Underdone Broncos ready for Rabbitohs
Two incumbent Broncos stars are facing the prospect of going in cold against the defending premiers but insist they are ready for whatever the Rabbitohs throw at them in next Thursday night's season opener at Suncorp Stadium.
The start of the 2015 NRL season is little more than a week away but Dale Copley, Matt Gillett, Jack Reed and Corey Oates have been unable to participate in any pre-season trials due to off-season surgeries.
All four were chosen to have a hit-out last Saturday against Redcliffe but the onset of Tropical Cyclone Maria drenched much of south-east Queensland and forced the match to be cancelled.
Copley, Gillett and Oates all played in the Broncos' Elimination Final loss to the Cowboys last September but have not yet had an opportunity to show coach Wayne Bennett what they are capable of in a game situation.
As their teammates notched up an impressive 14-12 win over Wigan in the World Club Series in the early hours of Sunday morning, the Broncos left behind could only sit and watch with Gillett in particular looking at a tough assignment to force his way into an all-international back row.
Gillett had off-season shoulder surgery and while he says it has fully recovered and is ready for the South Sydney onslaught next week, admits one trial game would have aided his preparation.
"The boys played well over there, especially the forwards they had a good crack and everyone played well so it does give a different approach with me getting picked in the side," Gillett said. "If not I've just got to do my best to get back in there.
"Across the park there are a few positions up for grabs that might give Wayne (Bennett, Broncos coach) a headache to choose his side but he'll go with the best starting side and the best 17 that he thinks and everyone's just got to go with that and get their job done.
"The plan was to play 30 minutes of game time out at Redcliffe so it's not like it was going to be a full game or anything like that. We've got a few opposed sessions coming up so that will give us that little bit of extra work. Obviously it's not a game intensity but it's probably something we need.
"The boys that came back from shoulder injuries, to get that bit of confidence before you do get out there and start the NRL season would have been good but everything's been going good here. We do go pretty hard in our contact drills so everyone's feeling pretty good to go."
Copley played 17 of his 25 matches in 2014 in the centres but has had to watch on as the likes of Tom Opacic and Aaron Whitchurch (122m and 31 tackles against Wigan) have been handed opportunities to display their skills during the pre-season.
Jack Reed is another vying for a centre spot with no pre-season game time to his name but Copley doesn't believe missing Saturday's trial will impact their chances at the selection table next week.
"Obviously a hit-out would have been nice. I think all of us boys that were injured in the off-season were a bit disappointed but we have no control over the weather," Copley said.
"It is a bit different [to not play a trial game] but I know how to play footy, I've been playing for a fair while now. I've done all the contact, I'm 100 per cent confident in the shoulder, it doesn't give me any trouble any more so while a game would have been nice, it didn't work out that way and there's not much we can do about it.
"Obviously [Wayne] has got a couple of decisions to make regarding the 17 in the coming days but I think Wayne will pick the best 17 based on what he thinks going forward in the season, not on who has had a game or two. I don't think that will come into it."
The members of the triumphant Broncos World Club Series squad will rejoin their teammates after almost two weeks away on Thursday and Copley is hopeful that any confidence they bring back from their win over Wigan will translate into a big performance against the Rabbitohs next Thursday.
"It's an old cliché that winning's a habit but the guys that were involved in that game will take a lot of confidence from that," Copley said.
"They were playing a pretty good team in Wigan so I think that will bring a lot of confidence when they come back on Thursday and hopefully we can feed off that."