A lot has changed since then, but one thing that hasn’t is the lofty standards placed on Brisbane at the start of each season. 2017 will be much the same, albeit without their inspirational captain who retired at the end of the 2016 season. It’s a huge void to fill, but if anyone is able to mastermind a plan to overcome the loss it’s coach Wayne Bennett. Expectations will be high on Bennett after Brisbane failed to recreate their 2015 grand final run last year, with the North Queensland Cowboys once again ending their season. The Broncos will know where they stand early in the year, with Bennett’s men playing each of the top four sides from 2016 in the first four rounds. Some may see it as a nightmare draw to start the year, but if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and that’s the way Brisbane are approaching the beginning of the 2017 season. Gains and lossesGains: Moses Pangai (Townsville Blackhawks), David Mead (Titans), Tautau Moga (Cowboys), Benji Marshall (Dragons), Mitchell Dodds (Warrington), Korbin Sims (Knights).Losses: Greg Eden (Castleford), Brett Greinke (Rabbitohs), Corey Parker (retirement), Jarrod Wallace (Titans), Jack Reed (retirement), Darren Nicholls (Panthers), Lachlan Maranta (rugby union).What we knowThe Broncos have a grand final calibre squad; we know that just by looking at their 2015 season and their perceived failure in 2016. It’s a sign of how good a team is on paper when they make it to the semi-finals and have underachieved. The big question mark this year will be the loss of Parker and how it impacts Bennett’s side. Josh McGuire is looking to be the club’s long-term replacement at lock, and Darius Boyd will replace Parker as Brisbane’s captain. These two, along with halves Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt, will have a huge bearing on how successful the 2017 season is for the club. Rookie watch Young George Fai is a hugely impressive front-row forward/lock who has been a standout throughout Brisbane’s pre-season. Fai was dominant in the Broncos’ trial win over the Sharks, taking it to the likes of Andrew Fifita and Jason Bukuya. It earned him a spot on the plane to England for Brisbane’s World Club Challenge clash with Warrington, with Bennett rating the 20-year-old very highly. Punters can expect to see Fai make his NRL debut this season, with a bench position over the State of Origin period the most likely scenario. DepthThe Broncos struggled over the Origin period last year, losing seven of nine games. They were stung by injuries at that same time and it cost them dearly as the side gave up any hope of a top four finish. Their backline was decimated and their lack of depth exposed as their season crumbled beneath them. But things may be different this year, with the off-season inclusions of David Mead, Benji Marshall and Tautau Moga adding a huge amount of experience to the backline. If all things go to plan, Jordan Kahu will no longer have to be Brisbane’s Mr Fix-It, with a whole season in the centres set to give the New Zealand international an opportunity to become one of the game’s best. Brisbane’s young forwards will need to stand up, but the return of one of their most consistent front-rowers in 2015, Mitchell Dodds, is set to add much needed reliability to the Broncos’ forward pack. Korbin Sims has been signed to be Brisbane’s enforcer, something the club has been missing since the days of Tonie Carroll. If he and Blair perform well in the front row, the Broncos should cope with the off-season loss of Jarrod Wallace. McGuire has the talent to emulate Parker at lock, but it remains to be seen if he has the fitness to cope with the extra workload in the No.13 jersey. Fantasy bankersBen Hunt (HLF, $468,000) has become one of NRL Fantasy’s best, with two standout seasons in 2015 and 2016 cementing him as a highly sought-after half. He averaged 49.5 points per game in 2016; ranking third in the league for try assists and kicks in play. More of the same can be expected this season as he tries to make one final impact at the Broncos before leaving for the Dragons at the end of the year. Teammate James Roberts (CTR, $390,000) will also find himself in a lot of people’s teams, with the star centre one of only 10 in his position to average over 40 points per game in 2016. Many believe “Jimmy the Jet” was below his usual standard last year, so there is plenty of upside in adding him to your team this season, as he will be looking to increase his work rate and prove his doubters wrong. Crystal ballRealistically, the Broncos are a top-four side. If Brisbane only improve slightly over the Origin period they will be right at the top end of the table come the completion of the regular season. Their side is stacked with footballers that have excelled at an international level and their depth has improved dramatically since 2016. They have arguably the best fullback in the game inspiring them from the back and he will not expect anything less than the best from his side. Predicted finish: 2nd-4th.