Brisbane captain Sam Thaiday readily admits that he would much rather be playing in his preferred second-row position, but tough times demand tough measures.
Shifted to prop by coach Anthony Griffin at the start of the year to accommodate the club’s strong back-row trio of Corey Parker, Alex Glenn and Matt Gillett, Thaiday’s presence up front has come in for heavy criticism given the Broncos’ patchy pre-season form but the man himself says he won’t be moving any time soon.
“That’s where I fit into the team at the moment and that’s what I think being a part of a team is all about,” Thaiday told NRL.com ahead of Friday’s clash with table-topping Melbourne.
“As much as I would rather stand out a little bit wider in the back row, right now for the team’s sake it’s better for me to start in the front row.
“For me it’s a number on my back. The Broncos jersey is a jersey I’ve always wanted to wear so for me it doesn’t matter. One to 17, whatever number is on my back I’m happy to play.
“I think now that I’m a little bit older and experienced those things don’t worry me anymore with what position I’m playing.
“I know it all comes down to everyone having to play a role for the team and my role comes down to starting in the front row. Plus I still have my chance and opportunity throughout the game to head a little bit wider and try my hand at things out there.”
There is a train of thought – first put forward by former Broncos and Kangaroos prop Bryan Niebling but propagated by a number of commentators in the weeks since – that Thaiday’s skills set is being wasted in the front row.
But Thaiday points to his stats over the opening three rounds of the season as evidence that he is getting the job done. Having made just 73 metres against Manly in Round 1, he upped his performance to 102 metres a week later and 120 metres in last week’s dour 8-0 loss to Sydney Roosters.
“I feel that I’m getting more match-fit as I go along,” he said. “I came into Round 1 having played one trial. Match fitness is something that you can’t train for at all but I’m feeling that that’s coming along. I’m feeling better every week and the more minutes I play, the more metres I make.
“I’m starting to get a little bit comfortable which is a good sign. I’ll just continue to try and improve myself and put my hand up and do my job for the side.”
While Thaiday’s move to the front row hasn’t translated into success on the field, with the Broncos having won just one of three to start the year, he rejected suggestions that the side was struggling.
And he insisted that they were in no hurry to fix their spluttering attack despite failing to score a single point in last week’s 8-0 loss to the Roosters.
“We’re still building, we’re still hoping to improve every week,” he said. “We’re not in a hurry to get there right now. We’re still working on combinations and we’re happy with a lot of the boys’ performances.
“We can take a positive side out of those games. The grit and determination to really hold in there… I’m sure if the Roosters had played someone else last Saturday night they would have scored a lot more points.
“Some of our younger players played one of their better games for us so we’re building to something. For the time being we know we’re a little bit off at the moment but we’re not worried. There are 21 games to go – it’s a damn long year.”
Asked his thoughts on the fact that many had already written the Broncos off in 2013, Thaiday said: “We actually like that. That’s a good thing. The more people doubt us and put a line through us, we’ll just internalise everything and work our butts off to prove everyone wrong.
“It’s quite funny – everyone would think we lost the grand final on the weekend the way some people have commented. We see it as a learning curve ourselves. We’ll learn from this and move on.”
The problem for the Broncos in the short term is that they face a horror run over the coming weeks at a time of year when they are usually among the competition pacesetters.
A tough week for the club in which they saw rising star Corey Norman snatched away by Parramatta next season finishes with a clash against premiers Melbourne while both Queensland derbies await with games against the Gold Coast and North Queensland over the next fortnight.
“And that’s before we head into the representative weekend,” Thaiday observed. “We have to make sure we put ourselves in a good position leading into then. That’s where we are at the moment. We’ll play until that representative weekend then reassess and see where we are. It’s a slow build but we’ll get there.
“We’re not far off being at our best. For the time being we’re not worried. If in three weeks we’re 1-5, come and have a chat to us then.”