Broncos and Warriors rise, new claims at Tigers: Good, bad, ugly of NRL finals week 2

Robbie Farah is at the centre of fresh drama for the embattled Wests Tigers.

Reece Walsh of the Broncos, Shaun Johnson and Robbie Farah in the NRL.
The Broncos (L) and Warriors (centre) have shown how to bounce back from a dud NRL season, while Robbie Farah (R) is at the centre of fresh drama at the Tigers. Image: Getty

😃 The good: Broncos and Warriors' astonishing rise

😔 The bad: Ben Hunt situation at Dragons even more clouded

😡 The ugly: Benji Marshall hit with brutal new claims

Broncos and Warriors show the way for cellar dwellers

Listen up if you’re a fan of any one of the following NRL clubs: Rabbitohs, Cowboys, Eels, Sea Eagles, Titans, Dolphins, Bulldogs, Dragons, Tigers. The good news is one dud year doesn't necessarily mean it's followed by another dud year, although followers of those last three clubs listed could mount a decent argument.

This year's grand final will feature one team that didn’t reach the top eight a year ago. The Broncos and Warriors, who meet in Saturday night's preliminary final, finished ninth and 15th respectively in 2022.

One of them will contest a grand final just 12 months later. While Brisbane's rise to prominence probably doesn't shock, no one gave the Warriors a hope in hell of going this far.

Reads 'NRL Finals 2023' with the cut out images of three players throwing a football - Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary and Reece Walsh, with a backdrop of a football stadium.
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Except, perhaps, themselves. CEO Cameron George was interviewed following the semi-final win over Newcastle and said he expected success because of the man in charge of the team – the unassuming Andrew Webster.

"I'm not sure it would come this quickly, but I knew we could do great things with Webby there," George said. "When I spoke to Ivan Cleary about signing him, Ivan said 'he's your man, he'll get what the club's about".

The Warriors' rapid rise gives hope to those teams currently on the outside of the eight looking in. Just make sure you've got the right bloke in charge to make it happen.

Ben Hunt's murky future at the Dragons

You’ve got to admire Shane Flanagan's optimism when it comes to Ben Hunt. The new Dragons coach is adamant Hunt will see out the final two years ago of his deal at the Red V, but you wouldn't want to be putting any of your hard-earned on it.

The skipper was hardly convincing when his long-term future at the club was questioned last week. "I've put it all behind me and accepted that I'm going to be there (in 2024)," Hunt told reporters. "If I really think about it, (my stance) hasn't changed a lot. (The Dragons) is just where I'm going to be next year."

Ben Hunt
Ben Hunt runs out for the Dragons against the Warriors. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

Would you buy a used car off this man? But Flanno believes Hunt will stay the distance once he sees how good the Dragons can be under a new coach with a new direction.

"If we achieve what I think we can do, he won’t want to go anywhere. That’s my attitude to the whole thing," Flanagan told the Sun-Herald. That's a big "if".

While there's little doubt the new coach will put a bomb under the Dragons, the re-build will take some time. And given Hunt turns 34 early next season, time is something he doesn't have on his side if he wants to take a premiership ring with him into retirement.

Wests Tigers making more unwanted headlines

It may be finals time but you still can’t keep the Wests Tigers out of the news. Confirmation this week that assistant coach David Furner had been abruptly shown the door and Chris Heighington ushered in raised concerns of "jobs for the boys" at Concord.

Heighington is the fourth ex-Tiger to join the coaching staff, linking with ex-teammates Benji Marshall, Robbie Farah and John Morris. One argument is these four men know the club inside out and know exactly what's needed to turn it from a basket case to a competitive force.

The counter argument is Marshall is surrounding himself with too many "yes" men. "I question how any of these assistants will question 'Prince' Benji, who gets his own way," veteran media figure Peter Peters told the Big Sports Breakfast Weekend radio show.

"It looks like Benji wants to be surrounded by his old mates – it rarely works. I think the Tigers can keep a spot on their wall for another wooden spoon. They're used to it so another one won't be out of place."

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