As part of a series profiling the expected Round 1 sides for all 17 NRL clubs in 2024, it’s time to see if the Broncos can go one better and take out the premiership.

So near, yet so far. After being 20 minutes from glory, Brisbane were comprehensively Nathan Clearyed and lost a Grand Final that they, really, probably shouldn’t have.

But then again: should they have got there in the first place? Plenty of things conspired to help the Bronx along their way, not least the collapse of other contenders, and taken on a long lens, the playing group might well have been a year early on arrival at the big occasion.How about a third viewpoint? Last year’s second place finish was both ahead of schedule and a missed opportunity, because going into 2024, there’s plenty to suggest that things won’t quite be the same.

They’ll still be good, of course, and one of the teams to beat.

They’ll still get the structural advantages of being Brisbane, meaning better turnarounds from regular night fixtures, multiple sides giving you bonus home games and guaranteed rivalry matches against opponents who, historically, have been easier to beat.

On the other hand, they will struggle to have the same things break their way.

The Roosters, Souths and Parramatta, who would kill for a draw as easy as Brisbane’s, cannot surely be as bad in 2024, instantly increasing the competition at the very top.

The roster is, at least on paper, not as good either, with three first 13 players departing and internal promotions required to backfill their spaces.

Kevin Walters and his backroom staff, not least attack coach Lee Briers, will still have plenty to work with, and huge expectations to go again.

Payne Haas and Pat Carrigan remain in the middle, as do Reece Walsh, Adam Reynolds and Ezra Mam, who make one of the truly elite spines.

Reynolds is a year older, but so too are the other key players, who only get better. This is a year where only a Premiership counts for the Broncos.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Ezra Mam of the Broncos celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the 2023 NRL Grand Final match between Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos at Accor Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Baker is a straight replacement for Tom Flegler – more on whom later – and beyond him, that’s pretty much it.

Jaiyden Hunt arrives from St George Illawarra, but it would be a surprise if he was anywhere near the starting 17, at least at the start of the year.

There will be new faces, just not completely new.

Long-touted hooker prospect Blake Mozer has already debuted, for example, in the last round of last season, but don’t be surprised if he usurps either Tyson Smoothy or Cory Paix to slot in as Billy Walters’ relief option.

Deine Mariner managed six games across 2022 and 2023, but will be expect to play every week now as starting centre.

Brendan Piakura and Xavier Willison have kicked about for a few years, going in and out, but are now going to be an essential part of the future. Let’s see how they go.

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