Ipswich Jets rugby league team coaches Ben and Shane Walker. Photo: David Nielsen / The Queensland Times
Ipswich Jets rugby league team coaches Ben and Shane Walker. Photo: David Nielsen / The Queensland Times David Nielsen

Shane Walker tips the Broncos who will fire in 2016

THE BRONCOS are red hot favourites to win the 2016 premiership.

The glamour club kicks off the season away against the Eels on Thursday night in Sydney with high hopes of another successful season after a heartbreaking grand final loss to the Cowboys last year.

Ahead of the season opener the QT asked Ipswich Jets co-coach and former Broncos star Shane Walker to list the five players he tipped to have massive years for Brisbane.

1. Joe Ofahengaue: A former Brothers Ipswich junior, the 20-year-old prop has been likened to a younger version of Petero Civoniceva. Walker says the experience Big Joe received off the bench in the big games at the end of last year in his debut NRL season will make him hungry for more.

"Joe was an 80 minute player in the 20s, and obviously the game is different going into the NRL, but he has got great aerobic ability, he's a big frame and he's fast," Walker says.

"That style of forward that can play big minutes with good footwork and speed will really come into their own with the reduction in interchanges.

"We got to see some of Joe's leadership qualities when he played with us in the early part of last year and he didn't feel out of place chipping older players about what was needed to do to win."

2. James Roberts: Walker says Broncos fans will need to be patient early while the scintillating centre adapts to his new club after leaving the Titans during the pre-season.

"But by a quarter of the way through the year he will really start to find his feet and by the back end of the year he will be a sensation," Walker says.

"He is like a good old fashioned threepenny bunger that you used to light up, throw in the letterbox...and they'd just explode.

"Roberts explodes. Give him the ball and he can just turn a game on its head. When there appears to be nothing doing he can put on a burst of speed, a fend and footwork.

"Watching him, you see him do things on the field sometimes and it all happens that quick I reckon has hasn't thought about it himself. It is instinct that has taken him there."

3. Anthony Milford: The former St Peter Claver College student shone in his first season with the Broncos, and you get the sense that what we have seen so far is just scratching the surface of his potential.

"With each round last year Milford continued to improve and express himself," Walker says.

"This year with two less interchanges the small, fast men will come right into their own and he has got exceptional footwork and a great combination with Ben Hunt. I anticipate him having a great year.

"Last year was his first full season at five-eighth and he has obviously been able to learn his craft quite quickly and will only continue to improve."

4. Carlin Anderson: The former Ipswich Jets premiership winner is not expected to figure in round one or the first month of action, but Walker suggests that situation will change.

"Carlin could be a bolter," Walker says.

"My understanding was that he was in line to go to England and play in the World Club Series, perhaps on the wing.

"Given Greg Eden's game over there he will probably have to wait longer and try harder.

"But Carlin has got a great instinct for the game and recognising fatigued players and where the ball needs to get to.

"If he doesn't start the season, somewhere after round six when everyone is into the grind of week-in and week-out footy he could be a real ace up the sleeve for the Broncos."

5. Ben Hunt: The Broncos half reminds Walker of one of Ipswich's favourite sons.

Last year Hunt steered the Broncos to the grand final, before having a final few minutes to forget, but Walker believes his star will only rise.

"The Broncos wouldn't have got to the big dance had it not been for his prowess in the clutch moments, particularly in the big games at the back end of the year," he says.

"A number of times last year when the game was on the line he grabbed it by the scruff of the neck.

"Ben is a lot like Allan Langer and in time he can be a Broncos captain.

"He's like Alf, he just leads by example."

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