Johns: Broncos win can restore Souths’ belief
After suddenly losing three games in a row, out of nowhere in the midst of a successful season, an old coach of mine sat the team down and decided to get a touch poetic.
"Fellas, confidence is as fickle as a beautiful butterfly, at times it arrives seemingly out of nowhere, and just as quickly, it disappears, to where, nobody quite knows."
Every sportsman, every sports team, would nod along knowingly to this weird, cheesy piece of coach speak … even if it would have been easier to simply say, "Boys, you've lost your confidence."
Confidence, if you could sell it in a can, you'd be living next door to Bill Gates.
If you could explain it, you'd be a best-selling author.
When confidence is brimming, winning feels almost effortless. You play with a smile, it doesn't matter how far you're behind, there's always a sense the team will find a way to win.
No kidding, it's like you're running with the wind constantly at your back.
Look at Souths, in their first few months no side played with more confidence. They started the season winning 10 from their first 11.
There were games where they were below their best but the confidence and the joy that existed in the team carried them through.
But then suddenly the joy and the confidence started to erode.
To be fair, it's not exactly that fickle butterfly which has flown off to who knows where …
Injuries, suspensions and the distraction that is the State of Origin series and everything that comes with it, has eaten into this football team.
As a result they've won just three out of their last nine, which led to a brutally honest assessment from Wayne Bennett after the Dogs loss, "It's not terminal, but it's close …"
The Bunnies play momentum-based football better than any other team.
When their big middle forwards start banging down the door, it unleashes Damien Cook and in turn triggers Cody Walker. In the early season the Cook/Walker combination was the best in the competition. The speed of Cook and the speed in reaction from Cody made the threat of these two men immediate and deadly.
After Cody's blistering start to the year, people point to his State of Origin disappointment as the reason for his difficult middle season, but the injury crisis, in particular injuries to yardage forwards like Sam Burgess, has affected the ability of Damien Cook to get out of dummy-half, and in turn affected Cody Walker.
In Saturday night's loss to the Bulldogs, Souths simply couldn't get rolling and were forced to push the ball sideways, trying to play around Canterbury, rather than punching through them.
The injuries to outside backs have accentuated the problem for Wayne, because he's had to move back-rowers to the centres, further depleting the forward stocks at Redfern.
While Bennett's quote post game was a sign to many that Souths' season is all but over, I have no doubt it was done because he knows this experienced playing group can not just take it, but will be motivated by it.
There's no way Wayne would have said the same thing about a young playing group like he had last year at Brisbane.
Speaking of which, what a time for these two teams to meet.
In their last meeting Souths weren't just brimming with confidence, they met a Broncos side who were lost and bottoming out.
Souths 38 Brisbane 6.
Such was the Bunnies' dominance, the scoreline could have easily have been worse for Brisbane.
But the Broncos are finding their way. Through simplicity, a game plan based purely on forward power, Brisbane are seeing more of that fickle butterfly in their backyard.
It seems sometimes when Anthony Seibold's men start to get a bit of traction and confidence this year, there's a step or two backwards.
With key Bunnies' middle men either out or playing busted, Brisbane will fancy their chances winning this right through the middle field, but Pangai is a big loss. On top of that the loss of their most lively player in the back half of the year, Jake Turpin, puts a huge strain on the ability of Brisbane to make the scoreboard tick over.
I'm fancying the Bunnies to hit back and win on Friday night.
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