Maroons coach Kevin Walters has a simple wish for Christmas – seeing all three of Queensland’s NRL clubs enjoying a renaissance in 2020.
Walters’ hopes for a surge up the premiership ladder for the Broncos, Cowboys and Titans is driven partly by good, old-fashioned Queensland parochialism, but also out of a need for more in-form Maroons to bolster our chances of wrestling back the State of Origin shield from NSW.
While Queensland came within a whisker of grabbing the Origin title in 2019, their chances were not helped by the fact that all three NRL clubs failed to fire in disappointing seasons – meaning players were down on peak form and confidence when called up for Origin action.
The Broncos were the best performed of the local clubs, but only managed to fall into eighth place on the ladder after losing more games than they won, and with a negative for-and-against.
They then suffered the indignity of a humiliating 58-0 pasting at the hands of Parramatta in the first week of the finals, Brisbane’s season ending with the biggest loss in the club’s history.
The news was worse at the other two clubs, with the Cowboys limping home to a paltry 14th on the ladder after a disappointing season, and the Titans finishing with the wooden spoon after their season imploded with just four wins from 24 games.
Walters said there was no doubt that the struggles of the three Queensland clubs impacted on the Maroons’ preparations this year.
“I think if you look back over the course of history it has traditionally been those clubs that provide the bulk of the players for the Queensland team,” Walters said.
“We are used to them coming into the Queensland system playing well and with confidence high, and that has a big impact on the players around them in camp as well.
“We just didn’t have that momentum to count on this year, and it is hard to rebuild that confidence and touch in the players in just a week in camp.”
But there is hope on the horizon, with the Broncos, Cowboys and Titans undergoing significant off-season changes to deliver better results and a rise up the premiership ladder in 2020.
At the Broncos, the arrival of former Melbourne halfback Brodie Croft will deliver the game management Brisbane are craving and so desperately lacked last season.
Up north in Townville, the arrival of superstar Valentine Holmes will bring a new dimension to the Cowboys from fullback, complementing a roster already bursting with match-winners like Jason Taumalolo and Michael Morgan.
And at the Gold Coast, the Titans will be making a fresh start under new coach Justin Holbrook, who joins the club after winning the Super League premiership last season with St Helens.
All three clubs look set for vast improvement next season, and Walters says that is good news for the Maroons.
“I think it is fair to say that all three Queensland clubs under-performed last year while they were going through transition periods,” Walters said.
“But it looks now like all three have stabilised and we look forward to all three clubs going back to that role of producing so much wonderful talent for Queensland, a job they have all done so well for so many years now.”