NRL Pre-Season Challenge Brisbane Broncos vs. North Queensland: Brick Wall Defense a Feature in Victory

The Brisbane Broncos have provided a glimpse of their defensive prowess in 2023, cutting back on the Cowboys’ famous attacking moves to continue their impressive preseason form.

The Broncos overcame the loss of champion halfback Adam Reynolds as unheralded playmakers Jock Madden and Josh Rogers produced an excellent double strike to inspire Brisbane’s 20-18 win over the Cowboys.

Ahead of 7,095 at the Sunshine Coast Stadium, Brisbane ended their NRL pre-season challenge in style, cementing last week’s 24-a-side tie against the Titans by besting the Cowboys in a fiery and spirited derby test.

North Queensland was an hour behind and appeared to have sneaked home when Jeremiah Nanai rushed for a Scott Drinkwater cultivator to lead the Cowboys 18-16 into the last quarter.

But the Broncos found an unlikely hero in little-known former Burleigh pivot Rogers, whose pinpoint cross allowed Jesse Arthars to fly high to score and sink the Cowboys with nine minutes left.

Rogers was only called up after suffering a back injury from Reynolds on the eve of the game, and backup starting halfback Madden was equally impressive, having had a hand in two tries in his Broncos debut after moving from the Tigers.

“I knew Jock was always going to be a handful,” said Broncos coach Kevin Walters. “I like the way he played, he was good defensively, played directly and kicked the ball well.

“There was a lot to like about Jock. I was happy with the overall performance.”


The Broncos really deserved this test victory. They were the better team for most of the evening and a hallmark of the win was their brave defense.

Walters vowed to repair Brisbane’s defense after collapsing late last year to finish ninth. It was evidently against the Cowboys as Brisbane defenders repelled a series of attacks as Pat Carrigan, Payne Haas and Kurt Capewell stood up as defense secretary.

“We work together more in defence, that was our topic in preparation,” said Walters. “The Cowboys are a great attacking team and I liked how we persevered.”


In the absence of the injured champion halfback, substitute No. 7 Madden and five-eighth partner Ezra Mam made some nice gestures, showing there is some depth to Brisbane’s scrumbase this season.

It was Mam’s spot-on cultivator that allowed Capewell to open the scoring in the third minute. Madden was busy, solid defensively and two of his kicks resulted in tries, including the cross-field try that saw Corey Oates lead 16-6 after 23 minutes.

If fit, Reynolds and Mam will be Brisbane’s starting halves but the composed Madden is a handy safety net.


Broncos coach Kevin Walters could soon have a selection migraine at full-back.

Reece Walsh may be Brisbane’s key full-back off-season, but his facial fracture opened the door for Selwyn Cobbo to put on a striking performance in the No. 1 jumper.

Cobbo displayed incredible sporting skills to catch a cultivator, fend off Murray Taulagi and score inches from the corner post to put Brisbane 10-0 ahead within eight minutes.

At 104kg, Cobbo looks noticeably taller and barring one mistake in the second half he was a threat to Cowboys defenders. The classy winger has ambitions to become a full-back in the long term. He’ll keep Walsh honest.


Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater excelled on a losing team. The classy warden has been a constant threat to the Broncos and has been involved in two tries to suggest he’s primed for another sizzling campaign in 2023.


Broncos center Kotoni Staggs is itching for a record-breaking season, but he needs to produce smarter reads on defense.

Cowboys ace Valentine Holmes terrorized Staggs in the court case last year, and again he pursued his Broncos rival, stepping slightly out of his tackle to cross in the 13th minute.

On his day, Staggs is an explosive match-winner in attack, but he’s a poster child for the defensive improvements Brisbane need to make this season if they want to play finals.

Originally published as NRL Pre-Season Challenge Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland: Victory on Brick Wall Defense NRL Pre-Season Challenge Brisbane Broncos vs. North Queensland: Brick Wall Defense a Feature in Victory

Ryan Sederquist

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