Thurston: Broncos can’t win title with halves’ form
BRISBANE halves Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima are under siege with champion playmaker Johnathan Thurston declaring the duo must step-up to deliver a Broncos premiership.
Cowboys maestro Thurston believes Brisbane's lack of dominance at the scrumbase is the key area they must address for the Broncos to have any hope of breaking the longest title drought in their history.
The Broncos are in danger of missing the finals after their gut-wrenching 34-30 derby loss to Thurston's Cowboys set up a daunting clash against South Sydney this Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium.
If anyone knows what it takes to engineer a title charge, it is Thurston. A two-time premiership winner, Thurston steered the Cowboys to victory in the 2015 grand final against the Broncos and says it's time for Milford and Nikorima to deliver.
Asked what the Broncos require to be a legitimate premiership threat this season, Thurston delivered a candid reality check.
"They need a bit more work from their halves," the Cowboys schemer said.
"They have a forward pack that lays a fair platform, but they need to get their outside backs the ball at the right times.
"The Broncos cut us up a bit on our left edge so that's an area of strike for them.
"Their halves need to stand up a bit more."
Milford and Nikorima had some good touches against the Cowboys, but with the Broncos in control at 30-18, the scrumbase duo failed to ice the game as Thurston led a stunning fightback.
Milford produced some fine tactical kicks in the derby, while Nikorima laid on a 58th-minute try for Tevita Pangai Jr.
But the duo were also guilty of costly errors. Nikorima missed the tackle for Gavin Cooper's 66th minute try which whittled Brisbane's lead to 30-28. Then Milford fumbled the Thurston grubber for Coen Hess' late matchwinner. It underscored the inconsistency that has plagued Brisbane's halves all season.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett believes his side's top-four hopes are shot. It means Brisbane face the near-impossible task of winning four consecutive sudden-death finals games to clinch their first premiership since 2006.
Broncos forward Pangai Jr backed Milford and Nikorima to play their way, saying the livewires should not be expected to operate like former Maroons maestro Cooper Cronk.
"I think it's important that 'Milf' and Kodi play their natural games," he said. "They are different players. We can't expect them to be like Cooper Cronk or Johnathan Thurston.
"We shouldn't try to make them be something they aren't. They are good in their own way and we have to let them play their style."
Bennett lauded Brisbane's effort but admits their execution must be better to make an impact in the playoffs.
"We made stupid errors," he said.
"We are putting a lot of effort in, but our execution wasn't great.
"Our forwards turned up (against the Cowboys), but there were so many things we could have done better.
"We need to look at a few areas of our game like our ball control and discipline."