Jack Reed returns for Brisbane just as their finals ambitions reach do-or-die stage
There is nothing wrong with Brisbane centre Jack Reed’s memory. He remembers exactly what happened the last time the Broncos played Parramatta – and it wasn’t good for his team.
“They put 30 points on us in the first half last year,” Reed recalls. “They put together some good football against the Cowboys on Monday night as well, and could have won the game right at the end. They always turn up against us.”
The game Reed is talking about was played at Suncorp Stadium in Round 21, on July 30. The Eels led 30-6 at halftime and went on to win 42-22. Halfback Chris Sandow scored two of Parramatta’s seven tries.
Reed didn’t play in that game, though, and neither did fellow centre, Justin Hodges. Josh Hoffman, the fullback for the Broncos then but a winger there now, was also out, along with lock Corey Parker.
All four are scheduled to appear when the Broncos play the Eels at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday night.
Hodges missed the 26-12 home loss to South Sydney last weekend through injury, and when you check the results of the Broncos with and without him this season it is a stark reminder of how important the Queensland and Australian representative is to the side.
The Broncos have tallied four wins and four losses. With Hodges they have four wins and a loss, and without him no wins and three losses.
A further check shows those four losses have been against the teams that hold the top four places on the competition table – Melbourne, the Rabbitohs, Sydney Roosters and Manly.
But Reed is not interested in getting caught up in discussions over player ins or outs, or which teams are stronger than others.
“I don’t think there are any easy games out there,” he says dismissively. “Every team has dangerous players in it and you can get a tough game against the team that’s on top of the ladder one week and a tough game against the team that’s on the bottom the following week.
“I don’t think you can be confident about reading into the form of any of the teams at this stage of the competition.
“We can’t just rely on ‘Hodgo’ coming back and automatically making a big difference, either. You can’t lean on people and just expect them to get the job done, because then you’ll start using it as an excuse when they’re not there.”
Reed said he was not worried by the 4-4 start the seventh-placed Broncos had made to the season, adding: “It’s early days. We’re still in the middle of the pack. We’re all confident, and happy with the process.
“We’ve been stepping up our play through the middle, and when the ball comes to the edge we’re trying hard to build on whatever momentum we’ve got by getting a result out wide.
“Parramatta have got a quality roster, with some great forwards and outside backs, but we’ll be confident in our style of football against them.”
Reed said he was happy with the progress of his own game, but was still working hard to try to improve key elements of it.
“I’ve been working on my defence alongside Peter Wallace and Alex Glenn on the left-hand side, and also my ball-play,” he said. “And I’ve been working on my linking up with Josh on the wing and also getting some second phase going with the offload in tackles.”
Reed has played every minute of every Broncos game this season, and has run for more than 100 metres in half of those. He has made three line-breaks and one offload, and scored two tries.
The World Cup will be staged in Great Britain at the end of this season and English-born Reed, who made his Test debut for England in 2011, is obviously keen to be a part of that. He said he keeps in regular contact with England coach Steve McNamara.
“There is the occasional text or phone call between us, and Steve generally comes out here in the middle of the season for a catch-up with the English players in the NRL,” Reed said. “We’ll catch up again when he comes out this year.
“I also talk to Gareth Widdop regularly. I haven’t played Test football with Sam Burgess yet, but we keep in touch.
“I’d obviously love to represent England again, and it would be great to pull on the jumper in a World Cup, but to be picked to do that I’ve got to play well for the Broncos, so I’m concentrating on that.”