Broncos wary of electric Segeyaro
He single-handedly ended the Broncos' 2013 season with a scintillating hat-trick in Round 24 last season so it's no surprise that Brisbane are on high alert for more James Segeyaro magic when they take on the Panthers on Monday night.
Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough returns from a knee injury to play his first NRL match since Round 13 and faces a daunting task at the foot of the Blue Mountains to take on Segeyaro and a slick Panthers side sitting pretty at the top of the ladder.
McCullough highlighted Segeyaro as one of Penrith's main threats having seen first-hand how dangerous the former Cowboy can be after the 23-year-old bamboozled the Broncos with three tries as an interchange dummy-half at Sportingbet Stadium late last season.
That 28-12 loss dashed any hopes the Broncos had of making the top eight as they finished outside the finals for only the second time in 22 years.
Since shifting into the starting hooker role for the Panthers in Round 9 this year, Segeyaro has bagged five tries from seven games and will play a crucial role for Penrith in the coming weeks after the mountain men lost halfback Peter Wallace for an indefinite period with an ankle injury.
"Certainly he's an impact player for them. Obviously [Panthers coach] Ivan Cleary has given him that starting role and he has taken it with both hands," McCullough said.
"He is very energetic with his speed. He comes into the game when he needs to and he is a very strong attacking player. What he brings to them is a lot of confidence and that's the way Penrith are playing at the moment.
"They've got a lot of strike forwards as well so he just feeds off the back of them. He takes the heat off [the Penrith halves] and attacks when he needs to."
Segeyaro has proven to be a shrewd signing by Panthers general manager Phil Gould, with the Cairns Ivanhoe Knights' junior playing in every single Penrith match since signing for the club at the beginning of 2013.
The Panthers haven't hogged the headlines like other Sydney-based clubs this season and are still flying under the radar in the opinion of McCullough, despite going into Round 18 on top of the table.
"They are a quality team and obviously they've recruited well over the off-season and it's proving its worth at the moment," he said.
"They're a bit of a dark horse really because nobody is talking about them, but full credit to them for being top of the table, they deserve it."
The Broncos will be raring to go on Monday night if McCullough's words are any indication after the club sat out last weekend due to a bye and are still smarting from their disappointing 24-22 loss against the lowly Sharks in Round 16.
"[The Sharks loss] was a disappointing way to finish the game and full credit to Cronulla they backed it up the following week against the Roosters," he said.
"You can't dwell on those things though. The boys had a good break and if you can beat the top teams the next match it helps ease the pain from the week before."
McCullough also declared that he expects Brisbane's Origin contingent to back-up from Wednesday's third Origin encounter, although Matt Gillett will be assessed after rolling his ankle in the latter stages of the dead rubber. A decision has not yet been made on whether co-captain Justin Hodges will play or be rested.
Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday and Josh McGuire are all expected to play in a nearly full-strength Broncos line-up.
"They've got a few days off and they'll come back Sunday so we'll see how they pull up," McCullough said.
"The Monday game gives you a four to five-day turnaround… so 'Hook' (Broncos coach Anthony Griffin) will make that decision on Sunday and no doubt the boys will be honest if they're right to go."