Josh McGuire has a point to prove. Touted as a genuine Queensland State of Origin chance coming into 2013 following the retirement of Petero Civoniceva and with the opportunity to subsequently step up in his place, the 23-year-old has instead endured a series of injury setbacks that have clouded his progress.
Already suffering from a serious eye problem that has rendered him almost blind in one eye. McGuire underwent a pre-season hernia operation then tore his calf – an injury that has restricted him to just four games so far this year.
But with the Broncos’ season at a crossroads following last week’s shock loss to Parramatta and fellow prop Ben Hannant sidelined for a month, the young forward is determined to lead his side out of the mire.
“It’s a big challenge for me to do that but that’s what I pride myself on,” McGuire said when asked what Hannant’s absence would mean for him in the coming weeks.
“He is a huge loss. He has been playing really good footy and has been on top of his game but I think everyone has to lift this week to pick up his workload.
“For me, I wanted to come into 2013 and have a really solid year but unfortunately I’ve had a few injuries that haven’t been kind to me.
“I had a hernia operation in the pre-season which slowed my pre-season down a bit and then a calf tear. I’ve had two setbacks with that too, just re-straining it and that kind of thing. “Between those two it hasn’t been the best start to the year but that’s hopefully behind me now. I want to cement myself as a starting front-rower at the Broncos and if I can do that I think everything else will come from the back of that.”
McGuire certainly made his presence felt against the Eels last week, having missed Brisbane’s clash with South Sydney a week earlier, and spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for his efforts after rushing in to stand up for halfback Peter Wallace.
But he insists he’s still got a long way to go if he wants to impress Queensland selectors, with his input failing to inspire the Broncos to the win they desperately needed.
“I feel like I’m still finding my feet,” he said. “Once I do that I’ll be alright. I can’t complain. Last week was my first game back so I have to start slow and build into it that way.
“At the moment I’m just doing my best at doing my job and that’s all I can really do.
“We’ve got a lot of good forwards in this team, guys like Sammy (Thaiday) and Corey (Parker), so we’ve still got a lot of experience there but I just have to keep working. Each week is a big path for all of us but it’s a matter of turning up every week.”
The task doesn’t get any easier for Brisbane on Friday against the Titans. The Broncos have already won the south-east Queensland derby once this year, prevailing 32-12 at Skilled Park in Round 5, but McGuire knows another performance like last week’s won’t cut it.
“We’ve got to get back to basics with what we’re doing right now,” he said. “That means kicking and chasing and staying strong in the ruck. Last week I thought we got lazy on the little disciplinary things which cost us in the long run.
“We play our best footy when we come onto the ball hard and fast. That’s when we’re at our best, it’s our best style of footy. We like to defend well and play simple, structured footy.
“The Titans have an all-star forward pack and we’ve got to be on our game if we want the two points.”
In the meantime, McGuire continues to deal with the ongoing eye problem that has plagued him since he was accidentally poked in the eye by teammate Mitchell Dodds in a game two years ago. Four operations later his vision remains severely limited and he has been told he could lose the vision in that eye completely should a cataract develop.
But McGuire said it was something he had learnt to live with.
“I’m still blind but I’m dealing with it okay. I’m used to it now,” he said. “I can’t actually remember what it used to be like, you know what I mean? It’s just something I have to deal with, and that’s football for me. If I want to play first grade I have to just get used to it and move on.”