“You can’t question Patty’s commitment, that’s who I feel sorry for – and Payne [Haas], his commitment tonight was really good and Selwyn [Cobbo] backed up as well,” Walters said.

“But the guys that didn’t play didn’t support the ones who did. I’m not sure what happened to be honest, but it was just really poor – probably our worst half of football.

“I’d say our first 40 was, discipline wise, our best half. I thought we defended well, our tryline defence was good, and we picked up a couple of tries, so I’m not sure where it comes from.”

Pat Carrigan for the Brisbane Broncos against the Cronulla Sharks.

Pat Carrigan for the Brisbane Broncos against the Cronulla Sharks.Credit: NRL Photos

Haas fought through 52-minutes after making 42 tackles for New South Wales, and was well restricted in running for 96 metres. His lowest output for the year before Saturday night was 136 metres in round one.

That shift from the Broncos’ marquee man was reflected in the Sharks dominance, who ran for almost 700 metres more as a collective.

Cronulla’s ability to attack through their defence also derailed any hopes the Broncos had of escaping their own end of the field, keeping them to just 32 metres a set.

In contrast, Brisbane could not contain the Sharks’ offloading game – the visitor’s 14, four from Sifa Talakai, marching them down field.

Staggs’ mixed bag in Blues audition

Early on it looked as though Kotoni Staggs was mounting a compelling case for a New South Wales call up.

A bulldozing run got the Broncos on the front foot, his quick play the ball allowing hooker Billy Walters to stride into the clear and offload for Carrigan to score.

But in a daunting battle with Sharks giant Talakai – who scored his side’s opening try – and rookie centre Kayal Iro, Staggs was worn down, and with 10-minutes remaining briefly left the field due to a knee concern. He fortunately returned shortly after.

Sifa Talakai dominated for the Cronulla Sharks against the Brisbane Broncos.

Sifa Talakai dominated for the Cronulla Sharks against the Brisbane Broncos.Credit: NRL Photos

Staggs would have been considered a strong chance of coming into Blues’ selection calculations, following the four-game suspension to Joseph Suaalii for his dangerous contact on Walsh.

But after the breathtaking efforts of Latrell Mitchell in South Sydney’s emphatic triumph of the Gold Coast Titans, needed a game-changing performance to thrust his name ahead of the Blues’ queue.

In his first game back from a fractured rib, Staggs’ effort could well be in vain – working overtime to finish with 96 metres and 28 tackles, while being ultimately well contained and outperformed by another contender in Sharks’ counterpart Jesse Ramien.

“I’d love to see him get a crack, but you have to respect the selection process – there are plenty of good candidates there – but he’s worked really hard,” Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon said of Ramien.

“I’m sure if he got a crack they’d love playing alongside him.”

Staggs will get one final chance to press his claims, ironically against Mitchell’s Rabbitohs, next week before New South Wales coach Michael Maguire names is Game Two squad.

Where does this leave the Broncos?

Back-to-back losses, both at home, to open the Origin season will leave Broncos fans in a nervous wreck.

Last week’s capitulation against the Titans signalled alarmed bells that Walters’ men needed to rediscover the defensive resolve that earned their place in the 2023 decider.

Payne Haas backed up from State of Origin for the Brisbane Broncos against the Cronulla Sharks.

Payne Haas backed up from State of Origin for the Brisbane Broncos against the Cronulla Sharks.Credit: NRL Photos

Signs were promising in the first half, at one stage fending off four-straight sets on their own line to keep the Sharks at bay – conceding only once through a series of offloads and a trademark Talakai charge.

But it took just four minutes after the resumption for Katoa to stroll through, and while they missed fewer tackles than the Sharks (36 to 38), the timing and nature of their failings was alarming in that crucial 15-minute period after half-time.

Now sitting at sixth, but with the Sea Eagles and Bulldogs still able to leapfrog them and push them out of the top eight on Sunday, Walters will need to trigger a rapid turnaround.

Next week’s clash against the Rabbitohs – who have won consecutive games for the first time this season – will be followed by a much-needed bye to regroup, before they take on the Warriors and Panthers to close out the Origin period.


The absence of Broncos’ bench forward Xavier Willison, after his partner had a baby during the week, was noticeable given the impact he has been providing – Fletcher Baker, Jack Gosiewski and Kobe Hetherington combining for just 134 running metres to be overpowered by Royce Hunt and Tom Hazelton.

“I might have to look at what I’m saying to them first up, that’s obviously not making too much sense. Our first set in the second half was poor with the ball, and it just got worse from there,” Walters said.

“We’ll have to look at everything we’re doing, but I don’t have any answers for you right now. The good thing is how to solve it is sitting right in front of us.”

Has Cobbo done enough to push for a Queensland start?

Selwyn Cobbo was exceptional coming off the bench for the Maroons, orchestrating two tries while busting nine tackles in a colossal display.

It was not the script envisioned by Queensland coach Billy Slater, who had teased the young outside back would be used to cause chaos through the middle of the field.

Selwyn Cobbo runs the ball for the Brisbane Broncos against the Cronulla Sharks.

Selwyn Cobbo runs the ball for the Brisbane Broncos against the Cronulla Sharks.Credit: NRL Photos

While the Cherbourg product was kept quiet against the Sharks, running for just 75 metres (albeit with six tackle busts), a shoulder injury to Cowboys star Murray Taulagi could open the door for Cobbo’s comeback to the starting lineup.

Taulagi, who was emerged as a staple on Slater’s wing, did not play in North Queensland’s thumping defeat to the Warriors, and no set timeline for his return has been revealed.

While Cobbo has, in general, been outstanding in 2024, even if Taulagi is ruled out he may remain on the interchange given the week he has spent learning Slater’s intended plan for him.

Dane Gagai will have the opportunity to push for a recall when his Knights take on the Melbourne Storm on Sunday, should his Cowboys’ counterpart ultimately be ruled out.