Spine doctor Johns called in by the Broncos
THE BRONCOS have hired one of the code's most accomplished playmakers to unlock the magic in $1 million man Anthony Milford and help the club break the longest title drought in its history.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Brisbane's key shot-callers have been flying to Sydney for remedial work with former NSW State of Origin pivot Matt Johns in a bid to strike more consistency in their playmaking spine this season.
A 197-NRL game veteran who with champion brother Andrew led Newcastle to the 1997 premiership, Johns has become a tactical consultant to NRL stars.
His knowledge has turned young halves into Origin performers and premiership winners, including former Queensland ace Cooper Cronk, Melbourne's Cameron Munster and Souths' Adam Reynolds.
Now the Broncos have turned to Johns as new coach Anthony Seibold challenges Milford and his teammates to find the chemistry that can deliver Brisbane's seventh premiership.
During the past month, Milford, halfback Kodi Nikorima, hooker Andrew McCullough, skipper Darius Boyd and rookie recruit Sean O'Sullivan have travelled south for personal sessions with Johns.
Milford and Nikorima mixed brilliance with patches of inconsistency last season, but Johns says working with Brisbane's playmakers has convinced him the Broncos will challenge for the title in 2019.
"I see the Broncos as a top-four side," Johns said.
"I did some stuff with the Souths halves last year when 'Seibs' was there and we got some good results.
"When Anthony (Seibold) arrived at the Broncos, he called me and said can we do the same thing with these blokes (Brisbane's halves).
"I've done two sessions now in the last few weeks and we'll probably get together one more time before the premiership starts.
"Kodi and 'Milf' have been excellent. I've been genuinely impressed by all of the guys who have flown down.
"The Broncos are going to shock some people this year."
Finding a dominant scrumbase union is viewed as the final piece in Brisbane's premiership puzzle.
Milford and Nikorima both turn 25 this year and while they have natural attacking instincts, Johns has been teaching Brisbane's spine some old-school methods.
"Because of the 10m rule, there is more onus now on athleticism and that finer art of ball-playing - the subtlety - has gone out of the game," Johns said.
"I have worked on some key principles with the guys - how to manufacture a hole for your hole-runner; game awareness and how to manage and build a set of six tackles.
"There's a park 100 metres down the road from my place. The Broncos boys have stayed at a hotel overnight and we'll walk down to the park and lay out witches hats as defenders.
"I take the complex tactical stuff and simplify it.
"I have spoken to Milf and Kodi, saying this is how to build pressure. We work on segments of the field and how you can still a control a set of six if something happens that goes unplanned.
"The sessions have been outstanding. I've already seen improvements."
Johns dismissed suggestions Nikorima and Milford, who have amassed a combined 222 NRL games, were too similar to work harmoniously.
"Kodi and Anthony are still learning the art of playmaking. It takes time to understand your own game," he said.
"Broncos fans need some patience, but just watching them, they can be an enormous partnership and take Brisbane to the top four this year.
"They are coming into their peak years together. Kodi and Milf can be dominant for a lot of years."