Desperate Broncos dealt nightmare 2023 draw

Brisbane has been dealt a rough hand by the 2023 NRL draw as Queensland’s biggest club fights to avoid a fourth consecutive season outside NRL finals.

The Broncos have not finished inside the top eight since 2019, when their premiership dream was ended by a nightmare 58-0 loss to Parramatta in the first week of finals.

They claimed the club’s first ever wooden spoon in 2020, finished 14th in 2021, and this year were knocked out of the top eight following a last-round loss to the Dragons.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL NRL DRAW FOR SEASON 2023

And the NRL has done Kevin Walters and his troops no favors with the 2023 draw.

Brisbane opens its 2023 campaign against two-time reigning premier Penrith at BlueBet Stadium in western Sydney.

In round two the Broncos face an equally tough task, hosting the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium. North Queensland finished third on the ladder in 2022 and fell one game shy of the grand final.

It’s a tough start to the season for Walters, and the finish isn’t any kinder.

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From round 21 onwards the Broncos face the Rabbitohs, Roosters, Cowboys, Eels, Raiders, and Storm, all of which played finals this year. Their only respite during that period is a bye.

All up the Broncos play 14 games against teams that finished in the top eight in 2022.

The pass mark to play finals this year was 14 wins.

GRAND FINALISTS COP EARLY PUNISHMENT

The two 2022 grand finalists – Penrith and Parramatta – have no time to take it easy in the opening rounds of next season.

Both teams face a tough run through the opening six rounds of 2023.

The Panthers host the Broncos in round one but then go up against the Rabbitohs, Eels, Raiders, and Sea Eagles, as well as having a bye in round three.

The Eels open their season against the Storm at CommBank Stadium, then face the Sharks, Sea Eagles, Panthers, and Roosters.

Luckily for Parramatta there is then a stretch of games that the Eels will be expected to win. They face the Tigers, Bulldogs, Broncos, Knights, and Titans before going up against the Raiders in round 11.

BATTLERS GIFTED SOFTER RUN

Some of the clubs fighting to get back to finals next year will be licking their lips over the draw.

Newcastle – which finished 14th this year – has 11 games against fellow bottom-eight teams from 2022, as well as playing the Dolphins twice and having three byes.

The Knights have a relatively easy run into the campaign.

They take on the Warriors, Tigers, Dolphins, Raiders, Sea Eagles, and Warriors again in the opening six rounds. Canberra is the only one of those clubs who played finals this year.

Newcastle does, though, miss out on the Magic Round festival in Brisbane, being handed the bye in round 10.

The Wests Tigers – who have not played NRL finals since 2011 – also have a relatively easy draw compared to other teams.

They, too, have 11 games against fellow bottom-eight clubs, while playing the Dolphins once and having three byes.

The Tigers open their season against the Titans, then play the Knights, Bulldogs, and Broncos before round six – albeit with a Storm meeting in between.

NEW DOGS WAIT FOR BATTLE WITH BIG CATS

Some of the most high-profile trades of this off-season are happening between the foot of the mountains and Belmore.

Cameron Ciraldo has left his job as Penrith assistant to become the new head coach of Canterbury, while barnstorming Fijian backrower Viliam Kikau is following him to the Bulldogs.

Why Ciraldo took on Dogs gig

But they will have to bide their time to take on their old friends, with the Dogs and Panthers not meeting until round 21, when they play at BlueBet Stadium.

There are some traditional blockbusters much earlier in the schedule. The Roosters and Rabbitohs collide at Allianz Stadium in round three, while the Battle of Brookvale – Manly and Melbourne meeting on Sydney’s northern beaches – is set for round seven.

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