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Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough says the Broncos won't be content with simply 'trying hard' in tonight's NRL clash with Manly at Suncorp Stadium despite the absence of up to five State of Origin stars.

Rookie coach Anthony Griffin has controversially stated he will rest his representative players right through the Origin period and has already fielded one weakened side following the trans-Tasman Test, with the Broncos going down to Melbourne 29-22 in Round 9.

McCullough is a supporter of Griffin's strategy – and has even dared other sides with large numbers of Origin players to follow the Broncos' lead.

“I actually think it's a smart move by 'Hook' (Griffin) – and maybe a few more clubs should look at that if they feel they have the depth which we're lucky enough to have,” McCullough told today.

Despite suggestions that Jharal Yow Yeh, Corey Parker and Ben Hannant could all be late inclusions in tonight's side, Brisbane will definitely be without Sam Thaiday and captain Darren Lockyer. However, McCullough said the squad should still expect to take the two points from an in-form Sea Eagles side.

“Looking back to the Storm game, no-one was going to give us a chance in that game either but Hook has picked a team that he knows can win the game so we're not just going to give up two points just like that,” he said.

“We won't be happy to come off the field and say, 'oh well, that was a good effort by the younger guys'. We're going out there to win – because we think we can.

“We might be missing a few guys but the way I see it we've got a good month now to show Hook that we want to play for the club and for all of those Origin guys that have done all of that hard work for the club as well.

“Everyone has got to do their own little bit and be confident in the team we put out there – with or without those Origin players.”

Griffin told shortly before the Broncos' loss to Melbourne that he wouldn't allow his Origin stars to make the decision on whether or not they back up from representative games, stating: “I know that the players, if you asked them or really pushed them to play, they would always try and back up – so I don't really think it's up to them.”

Despite Griffin's stance, Hannant is reportedly pressuring him to let him play tonight but McCullough said the squad fully supported the coach's decision.
“The thing is that some of [Brisbane's rep players] do actually have niggling injuries so we're not so much saving them, Hook is looking after them in the long run so as not to burn players out,” he said.

“There is a lot of footy still to be played this year and when it comes to the finals that's an extra three or four games, so with all those rep games these guys play it can sort of creep up on them throughout the year. It's not too much right now but two or three months down the track they can break down for business end of the year.

“You don't want to give up two points and some clubs might feel they can't rest their players but we have the confidence that whoever is filling in can do the job.

But he admitted: “Not every club has that luxury.”
McCullough said that Lockyer's impending retirement meant that the Broncos' younger contingent needed to learn to adjust to life without their captain.

“Those older blokes aren't going to be there forever so at this point it is a good chance for some blokes to step up and keep that momentum going while the Origin guys are away,” he said.

“We've just got to worry about our own job we've got to do and everything else will come into place.
“Hook has really reinforced that the players from 1-17, whether you've played two games or 200 games, if everyone does their own little bit it will click for us.”

Late NRL news:

•    Newcastle are sweating on the fitness of State of Origin star Akuila Uate ahead of tomorrow night's clash with Parramatta with the speedster suffering a cork to his quad on Wednesday night. Jarrod Mullen (back spasms) and Richie Fa'aoso (boil) are also in doubt.

•    North Queensland will be without centre Willie Tonga when they host Sydney Roosters tomorrow night after he injured his shoulder playing for the Maroons.

•    St George Illawarra will rest NSW hooker Dean Young for Sunday's clash with Wests Tigers due to ongoing knee soreness.