Darren Lockyer: Love him or lose him

Ivan Henjak on his new-look Broncos line-up

Brisbane coach Ivan Henjak has warned critics of captain Darren Lockyer that they risk losing him to the game following suggestions this week that he could be a shock omission from the Queensland State of Origin side next month.

Lockyer has been quiet by his own high standards this season, despite the Broncos’ impressive start to the year, but Henjak said this morning that Lockyer’s longevity in the game depends upon team-mates shouldering more of the workload.

“We tend to be a bit unfair on our champion players sometimes – people expect Darren to be involved in absolutely everything,” Henjak told NRL.com.

“They expect him to set up all of our tries, all of our line breaks and basically do everything for us, but he can’t physically do that.

“I don’t know all the reasons behind what has been spoken about this week in regards to him missing Origin but if people want to see a fit and healthy Darren Lockyer then we need other people to step up and help out.

“And let’s face it, if Darren did do everything for us then what happens to us when he gets injured or is unavailable?”

Henjak said rather than criticising Lockyer, selectors should be praising the performances of halfback Peter Wallace and fullback Karmichael Hunt who have shouldered more of the attacking burden in 2009.

“We’ve struck a very good balance I think,” he said.

“This has been a process we’ve been working on for a few years – refining our attack – and we’re heading in the right direction.

“There are still some parts of our game that we’re unhappy with but we’re pretty pleased with where we’re sitting at the moment.”

Brisbane is one of only two sides – along with the Gold Coast Titans – to have won five games this season and are red-hot favourites to make it six tonight against a Parramatta side in turmoil.

But Henjak isn’t buying into talk of an easy two points – describing the Eels as one of the most dangerous attacking sides and insisting that they will cause havoc when their misfiring but star-studded backline eventually fires.

“They are still a great attacking side, no matter what anyone says,” Henjak observed.

“They play ad-lib football, they can off-load and to be honest I think they’ve been a bit unlucky not to score more points the past few weeks.

“At some stage they’re going to click, I’ve got no doubt about that but more importantly their pride has been dented.

“They’ve copped a lot of criticism this week and any side that has a hint of pride about them will bounce back.”

Asked how he had built his side up for a game they are expected to stroll through, Henjak said: “No different to any other game.

“It still takes the same amount of effort to play Parramatta as it does to play a Manly or a Melbourne and we still have to worry about all of the little things that you need to do to win football games.

“It doesn’t matter who you are playing in the NRL, if you expect to win you will get hurt every time.”

The Eels will welcome back veteran forward Nathan Hindmarsh from a hand injury that kept him out of last week’s embarrassing loss to the Bulldogs.

Late News:

•    Former Parramatta half Brett Finch is almost certain to make his debut for Melbourne against the Warriors tomorrow night;

•    Titans co-captain Luke Bailey is in doubt for his side’s meeting with Penrith with a knee injury; and

•    The Dragons are sweating on the fitness of winger Wendell Sailor who limped off with a hamstring strain against Newcastle last weekend.