Getty
Seibold’s Anthony Milford sacrifice. Picture: Getty

What's the point in the likes of Payne Haas, Matt Lodge, Tevita Pangai Jr and Tom Flegler churning out the metres, consistently winning the ruck, if the Broncos don't have the right playmaking mix to pull the trigger in clutch moments?

Such is Anthony Milford's talent, he can be a fine fullback but he is still the best five-eighth option on Brisbane's roster - and a superior pivot in terms of skill-set to Boyd.

Anyone who disputes Milford's ability to fire at five-eighth should rewind to the 2015 grand final, when he was the best player on the park in the Broncos' No.6 jumper and would have won the Clive Churchill Medal if not for Johnathan Thurston's field-goal heroics.

Since then, Milford has improved as a playmaker. His short, tactical kicking in the past two seasons has been a genuine weapon and a bedrock for the performance that won him Brisbane's player-of-the-year award last year.

Anthony Milford is Brisbane’s best five-eighth option. Picture: AAP
Anthony Milford is Brisbane’s best five-eighth option. Picture: AAP

Milford at five-eighth was never Brisbane's problem. Their real problem is finding a dominant, controlling voice at halfback to give Milford the freedom to ignite his running game and play what he sees without the burden of organisation.

By shifting Boyd, who was struggling at fullback, and tweaking Milford's role, Seibold has raised the danger of weakening one position to strengthen another.

Since pulling the Big Switch six weeks ago, the Broncos have had some joy with Boyd at five-eighth against bottom-ranked sides, but last week against Melbourne, the best team of the decade, the pitfalls were brutally laid bare.

Boyd had one run for five metres and, while his defence in the frontline has been excellent, the skipper lacks the natural short or long kicking game to build pressure.

In the past four years at five-eighth, Milford averaged 106 running metres per game at five-eighth and amassed 57 try assists.

Jamayne Isaako was being groomed as Boyd’s long-term fullback replacement. Picture: Getty
Jamayne Isaako was being groomed as Boyd’s long-term fullback replacement. Picture: Getty

Last season, he had 20 forced dropouts, four more than Cooper Cronk, the champion halfback who steered the Roosters to the 2018 premiership.

None of this is a shot at Boyd, who has shown remarkable longevity to compile 311 NRL games, but rather his tactical deployment which has only further destabilised Brisbane's spine.

The answer is for Milford to return to his familiar role at five-eighth, where, at age 25, he can build a long-term partnership with 18-year-old Dearden.

By moving to centre, Boyd can still offer experience, attacking nous and defensive reliability on an edge without the enormous aerobic and physical demands now imposed on modern-day fullbacks.

For the past three years, Brisbane were grooming Jamayne Isaako to succeed Boyd at fullback. He has the speed and the fresh legs to handle the role and, in time, can develop the passing game that Storm champion Billy Slater learned in the second phase of his career.

News Corp Australia


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