Why bustling Broncos David Fifita
needs to find another gear in the semi-finals
needs to find another gear in the semi-finals
September 6, 2019 9:24pm
David Fifita has been the talk of the game with his blockbusting displays over the past six weeks and with every rampaging performance, alarm bells are ringing in the ears of rival NRL coaches. The Broncos young gun will find himself a marked man in the run to the finals – starting in the final round of the regular season against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
The sight of Fifita cutting back infield and terrorising defenders on an “unders” line will have been noted by sharp minds like Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy, the Roosters’ Trent Robinson, Canberra’s Ricky Stuart and Souths’ Wayne Bennett.
Fifita has starred in recent weeks. Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images.
I haven’t seen a teenage back-rower be so dominant in games since Sonny Bill Williams but with the finals just around the corner, the best sides in the league will be doing their homework on Fifita. He is now a target. Melbourne and co. will be formulating game plans and strategies to shut down Fifita and muzzle his momentum.
It’s important Fifita stays patient over the next few weeks. Defences will become more disciplined and desperate, so in the big games you have to earn the right to put your talent on show. Sometimes you might not get your big chance to shine until the 75th minute, so Fifita has to adopt the mindset to stay mentally engaged for every minute and wait for his moment to strike.
Will Fifita stay with Brisbane? AAP Image/Darren England.
In a sudden-death final, you might only get one shot, so Fifita has to cope with being a marked man and take his moment when it comes. Fifita’s potency in the playoffs can be aided by the influence of his Broncos teammate Anthony Milford in the backfield. With Brisbane still searching for continuity in the halves, Milford’s game-breaking brilliance is more important than ever for their playmaking spine. Milford can help Fifita by being another major threat to opposing defences. His move to fullback has given ‘Milf’ the freedom to roam. He has been building his running game and I’d like to see him test the line tonight against the Bulldogs and create some momentum through the midfield, which would open up space for Fifita to inject himself on the edges.
With his ferocious mentality and fierce will to win, Fifita is the poster boy for Brisbane’s stable of young guns. Coach Anthony Seibold’s youth policy will pay dividends. These rookies are fearless. The likes of Payne Haas, Fifita, Pat Carrigan and Kotoni Staggs are winners who relish the contest. They will be up for the finals occasion rather than daunted by it.
At such a young age, you don’t really embrace the enormity of finals football. It’s not until you get older and have had a few setbacks that you really comprehend the gravity of sudden-death football. I believe this group will be excited by the big stage. In saying that, finals football is similar to State of Origin in terms of attitude and not faltering in clutch moments. The danger of Brisbane’s inexperience is that they can be blown away under pressure if they aren’t switched on mentally for the full 80 minutes. Mathematically, the Broncos can still miss the finals if they lose to Canterbury and the Wests Tigers and Sharks play out a draw, so it’s crucial they make a statement by doing a job on the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are playing some gritty football and while ANZ Stadium won’t be the most hostile environment, it will be a taste of what’s to come for the Broncos in a death-or-glory finals game the following week. Brisbane’s away record this year is not great. They were towelled up by Newcastle and Parramatta and they were flogged 38-6 by the Rabbitohs in round eight at the very venue they will run onto tonight. But this Brisbane team is now a different side to the one beaten by the Bunnies in May. Their rookies have grown in confidence, they are oozing more energy, and collectively they are playing for each other.
If they play finals next week, which is looking likely, they will either play Manly at Brookvale, or Parramatta at Bankwest. Both will be hostile environments and the ability to manage that pressure will be critical. The Broncos would be pretty satisfied to make the finals given where they were at the halfway mark of this season, so I don’t think there is huge pressure on this group to go deep into the finals and that will allow Seibold’s rookies to play unshackled in the playoffs. If they can get a scalp in the opening week, that would be a huge shot of confidence.