They face another daunting task this weekend against the in-form Gold Coast but Broncos back-rower Matt Gillett believes he can go a long way towards getting Brisbane’s season back on track if he can win his one-on-one battle with Titans skipper Greg Bird.
While Gillett was surprisingly quiet in last week’s spirited yet heart-breaking loss to premiers Melbourne, Bird has been colossal for the Titans during their three-game winning run and will again play a key role against their Queensland rivals on Friday night.
And while the Gold Coast have looked lethal right across the park in 2013, Gillett believes shutting down Bird is the key to securing a much-needed win.
“I watched his game on the weekend against Penrith and what he’s doing at the moment – he’s got everything in his game,” the 24-year-old told NRL.com. “He is one of those danger players for us. He can come up with offloads, break the line, put in a cut-out pass, so he is a real danger – and yeah, he is on my side of the field too so it will take a fair effort to control him.
“But I’m looking forward to that challenge.
“I think it is always a challenge to try and get over the top of your opposite players and that’s what we’re all looking to do as a team. I’m doing that on Greg this week and if we all manage to do that against our opposing players it will help out the whole team.”
The season is still young but already the Broncos are feeling the pinch with just one win from four games at a time of year when they are usually at their peak.
Conversely, a Gold Coast outfit that has finished well outside the top eight for the past two years is now looking like a genuine premiership threat on the back of some key personnel changes.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Gillett conceded. “The Gold Coast have started the season really well. They’ve got some great halves running around there now and I think as a team they’re just working together a lot better. They’ve obviously worked really hard in the off-season with Albert Kelly being new to the halves and he has been a great asset to them.
“They like to offload the ball a lot, too. They’ve got their big props that bend the line and get an offload out so we need to control them in that middle.”
Despite consecutive losses to the Roosters and Storm, Gillett is adamant that Brisbane is back on track following their strong second-half showing against the premiers last week. Trailing 20-6 at the break, the Broncos stormed back to lead 22-20 at one stage before eventually falling 32-26.
“We’ll take a lot out of that game,” he said. “The week before we didn’t score any points so I think we’re heading in the right direction going into this game against the Gold Coast.
“Melbourne is the best side in the comp at the moment and has been for several years now, so we take a lot out of it knowing that we can score points.
“We were disappointed with the way we finished the games against Manly and the Roosters after being right in it at half-time but we know what we’ve done wrong and we just need to fix our attitude in the games like we did against Melbourne. That’s our platform there – the way we stood up against Melbourne – and if we can do that every week we’ll be going alright.
“The thing for us now though is to actually start winning games. We can’t afford to be playing good footy but falling short like we did the other night. We need those wins to get the confidence out of it and build off that.”
Gillett rejected suggestions that this week’s clash against NSW certainty Greg Bird and the Titans could be viewed as a State of Origin trial, insisting he couldn’t afford to lose focus with the Broncos languishing in the bottom half of the table.
But he admitted his Maroons debut last season had changed his perspective heading into 2013.
“A bit of self-belief I suppose, it certainly gives you that,” he observed.
“It was a great experience to get out there on the paddock with those great players and see how they train and how consistent they are. I took a lot out of that side of things. Those guys are all pretty cool, calm and collected the way they run things, so just to experience it and to learn from those great leaders was a big thing for my footy.
“I was over the moon with last year – but last year is last year now. I have to do it all again this year now and that’s my main focus.”