Revelling in his increased responsibility at the Broncos this season, prop Ben Hannant says he can’t wait to rip into North Queensland’s much vaunted forward pack in Friday night’s Queensland derby as Brisbane look to win consecutive games for the first time in 2013.
In what promises to be a Heritage Round clash of epic proportions, Hannant and captain Sam Thaiday go head to head with Australian Test props Matthew Scott and James Tamou as preparations for the upcoming representative season hit top gear.
Coming off a 32-12 win over the Gold Coast that looks to have finally kick-started their spluttering season, Hannant said the presence of such a powerful front row in the Cowboys’ pack would bring out the best in him this week.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “That’s the reason you go to work because we get to compete against the best every week. We’ve got the best front-rowers this week, the best halfback (Johnathan Thurston) and one of the best fullbacks (Matt Bowen) so there are great challenges for us across the park. If we want to win we’ve got to really muscle up against the best.
“At the end of the day it’s whichever pack is willing to do the tough stuff and win the battle in the middle. All packs are tough these days, so reputations mean nothing. The gap between teams is very small so it’s whoever turns up with the right attitude and is willing to put the body on the line.”
Hannant was one of Brisbane’s best in the win over the Titans last week, running for 135 metres and making 44 tackles in the absence of the suspended Thaiday.
But it’s been nothing new for the 28-year-old this season following the retirement of Petero Civoniceva in the off-season and injuries to Josh McGuire and Mitchell Dodds.
“My role has probably changed a little bit,” Hannant told NRL.com. “But I think the best way for me to lead is just to go forward well and bring the defensive line forward. All the best leaders I’ve seen have been the ones that lead by action and I guess my role in the front row is to make sure I get behind the ball and get to that first and second ruck, and that my defence is strong – that I beat the opposition in taking the middle.
“That’s something that I’ve been really working on and hopefully if I do my job right the team will really benefit. If I’m not going forward in the middle the team will really struggle.”
While Brisbane avoided going 1-4 to start the year with their win over the Titans last week, Hannant said he was confident the side had shown enough over the past two weeks – including in their 32-26 loss to Melbourne in Round 4 – to be considered a genuine threat again in 2013.
In particular he said the Broncos’ second-half comeback against the Storm in which they briefly hit the lead after trailing 20-6 at half-time had given them the confidence they had lacked in the early rounds.
“When it happens against a top team and we were able to put that many points on them so quickly… they were playing good football too and their trick plays with Billy Slater were coming off, so both terms in that period of the game were playing the best football they could play,” he said.
“For us it’s about buying into the plan and doing it for the full 80 minutes. We changed a fair few things with the way we go about our footy this year and it’s taken a few weeks for us to get a full 80-minute performance but in a lot of the games for good periods of time we’ve been doing it fairly well. That’s what we can build on from now. We set the standard last week that we need to produce every week now.”
Hannant said he was looking forward to this week’s Queensland derby in front of what is expected to be a vocal Brisbane crowd at Suncorp Stadium but warned the Broncos couldn’t afford to get carried away in the moment.
“It’s always great, you always get a big crowd,” he said. “Queensland I believe is the heart of rugby league so we always get a good crowd here and great support when we play against them. But it doesn’t make it more important than any other game. You’ve got to approach every game with the right attitude.”