Broncos not out to impress Bennett: Parker
The Broncos may be headed back to the future in 2015 when Wayne Bennett rolls back into town, but skipper Corey Parker says they won't be batting an eyelid as the super coach makes an early return for next Saturday's do-or-die clash with Newcastle.
Belted 42-16 by premiership favourites South Sydney on Thursday night, Brisbane's campaign is now circling the drain. Depending on results this weekend, they could well find themselves four points adrift of the top eight by the end of Round 23.
Anything less than three wins from their remaining three games – starting with Bennett's Knights at Suncorp Stadium next week and culminating in a daunting Round 26 road trip to Melbourne, where they haven't won in five years – would see the club twiddling its thumbs come finals time for a second consecutive year.
With Brisbane's season on the line, Bennett's early homecoming adds an even juicier subplot to the must-win clash, given coach Anthony Griffin's final year with the club could well be ended by the man the Broncos board chose to replace him with.
Speaking after the 26-point loss to the Rabbitohs, which dealt Brisbane's for- and-against a sizeable blow, a bitterly disappointed Parker was adamant the return of the man who coached the club to six premierships would not be on the players' minds in the lead up to the crucial encounter.
"Next week's got nothing to do with Wayne Bennett," Parker said.
"With all due respect he's the least of our worries. We need to get right what we've got here, but it just so happens we've got the Knights next week.
"We're in a similar position to last year, and for us I don't know what's going to come of it all. What I do know is we've got a game next weekend and for us to stay alive in this competition or to give ourselves any hope we need to focus on that game, not the bloke coaching against us.
"I don't think it's a chance to show Wayne what we've got here, prove a point or anything like that."
It is, however, a chance for Brisbane to turn the tables on the Knights for inflicting a similar death blow on their finals aspirations 12 months ago. When the two sides clashed in the corresponding Round 25 fixture last year, the Broncos found themselves precariously placed three points outside the top eight, and Newcastle's 26-18 triumph ensured the Broncos missed just their second finals series in 22 years.
They'll head into battle without one of their key attacking weapons after fullback Josh Hoffman suffered a suspected season-ending fractured fibula when he was twisted underneath the tackle of Issac Luke on Thursday night.
Hoffman's absence threatens to throw a dirty great spanner in the works for the Broncos, given the improved showing both he and five-eighth Ben Barba have displayed since switching roles three weeks ago against the Warriors.
Griffin now faces the question of whether to shift Barba back to the custodian role, and possibly play veteran centre Justin Hodges or the highly-rated rookie Jordan Kahu in the halves, or move either Hodges, in-form centre Dale Copley or winger Lachlan Maranta to the back.
Parker admitted the loss of Hoffman would be keenly felt by the team.
"We all know what sort of qualities Hoffy brings to the side and it's going to affect us to some degree," Parker said.
"I'm not sure how the reshuffle's going to go or what's going to happen there but the coach's will come up with something.
"Whoever's named and plays, we've just got to get back to work and try and execute better than tonight.